He was born on November 23, 1922 in the southern Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long. From an early age, he devoted his life to the liberation and reconstruction of the country.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he learned about the death of Vo Van Kiet with profound sadness.
Kiet was one of the revolutionary leaders in south Viet Nam during the resistance wars against the French colonialists and US imperialists.
After reunification, Kiet became Mayor of HCMC (old Saigon), and later Prime Minister from 1991-1997.
Vu Quoc Tuan, one of Kiet's assistants, described the former PM as a visionary leader who could mobilise talent from different sources for the country's development.
"He was a man whose death will leave a vacuum in the lives of many people every morning when they wake up and think of him." - writer Nguyen Ngoc.
"He will be remembered by everyone." - Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew.
For those who still believe the false propaganda that the American War against Viet Nam was about "North versus South" (it was not!), since 1945 when Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of modern Viet Nam, most or perhaps all Prime Ministers of Viet Nam have been southerners.
The Perfect Spy author pays tribute to national hero
Emotions and nostalgia could be heard in American author Larry Berman's voice as he spoke of Pham Xuan An yesterday, the subject of his book 'The Perfect Spy', which brought the author to the capital Hanoi.
"An lived an amazing life, a life of espionage, of spying, and of friendship," said Berman at the Vietnam News Agency’s conference hall yesterday morning as he addressed a crowd of war veterans, journalists, writers, historians, film critics and students.
"I wonder how it was possible that a spy like him could have so many friends. This is one of so many mysteries in his life."
The crowd had gathered to meet and talk with the American author about the book that has become a phenomenon in Viet Nam since its domestic release nine months ago. The book was published in the US in July last year with 20,000 copies and has since been reprinted.
Berman studied An’s life as a professor of political science at the University of California-Davis, and has devoted his career to understanding the American War.
The story follows the double life of An, a reporter for Time magazine and a Vietnamese secret agent. During the American War in Viet Nam, he worked as a well-respected journalist and a communist intelligence agent.
"I am so proud to be the first historian to write about him. One day, younger generations will write even better books about An with more access to historical documents, but someone has to take the first step and I’m happy to do it."
His story has also caught the interest of various American film-makers based on the book, and Berman dreams that it will be filmed in Viet Nam.
"What I appreciate the most in his personality was his mental discipline. He went to work every day for Time magazine and had daily contact with CIA agents but no one ever suspected he was a spy."
An began his military career in the 1950s as a member of the Viet Nam People’s Army. Once the French left the country, the Vietnamese army sent him to America to study journalism and to observe its people and culture. There, he attended community college in California, worked for the Sacramento Bee, interned at the United Nations, and travelled across the country making friends.
In the 1960s, An returned to Viet Nam to work as a reporter for Reuters and Time magazine while providing intelligence to the Vietnamese army fighting against the US invasion of south Viet Nam. His dual-life continued for 20 years.
The Vietnamese Government awarded him six orders and he was named a Hero of the People’s Army. He is one of only two intelligence officers during the war ever promoted to General and named a Hero. He died last September in HCM City."Perfect Spy is my favourite book," Berman confided.
"An taught me things about Viet Nam that I thought I had known but I didn’t understand it. I had seen Viet Nam but didn’t really understand Viet Nam until I met An."
Viet Nam News, English-language daily
June 13, 2008