Vietnam parliament’s Thursday meeting fuels leadership speculation

A letter to legislators said the extraordinary session is to discuss ‘personnel issues.’
By RFA Vietnamese
Vietnam parliament’s Thursday meeting fuels leadership speculation Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong is seen ahead of a meeting with Cambodia’s then foreign minister Prak Sokhonn in Hanoi, Vietnam on March 21, 2023.
AP Photo/Hau Dinh

Updated March 18, 2024, 05:40 a.m. ET.

Vietnam’s parliament will hold an extraordinary session on Thursday to discuss ‘personnel issues,’ according to a letter sent to legislators and seen by Reuters.

The news agency quoted Vietnamese officials and diplomats as saying the resignation of President Vo Van Thuong may be on the agenda.

Radio Free Asia’s call to Vietnam’s Ministery of Foreign Affairs to confirm details of Thursday’s meeting went unanswered.

The session comes after Vietnam canceled a state visit by the Dutch King and Queen planned for March 19-22, due to unspecified “internal circumstances,” according to a statement from the Dutch Royal House.

President Thuong has only been in the job for a year. He was appointed in March, 2023, after a special meeting of the National Assembly two months earlier saw the sudden resignation of then president Nguyen Xuan Phuc who took responsibility for a series of major COVID scandals.

The Vietnamese presidency is largely a ceremonial role.

United States-based lawyer Le Quoc Quan told RFA extraordinary meetings of Vietnam’s National Assembly have become normal because of the recent turbulence in senior leadership positions.

Quan said even though state media had not reported on the meeting, social media posts led him to believe President Thuong would resign to take responsibility for a corruption case involving officials from Vinh Phuc and Quang Ngai provinces.

He said Thuong’s likely replacement is Minister of Public Security To Lam.

“Recently, the Ministry of Public Security has been given a lot of budget, the ministry has a lot of power, it has influenced the National Assembly to pass many laws to protect the police sector. 

“The Ministry of Public Security is actually consolidating its power firmly and strongly and is like [Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary] Nguyen Phu Trong's right hand to carry out the so-called anti-corruption work, or in other words, suppressing subjects that General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong himself as well as the Ministry of Public Security found inappropriate, including senior leaders of the Communist Party of Vietnam and activists.”

Vietnam watcher and emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Carl Thayer said Permanent Member of the Secretariat Truong Thai Mai is another possible candidate for the presidency, which he sees as an immensely significant reshuffle.

“It involves replacing one of the four pillars of Vietnam’s leadership (party secretary general, state president, prime minister, chairman of the National Assembly) twenty-one months in advance of the 14th national congress of the Vietnam Communist Party,” he said. 

“The Central Committee must decide whether Thuong’s replacement is a caretaker for Thuong’s remaining term in office or whether Thuong’s replacement will continue in office after the next party congress.”

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

Updated to include comments from Carl Thayer.


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