To Lam takes office as Vietnam’s president

The new president vows to continue strengthening the Communist Party’s rule and legitimacy.
By RFA Staff
2024.05.22
To Lam takes office as Vietnam’s president To Lam takes his oath as Vietnam's President during the National Assembly's summer session in Hanoi on May 22, 2024.
Dang Anh/ AFP

Police general To Lam was sworn in on Wednesday by Vietnam’s parliament as the new state president.

At the same session, lawmakers voted to relieve Lam, 66, of the post of minister of public security, which he had held since 2016. Lam has replaced Vo Van Thuong, who was forced to step down after just one year in office.

As minister of public security, Lam played a leading role in a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, seen by critics as a political tool for factions in the Communist Party to eliminate competitors. His promotion as president means he is no longer in charge of the powerful ministry, and so may have lost some influence over it.

In his acceptance speech, Lam vowed to prioritize Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as national interests, in his work.

The new president emphasized that, together with other leaders, he would “continue to strengthen the party’s capabilities, its ruling power and combat prowess.”

Lam, in his televised, seven-minute speech, also mentioned Vietnam’s “bamboo diplomacy”, which he said he was committed to following. 

This approach in foreign policy has allowed Vietnam to establish comprehensive strategic partnerships with some of the world’s major powers including the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

On Monday, Tran Thanh Man took office as the new National Assembly chairman amid an unprecedented reshuffle of the ruling party’s leadership.

The appointments of Lam and Man have restored the Communist Party’s top quartet, known in Vietnam as “the four pillars”, namely the general secretary of the Communist Party, the prime minister, the president and the National Assembly chairman. 

This quartet had earlier been halved after the resignations of President Vo Van Thuong and National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in March and May, respectively.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Lam on becoming president, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported, the first foreign leader to do so.

Candidates for the top job

The position of general secretary is the highest in the  party hierarchy. The incumbent party chief, Nguyen Phu Trong, 80, is expected to step down at the 14th national party congress in January 2026, or even earlier.

Lam and the prime minister, Pham Minh Chinh, are the only two eligible candidates to succeed him after a number of possible  contenders lost their jobs during an anti-corruption campaign dubbed the “blazing furnace.”  

Lam joined the public security service in 1974 and rose through the ranks to become a general in 2019. He was deputy minister for six years before becoming minister in April 2016. 

During his career, Lam’s main focus was security in connection with internal politics and counter-intelligence.

The general was accused of involvement in the kidnapping of Trinh Xuan Thanh, a fugitive oil executive and former provincial official, in Berlin in 2017 and Thanh’s return to Hanoi through Slovakia. The Hanoi government denied kidnapping but the case led to a temporary rift in diplomatic relations between Germany and Vietnam.

In 2021, Lam was involved in another controversy after he was caught on video eating a piece of gold-plated steak at a luxury restaurant in London. A video clip of the general being fed by celebrity chef Salt Bae went viral, causing a public outcry at home. 

Edited by Taejun Kang.

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