BFF-56 Vietnam communist war hero turned dissident Bui Tin dies aged 90

ZCZC

BFF-56

VIETNAM-US-WAR-POLITICS

Vietnam communist war hero turned dissident Bui Tin dies aged 90

PARIS, Aug 12, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A Vietnamese former colonel and
revolutionary war hero who became disillusioned with the communist regime and
defected, becoming one of its most vocal and influential critics, died in
France at age 90.

Bui Tin passed away of kidney failure in hospital in a Paris suburb early
Saturday, his friend and a relative confirmed, after several weeks of
declining health.

“The hospital told me that Tin passed away after falling into a coma,”
close acquaintance Tuong An told AFP on Sunday. A relative in Hanoi also
confirmed his death.

Tin, a former army journalist, had lived in exile in France since 1990 when
he defected during a trip for a meeting organised by l’Humanite communist
newspaper in Paris.

It was an unlikely twist of fate for a man who spent much of his life
fighting for Vietnam’s independence — first from French colonial rulers and
later from US-backed anti-communist fighters in the south.

He was just a teenager when, full of fervour, he joined the army aligned
with Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary movement that would eventually expel the
French in the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

Several other milestones would follow during his storied military career.

On April 30, 1975, he was among the first soldiers that entered the
Presidential Palace in the former southern capital Saigon — later renamed Ho
Chi Minh City — capping a long and bloody war that left some three million
Vietnamese dead.

Tin worked as an army reporter during much of the war, and later said he
met US navy pilot John McCain in the prison nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton”
where the American POW spent five and half years after his jet was shot down
in the city.

The two men would meet again in 1991, when Tin testified to a US senate
committee on POW and MIA affairs, at the end of which he famously hugged the
man he once considered a foe.

“When I reached for his hand he responded by embracing me, which I didn’t
mind, as cameras recorded the moment for the next day’s papers, which ran the
picture with variations on the caption FORMER ENEMIES EMBRACE,” McCain wrote
in his 2002 book “Worth the Fighting For”.

– Disillusioned –

As an army reporter, who later held top jobs at state newspapers, Tin spent
much of his career brushing up with war heroes like General Vo Nguyen Giap
but — like Giap — later became disillusioned with the cause he dedicated so
much of his life to.

He believed the Communist Party had drifted from the ideals of the
revolution’s founding father — calling its leaders arrogant and corrupt —
and once said the party “hides its misdeeds in the shadow of Ho Chi Minh”.

He spent much of his time in France writing about politics and current
affairs in his birth country and friends say he was a journalist, and
activist, up to the day he died.

Days before he fell ill last month, his internet went down so he wrote an
article by hand calling for multi-party democracy in Vietnam that he asked a
friend to post.

“When I visited him in the hospital, he was very weak, but the first
question he asked me was whether his article had been published or not,” An
told AFP.

“He was a real journalist until the end of his life.”

He came under fire from fellow activists for his former ties to the
communists, but An said he remained kind and tolerant even of his harshest
critics, having dedicated his life to his political ideals.

“He lived for democracy in Vietnam,” she said.

One of his relatives said the family did not pay much attention to his
controversial political leanings — which leaders in the one-party state are
notoriously intolerant of — and instead respected him as an elder and a
leader.

“The family didn’t take (his activism) too seriously, everyone has their
own ideology,” the relative said, requesting anonymity.

Born in 1927 near Hanoi, Tin was one of 10 siblings and leaves behind two
children — a daughter in Hanoi and a son in Canada.

Friends said a funeral service will be organised in France.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2045 hrs