Võ Văn Kiệt

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In this Vietnamese name, the family name is . According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Kiệt.
Võ Văn Kiệt
6th Prime Minister of Vietnam
In office
24 September 1992 – 25 September 1997
Preceded by Đỗ Mười
Succeeded by Phan Văn Khải
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
In office
8 August 1991 – 24 September1992
Preceded by Đỗ Mười
Succeeded by Himself
In office
10 March 1988 – 22 June 1988
Preceded by Phạm Hùng
Succeeded by Đỗ Mười
Chairman of the State Planning Commission
In office
April 1982 – March 1988
Preceded by Nguyễn Lam
Succeeded by Đậu Ngọc Xuân
Personal details
Born 23 November 1922
Trung Hiep,
Cochinchina, French Indochina
Died June 11, 2008(2008-06-11) (aged 85)
Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore
Political party Communist Party of Vietnam
Spouse(s) Phan Lương Cầm

Võ Văn Kiệt (23 November 1922 – 11 June 2008[1]) was a Vietnamese politician and statesman.[2] He was a veteran fighter in the long war against French and then American military forces in South Vietnam, and lost his first wife and two children to US bombing. He was Prime Minister of Vietnam from 8 August 1991 to 25 September 1997, who led the communist nation's return to the world arena after decades of war and isolation. He was one of the Vietnamese political leaders that led the innovation (Đổi mới) policy in Vietnam. His birth name was Phan Văn Hòa and he changed it to Võ Văn Kiệt when he joined the Indochinese Communist Party. He also had a pseudonym, Sáu Dân.


Kiệt was born in 1922 into a peasant family in Trung Hiệp village, Vũng Liêm district, Vĩnh Long province in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, then a part of Cochinchina in what was called French Indochina. He was admitted to the Indochinese Communist Party in 1939. He joined the Anti-imperialist Youth Movement and took part in the Nam Kỳ (Cochinchina) insurrection in Vũng Liêm district.

As a member of the communist-led Viet Minh independence movement, Kiệt fought the French in the First Indochina War (1946–54) in Southern Vietnam and in South Vietnam after 1954, member of Cochinchina Party Committee when division of the country according to the Geneva Accords of 1954. In 1960, he was elected alternate member of the Communist Party Central Committee and became a full member in 1972, member of COSVN in 1961, member of the Standing COSVN in 1973. In 1976, following the reunification of the country, he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee, the position of Chairman of the People’s Committee of Hồ Chí Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). Soon after, he was elected alternate member of the Politburo of the CPV and made Secretary of the Party Committee of Hồ Chí Minh City.

Kiệt's first wife and his two children were killed by a bombing by US forces during the Vietnam War.

In 1982, he was promoted to Vice-premiership and became Chairman of the State Planning Commission. In 1987, he was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam and became acting Prime Minister from March to June 1988 after the sudden death of Phạm Hùng.[3] In 1991, he is Prime Minister replacing Đỗ Mười who became General Secretary.

He is the Advisor of Party's Central Committee from December 1997 to 2001.

In December 1997, Kiệt had received the Sao Vàng (Gold Star) Order,[4] the State’s highest distinction, for his immense contributions to the Vietnamese revolution.

Final days[edit]

After retiring from politics, Kiệt lived in Ho Chi Minh City. Since then, he had spoken out on many issues, and was seen as a defender of people's rights.[5]

Võ Văn Kiệt was the highest-ranking former government official to have openly spoken out about reconciliation with Vietnamese exiles and democracy activists.[6] Recently, he had spoken out against the proposed expansion of Hanoi[7][8] and the demolition of the historic National Assembly building in Ba Đình Square to make place for a new one.[9]

Kiệt was admitted to Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital on June 3, 2008 with unspecified ailments and died at the age of 85 on early Wednesday, June 11, 2008.[10][11]

State media did not announce his death until the night of June 12, after most foreign news agencies had already reported it and many foreign dignitaries had already offered condolences, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[12] The government of Vietnam announced a state funeral on June 14 and 15 to be held in the Reunification Palace (Ho Chi Minh City), Hanoi, and his birth province Vĩnh Long.[13]


The eulogy for Mr Kiệt was given by communist party leader Nông Đức Mạnh at the Reunification Palace[14] in Hồ Chí Minh City, where his body had been lying in state.

He described Mr Kiệt as "an excellent leader of our party, state and people, a faithful revolutionary fighter who has devoted his whole life for national independence, socialism and people's happiness". Mr Kiệt's flag-draped coffin, carried in a glass case and accompanied by a military procession, was then taken through the streets, where thousands of mourners waited to pay tribute. Vietnam held two days of national mourning. Among the grey ranks of Vietnam's communist leadership, Mr Kiệt was one of few figures to have stood out.

Credited as a leading figure in the economic reforms known as Đổi Mới, which have transformed Vietnam's economy, he was a rarity among senior officials in speaking out publicly against the failings of economic system . One of his comrades in arms, Trần Quốc Hương, former head of intelligence for the Việt Cộng network in South Vietnam, wrote in the condolence book: "I was deeply moved by your death. You were my comrade, my friend, and my brother."

After the communist victory in 1975 he became party secretary of Saigon, and quietly defied hard-line official policy by trying to work with officials and businesses associated with the defeated government. As prime minister, Mr Kiệt presided over a period of dramatic economic growth and foreign investment.

In an interview with the BBC in 2007 he questioned whether Communist Party members were true patriots, saying: "The motherland of Vietnam doesn't belong to one person, one party or one group only."[15]

In his final weeks, Kiệt also spoke out against the expansion of the capital Hanoi[16] and expressed concern whether Vietnam could protect itself against rising sea levels caused by global warming.


Mr Kiệt led Vietnam's economic reform of the 1990s and its reopening to the outside world after decades of isolation. His death raises questions about which way the communist party in Vietnam would move on. There were signs in late 2010s that Mr Kiệt's reformist allies had been losing their influence.

Out of office, since 1997, Kiệt remained active in politics, publishing commentaries pushing for more liberalisation even as Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation in 2007 and averaged annual GDP growth of 7.5 percent since 2000.


Memorial and burial services at state level for Võ Văn Kiệt were organized in Vietnam's southern Hồ Chí Minh City on Sunday morning June 15, 2008 with the participation of many residents and officials, including the country's top party and state leaders. Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Hồ Chí Minh City for the funeral of Võ Văn Kiệt.

"The death of former prime minister Võ Văn Kiệt is a great loss to the party, state, people and his family... He had a spirit of daring to think and daring to do. The comrade (Kiệt) and party and state leaders led all people to conduct the renovation cause, bringing our country out of the socioeconomic crisis," Nông Đức Mạnh, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee and head of the funeral board, said at the memorial service televised live by the Central Vietnam Television.

Top Communist Party officials, some wearing black suits and black ties,[17] solemnly stood to attention in the front row of mourners before Kiệt's coffin during the service. Relatives stood in black mourning clothes and white headbands.

The coffin was draped in Vietnam's red flag[18] with a gold star and enclosed in a glass case for transportation on a gun carriage through city streets to the national cemetery for burial.

Tens of thousands[19] of mourners lined the streets to honor Kiệt as his coffin was carried in a procession of military vehicles through Hồ Chí Minh City to be cremated.

The country's political elite paid their respects in Reunification Palace, where Communist Party chief Nông Đức Mạnh headed long lines of mourners who filed past Kiệt's coffin from early Saturday.

As his body lay in state, the palace hall was filled with incense smoke and funereal music played by an army band. Saturday and Sunday were declared days of mourning with flags flying at half-mast at official buildings.

In a statement, current Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng paid tribute to Kiệt as "a wholehearted, loyal, irrepressible and heroic Communist. All his life, all his heart and all his force was for the country and the people."

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Gia Khiêm told AFP that Kiệt "was very dynamic in setting policy in the renovation period, and I think his contribution will stay with the Vietnamese people forever."



  1. ^ "Ex-Vietnam premier Vo Van Kiet dies at 85: government", AFP, June 11, 2008.
  2. ^ Ronald B. Frankum Jr. Historical Dictionary of the War in Vietnam, 2011 p.479. entry "Võ Văn Kiệt"
  3. ^ "Khi Chủ tịch Hội đồng Bộ trưởng Phạm Hùng "chơi chữ"", VietBao.vn, October 18, 2006.
  4. ^ Tổ chức Quốc tang nguyên Thủ tướng Võ Văn Kiệt, tintuc.xalo.vn, June 12, 2008.
  5. ^ Đổi mới không phải là xóa bỏ hoàn toàn cái cũ hay từ bỏ chủ nghĩa xã hội mà là nhận thức lại một cách đúng đắn hơn về một chủ nghĩa xã hội nhân bản, hoàn thiện, với lý tưởng phục vụ con người, vì con người.
  6. ^ Nga Pham (2008-06-11). "Obituary: Vo Van Kiet". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  7. ^ Võ Văn Kiệt, Mở rộng Hà Nội: Không thể chỉ là một ý tưởng cảm tính, Tuổi trẻ newspaper, May 5, 2008
  8. ^ Võ Văn Kiệt: Không được phép đưa thủ đô làm nơi thí nghiệm.
  9. ^ Cựu Thủ tướng Võ Văn Kiệt lên tiếng về việc xây nhà Quốc hội mới.
  10. ^ Vietnam reformist ex-premier Vo Van Kiet dies at 85.
  11. ^ Vietnam holds state funeral for former PM
  12. ^ BBC Vietnamese (2008-06-12). "Báo VN đợi đưa tin về ông Võ Văn Kiệt". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  13. ^ Thông cáo đặc biệt June 12, 2008 of Communist Party of Vietnam
  14. ^ Funeral held for Vietnam's ex-PM
  15. ^ Cựu thủ tướng Việt Nam Võ Văn Kiệt qua đời, thọ 85 tuổi
  16. ^ Ai thương tiếc ông Võ Văn Kiệt?
  17. ^ Ex-Vietnam reformist PM hailed for daring
  18. ^ At funeral, ex-Vietnam reformist PM hailed for daring
  19. ^ Vietnam mourns reformist PM Vo Van Kiet
  20. ^ BBC phiên bản Việt ngữ (2008-06-11). "Cựu thủ tướng Võ Văn Kiệt qua đời". BBC. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Phạm Hùng
acting Prime Minister of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Đỗ Mười
Preceded by
Đỗ Mười
Prime Minister of Vietnam
Succeeded by
Phan Văn Khải