Nguyen Ba To remembers the 56-day siege of Dien Bien Phu: the hardiness of his fellow soldiers, artillery shells that exploded so close he could barely breathe, a buddy who died. Last week, the 73-year-old veteran returned to the site of the battle that led to France's withdrawal from Vietnam. "It's changed a lot," he said, scanning a parking lot jammed with motorbikes near a carefully preserved French bunker. In a celebration both reverent and self-serving, the ruling Communist Party commemorated the 50th anniversary of the French surrender with fireworks and dance performances; in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac hailed his country's fallen soldiers who "turned a disaster into an epic." Vietnam's military mastermind General Vo Nguyen Giap, 92, shouldered out of the Party's inner circle in the 1980s, made public appearances. The regime even delivered some true eloquence. Said Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem: "When you take a sip of water, you should remember the origin of the stream. The present generation has to remember those who made sacrifices on their behalf."
New War, Old Tactics
GERMANY As the trial of Tunisian Ihsan Garnaoui opened in Berlin, prosecutors revived tactics used against the Red Army Faction in the 1970s. Garnaoui, believed to have been planning a Madrid-style bombing campaign
INDONESIA The Golkar party of former dictator Suharto won April's parliamentary election with 21.6% of the vote, according to official results. The result is a blow to President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose ruling PDI-P party came in second with 18.5% of the votes, down from 33.7% in 1999. Megawati faces re-election in July, and trails her former Security Minister, retired army general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She also faces competition from another ex-general, the Golkar candidate, Wiranto, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity by a U.N.-backed court in East Timor.
HONG KONG In the biggest show of force since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China, eight Chinese naval vessels cruised through the territory's harbor to mark the navy's 55th anniversary. Some saw this display of military muscle as an appeal to local patriotism, others as a not-so-subtle reminder of Beijing's ultimate sovereignty over Hong Kong.
MEANWHILE IN IRELAND...
It's All Greek to Them
The Irish postal service rejected suggestions that it had confused Cyprus with Crete on a stamp issued to mark the May 1 expansion of the European Union. Ireland current holder of the rotating E.U. presidency issued the stamp in the form of a map showing the organization's 15 old and 10 new member states. But keen-eyed philatelists quickly pointed out that the island that was supposedly Cyprus was of the same shape, and in the same location, as Crete. The postal service said it had used "cartographic license" to squeeze far-flung Cyprus onto the map.