Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — President Trần Đại Quang signed a letter to Vietnamese children on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival. He did not know that it would be his last signature.
He was admitted to the military hospital on the afternoon of the same day. He went into a coma at around 5pm and never woke up.
On the previous day, he had two receptions: at 3:30pm, he hosted Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court of China Zhou Qiang. At 4:30pm, he met with heads of delegations to the 14th Assembly of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI 14).
“In the first meeting, he looked paler than on most days, but he still smiled when talking to the guest. But as he walked into the second meeting, he couldn’t hide his tiredness,” said Dương Dũng, who was the Vietnam News Agency reporter who had been exclusively covering the President’s activities for the past 29 months.
Nguyễn Quốc Triệu, former health minister and head of a national committee in charge of leaders’ health, told media that Quang was afflicted by a serious disease for which doctors have found no cure yet. The president fell sick in July 2017 and had traveled to Japan six times for treatment.
President Quang was born in 1956 in Quang Thiện Commune, Kim Sơn District, Ninh Bình Province, about 100km south of Hà Nội.
In the eyes of people in his hometown, the late President was a tough person.
Cao Hoàng Đảng, 63, President Quang’s childhood friend, said although the State leader was born into a poor family, he never complained about it.
“His father died early so their family life was harder than others’. After school, he would rush to the fields to work,” Đảng said.
Later on, Quang gained success in his studies and career, holding high-ranking positions, but he was still a simple person that local residents had known for a long time, Đảng said.
Vũ Xuân Sinh, principle of the Kim Sơn B High School in Kim Sơn District, said the late President had paid great attention to encouraging local students.
“In 2014, when he was the Minister of Public Security, he came to visit the school and found out our school facilities were degraded. He then donated funds himself and asked many other philanthropists to donate to the upgrading of the school,” Sinh said.
Lê Tiến Toàn, a teacher at the Kim Sơn B High School, said he was touched by how his old student treated him.
Toàn recently had a heart attack and had to be hospitalised in Hà Nội’s Bạch Mai Hospital. Worried about his health when the procedure was complicated, his daughter contacted the President and asked for help.
“Quang helped me a lot with the procedures and even gave me some gift. He was such a loving person and I am so proud to have a student like him,” Toàn said.
“Simple” and “down-to-earth” were also the words that many people who knew the leader would use to describe him. Dương Dũng, Vietnam News Agency reporter, said that President Quang was an open, friendly and caring person, contradicting Dũng’s initial expectations for how a head of state would behave.
“He would always find time to talk to us in between activities and sometimes even joked and called us his comrades,” Dũng said.
But President Quang was also a tough and confident person when it came to State activities, according to Trần Việt Thái, Deputy Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam.
“He paid a lot of attention to the country’s foreign affairs, and he was a leader with a strategic vision and a confident and decisive manner,” Thái said.
Late President Quang made a good impression on international friends when he successfully hosted many diplomatic activities last year when Việt Nam hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) 2017, Thái said.
“I was mostly impressed with his manner and stamina when hosting foreign heads of states from the United States, Russia and China. He was so confident yet flexible when receiving US President Donald Trump and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and President of China Xi Jinping,” he said.
Thái also recalled how hard President Quang worked during the 2017 event, when he had to travel back and forth continuously from the capital to Đà Nẵng.
“He always put great efforts in the things he did and worked tirelessly until the last minute. He directly chaired and organised many important diplomatic activities during this event and greatly contributed to the success of the summit,” Thái said.
“He was also loved and respected by so many people working in the diplomatic sector for his down-to-earth and caring character,” Thái said.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Vũ Quang Minh also shared his memories of the late President on his Facebook page.
Minh said that in a working session with a Vietnamese delegation from the Ministry of Defense, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen said that President Quang was one of the soldiers who volunteered to come and fight with his Cambodian comrades in 1979 to push the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh.
And President Quang was also remembered by the Cambodia Prime Minister for having help cut his hair five times, according to Ambassador Vũ Quang Minh.
The President graduated from the People’s Police University and the School of Foreign Languages under the Ministry of Home Affairs, now the Ministry of Public Security.
He served as Deputy Minister of Public Security from 2006 to August 2011, and Minister from August 2011 to March 2016.
He assumed office as the country’s President on April 2, 2016.
President Quang will be buried in his home village in northern Ninh Bình Province after a State funeral in Hà Nội. — VNS