President Tran Dai Quang (R) welcomed US President Donald Trump on November 12, 2017 (Photo: VNA)
 
Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - President Tran Dai 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.

President Quang was admitted to the Military Central Hospital 108 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 Duong Dung, who was the Vietnam News Agency reporter who had been exclusively covering the President’s activities for the past 29 months.

Nguyen Quoc Trieu, former health minister and head of a national committee in charge of leaders’ health, told media that President 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 Thien commune, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province, about 100km south of Hanoi. In the eyes of people in his hometown, the President was a tough person.

Cao Hoang Dang, 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,” Dang said.

Later on, he 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, Dang said.

Vu Xuan Sinh, principle of the Kim Son B High School in Kim Son district, said the 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.

Le Tien Toan, a teacher at the Kim Son B High School, said he was touched by how his old student treated him.

Toan recently had a heart attack and had to be hospitalised in Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital. Worried about his health when the procedure was complicated, his daughter contacted the President and asked for help.

“President 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,” Toan said.

“Simple” and “down-to-earth” were also the words that many people who knew the leader would use to describe him. Duong Dung, the Vietnam News Agency’s reporter, said that President Quang was an open, friendly and caring person, contradicting Dung’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,” Dung said.

But President Quang was also a tough and confident person when it came to State activities, according to Tran Viet Thai, Deputy Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

“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,” Thai said.

President Quang made a good impression on international friends when he successfully hosted many diplomatic activities last year when Vietnam hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum 2017, Thai 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 General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and President of China Xi Jinping,” he said.

Thai also recalled how hard President Quang worked during the 2017 event, when he had to travel back and forth continuously from the capital to Da Nang.

“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,” Thai said.

“He was also loved and respected by so many people working in the diplomatic sector for his down-to-earth and caring character,” Thai said.

Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh also shared his memories of the President on his Facebook page.

Minh said that in a working session with a Vietnamese delegation from the Ministry of National Defence, Cambodian 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 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 President on April 2, 2016.

President Quang will be buried in his home village in northern Ninh Binh province after a state funeral in Hanoi.-VNS/VNA