Vietnam’s ruling party names To Lam as new state president

The National Assembly is expected to rubber stamp party decisions at a meeting this week.
By RFA Staff
2024.05.19
Vietnam’s ruling party names To Lam as new state president Vietnam's Public Security Minister To Lam speaking at a meeting at the National Assembly House in Hanoi, December 21, 2023. Lam has been named president by the Communist Party.
STR/AFP

Vietnam’s Communist Party has named minister of public security To Lam as the new president in an unprecedented reshuffle of the country’s leadership.

It also nominated Tran Thanh Man as the new chairman of the National Assembly, it said in a statement

Party cadres at a meeting that concluded on Saturday “recommended” Lam and Man to the top positions. The National Assembly – Vietnam’s parliament – is expected to approve the appointments when it meets this week.

The two men will be replacing Vo Van Thuong and Vuong Dinh Hue, who were forced to resign earlier in the year amid an anti-corruption campaign that has seen dozens of senior officials lose their jobs or be disciplined.

The campaign, dubbed the “blazing furnace”, was initiated by the party’s general secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, who sees corruption as the biggest threat to the Communist Party’s legitimacy. But some critics say it has been used as a political tool by factions in the party to eliminate competitors.

Gen. To Lam, 66, has been minister of public security since April 2016 and deputy minister for six years before that. He joined the public security service in 1974 and rose through the ranks to become a general in 2019.

As his successor at the ministry of public security has not been nominated, Lam appears to have retained his minister’s position for now.

Lam is believed to be one of the main figures behind the “blazing furnace” campaign, having been deputy head of the party's anti-corruption steering committee since 2021. 

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

Lam will be the third state president in just 15 months – his predecessor Thuong was forced out in January and Thuong’s predecessor Nguyen Xuan Phuc resigned a year earlier.

Tran Thanh Man, 62, currently deputy chairman of the National Assembly, is to take over from Vuong Dinh Hue, who was once considered a rising star in Vietnam’s politics and a contender for the job of general secretary. Hue stepped down this month after the party’s central inspection commission found that he had committed mistakes and wrongdoings unfit for a political leader. 

During last week’s meeting, the party’s senior officials also voted to add four new members to its powerful Politburo.

The new appointments are expected to restore unity within the party’s leadership but analysts warn that infighting may continue in the run up to the 14th national party congress, slated to take place in January 2026.

Nguyen Phu Trong, 80, who has been the party’s general secretary since 2011, is expected to step aside at the congress, or even before that, but there’s no clear imminent successor to his position.

To Lam and Pham Minh Chinh, the incumbent prime minister, are seen by Vietnam watchers as strong candidates to succeed Trong as general secretary.

Edited by Mike Firn.

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