Thrifty funerals for Việt officials

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An employee prepares a funeral wreath for a customer at a funeral supplies shop which also sells coffins in Hà Nội

Việt Nam has imposed strict limits on the number of wreaths that can be laid at officials’ funerals and banned civil servants from burning “ghost money” in a bid to ease public anger over government waste.

The amount of offerings burned often reflects a person’s wealth or status, and senior officials are routinely honoured at their funerals with huge piles of offerings and ornate, expensive wreaths.

“Funerals must be solemn, civilised [and] thrifty, to match the country’s socio-economic situation,” stated a decree, signed this week by prime minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng but made public yesterday.

“We must limit and eventually eliminate customs that are backward and extravagant,” it said.

The government, which has launched an anti-corruption campaign in recent months, is struggling to contain growing public discontent over a weak economy and a string of scandals linking high-level officials to graft and wasteful spending.

The ban applies to civil servants, politicians, party officials, and anyone else who is paid by the state.

According to the website of the Lao Động newspaper, the number of floral wreaths at funerals was to be restricted to between five and 30, depending on the rank of the deceased.

The decree also bans state employees from commissioning glass windows in the tops of coffins to allow mourners to see the deceased one final time.

Lavish funerals are common in Việt Nam and some officials questioned whether the government would be able to implement them.

“Vietnamese lawmakers are good at drafting regulations but some seem unrealistic,” policeman Nguyễn Quý Dũng said.

“Limiting flowers to prevent waste makes sense. But banning ‘ghost money’ and glass-topped coffins, I find this weird.”

Source: AFP 22/12/2012

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