In Dien Bien Phu, France and Vietnam "reconciled with their past"

In Dien Bien Phu, France and Vietnam "reconciled with their past"

Twenty-five years after François Mitterrand, Edouard Philippe was to go Saturday on the site of the battle of Dien Bien Phu with the feeling that France and Vietnam are "reconciled with their past".

To mark the outcome of this reconciliation, the Prime Minister will visit the small hills with female names (Gabrielle, Eliane, Béatrice …) held by the French army in the bowl of northwestern Vietnam.

It will also flourish the two memorials, French as Vietnamese, built in memory of some 13,000 dead and disappeared from the battle.

"I want to pay tribute to the dedication, the selflessness, the immense courage of the fighters on both sides, and they deserve the deepest respect for our country," he said on Friday.

"Our two countries, because they are reconciled with their past, look even more strongly at their shared future," said the head of the government.

An initiative "hailed" by his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc during their meeting in Hanoi, where the two men celebrated more peaceful anniversaries: 45 years of diplomatic relations and five of a new "strategic partnership" marked by the announcement new commercial contracts.

The total amount of agreements signed, some of which are not final, is around 10 billion euros, including 5.7 billion euros for the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, according to Matignon.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (left) with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in Hanoi's presidential palace, November 2, 2018 (POOL / AFP - Minh HOANG)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (left) with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in Hanoi's presidential palace, November 2, 2018 (POOL / AFP – Minh HOANG)

"Our two countries have a common past, but we are always looking ahead and the future … France has left a lot in terms of culture, economics, scientific research, which are very important for Vietnam, "said the Vietnamese Prime Minister.

This is the second time since the terrible battle of 1954 that a senior French official goes to the site of Dien Bien Phu.

François Mitterrand came to collect himself there in 1993, in order to "feel all that a Frenchman can feel in front of the sacrifice of our soldiers, without forgetting the others", according to the report of the AFP of the time.

At that time, the modest French memorial – a simple slab of mediocre quality erected in 1984 by the Vietnamese authorities to respect the Geneva agreement – is already falling into ruin. Rolf Rodel, a former German-born Indochina legionnaire, restores and builds an obelisk of just over three meters high, inaugurated by the local authorities in 1994, according to the story of the embassy, ​​which maintains it since 1998.

– "No more resentment" –

Memorial for French soldiers who died at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (photo taken June 19, 2014 in Dien Bien Phu) (AFP / Archives - HOANG DINH NAM)

Memorial for French soldiers who died at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (photo taken June 19, 2014 in Dien Bien Phu) (AFP / Archives – HOANG DINH NAM)

Edouard Philippe will be accompanied by two French veterans of the battle, William Schilardi, 85, and Jacques Allaire, 92 years. Respectively corporal and lieutenant at the time, they survived the hecatomb of the forced march of the 10,000 French prisoners after the defeat, of which only 3,000 returned.

The Prime Minister will also visit the former command post of General Christian de Castries, who led the French troops until his capture.

After 56 days – and nights – of bloody battles, shrapnel and clashes, the battle ends on May 7, 1954 with the fall of the French entrenched camp, which seals the end of the French presence. Indochina and the emergence of Vietnam as an independent nation.

Former Vietminh soldier Hoang Bao, 85 years old today, was only 20 when he crossed the mountainous jungle of northern Vietnam to confront the French adversary, ready to die for independence.

"We no longer have any resentment towards the French," says more than 60 years after the retired colonel interviewed by AFP in Hanoi, his dark green uniform decorated with medals.

"We have lost so many comrades," recalls Nguyen Tran Viet, a former 87-year-old military doctor who is also a veteran of Dien Bien Phu. "We should live peacefully now, no longer let the war happen."

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