Central Committee Approves Four New Politburo Members, Appoints General To Lam President

Central Committee Approves Four New Politburo Members, Appoints General To Lam President

Notable events:

  • Central Committee Approves Four New Politburo Members and Appoints To Lam President in Major Personnel Restructuring
  • PEN America Hllds Annual Gala to Honor Pham Doan Trang and Other Writers
  • Prisoners Receive Health Examinations after a Year of Requests
  • Russian Ambassador to Vietnam Confirms Visit by Putin

Central Committee Approves Four New Politburo Members in Major Personnel Restructuring

The 13th Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has approved the admission of four new members to the Politburo during a three-day plenary session between May 16 and 18.

The newly elected members include Le Minh Hung, 53, a former governor at the State Bank of Vietnam; Nguyen Trong Nghia, 62, a military officer who leads the VCP’s propaganda department; Bui Thi Minh Hoai, 59, head of the Central Mass Mobilization Committee; and Do Van Chien, 62, chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, a governmental body that oversees social and welfare affairs.

At the same meeting, the Central Committee agreed to the resignation of Truong Thi Mai, 66, a permanent member of the committee’s secretariat and the only woman in the influential Politburo, after she was accused of “violating Party regulations” and “failing to set herself as a model for other officials and party members.” The party has subsequently assigned General Luong Cuong, head of the political department of the Vietnam People’s Army, to replace Mai in the secretariat.

With Mai's departure, the latest high-ranking official to leave office due to alleged wrongdoing, and the election of new members, the Politburo now has 16 members.

Previously, the party had dismissed the chairman of the National Assembly, Vuong Dinh Hue, and resident Vo Van Thuong after both officials were found to have “violated party regulations” - a conviction similar to that of Mai. Hue and Thuong were also deprived of their Politburo and Central Committee membership.

On the last day of the session on May 18, the Central Committee appointed General To Lam, 66, the public security minister, to become the president, and Tran Thanh Man, 61, standing vice chairman of the National Assembly, to hold the chairmanship position of the National Assembly, Vietnam’s parliamentary body.

State media reported that the Parliament will formalize the personnel decisions in a meeting scheduled for May 20. The committee has not announced any likely successor to To Lam, and it remains unclear whether or not the public security minister will be in charge of the two positions simultaneously.

Moreover, during the three-day session, the Central Committee announced disciplinary action for Le Thanh Hai, a former Politburo member and chairman of the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. He was dismissed from all his positions in the party.

The official announcement did not specify the exact wrongdoing of Hai; it only said that the former Ho Chi Minh City chairman had “violated regulations on what party members cannot do” and “allowed many violations to occur at the Party Committee and the city government, which led to serious consequences.”

PEN America Holds Annual Gala to Honor Pham Doan Trang and Other Writers

PEN America held its annual Literary Gala on May 16 with 650 supporters to celebrate the freedom to write and honor the songwriting icon Paul Simon, who received the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award for his impactful songwriting career.

Other honorees included Almar Latour, CEO and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for his efforts to advocate for the release of journalist Evan Gershkovich from a Russian prison, Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss for standing up against false accusations, and Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang, who is imprisoned for her writings about democracy and freedom of expression. She received a nine-year sentence in 2021 under the charge of “distributing anti-state propaganda.”

PEN America awarded Pham Doan Trang the 2024 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award last April, repeatedly calling for her immediate release. Quynh-Vi Tran, Trang’s friend, who received the award on her behalf, said that Trang symbolized bravery and perseverance, inspiring countless young people to envision and strive for a Vietnam where freedom and human rights are upheld.

“​​Despite having the option to remain abroad, Pham Doan Trang chose to return to Vietnam, fully aware of the risks,” said Tran, a journalist and the executive director of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam. “She chose to go back to Vietnam, knowing very well about the dangers that awaited her there. She knew, but she never hesitated to go back. Because she wanted to make Vietnam better.”

Prisoners Received Health Examinations after a Year of Requests

Luu Van Vinh and Huynh Minh Tam, two political prisoners held in Gia Lai Province’s Gia Trung Prison, have finally received health examinations after nearly a year of repeated requests, their families told Radio Free Asia (RFA). Vinh is serving a 15-year sentence due to his alleged engagement in “activities aimed at overthrowing the government,” while Tam, another prisoner, is serving eight years for his alleged “distribution of anti-state propaganda.”

Le Thi Thap, Vinh’s wife, told RFA that both men were examined at Gia Lai Provincial General Hospital. The examination results showed Vinh had bone and joint disease, while Tam needed dental treatment. Vinh also informed his wife about the harsh prison conditions, which aggravated prisoners’ health conditions. He noted that the pork served at mealtimes smelled bad, and the detention areas were unbearable in summer because they lacked shades and fans.

Other female prisoners of conscience in Gia Trung Prison, including Tran Thi Ngoc Xuan and Huynh Thuc Vy, also complained about their living conditions. Xuan is serving a 13-year sentence due to her involvement in the U.S.-based Provisional Government of Vietnam, and Vy was sentenced to 33 months in prison for defacing Vietnam’s national flag.

During a visit with a relative, Xuan said that her cell was located near a wastewater pipe, and the stench made it difficult for her to sleep at night. The relative, who requested anonymity, said that Xuan looked pale and was in poor health. Both prisoners had complained to the prison authorities about the sewage problem, but the problem was not resolved.

Russian Ambassador in Vietnam Confirms Visit by President Putin

Russian ambassador to Vietnam, Gennady Stepanovich Bezdetko, confirmed President Vladimir Putin will visit Vietnam “in the near future” during a May 15 information-sharing session between the two countries. Bezdetko said he could not announce the specific time of the visit, but that further information would “be delivered soon.”

The ambassador claimed that “Vietnam traditionally occupies an important position in Russia's foreign policy. He added that Hanoi considers its relations with Moscow a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” the highest position in its diplomatic hierarchy, which it also has with the United States, Japan, South Korea, India, and China.

On March 26, the Central Foreign Relations Committee announced that General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had a phone call with President Putin and invited him to visit Vietnam. On May 9, Reuters reported that the Vietnamese foreign affairs ministry had delayed a meeting the following week with the European Union official who works on Russian sanctions to prepare for the Russian president's potential visit to Hanoi.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam: Is turmoil in Hanoi keeping Vladimir Putin away?

DW/ David Hutt/ May 18

“The VCP's Central Committee, a decision-making body, started its ninth plenum on May 16 — the same day Putin arrived in Beijing. Party officials are discussing the candidates for the unoccupied seats in the Politburo and the vacant posts of house speaker and president.

"So long as the political turmoil in Hanoi continues, it is unlikely that Putin will schedule a trip to Vietnam," said Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Moreover, in private, the Vietnamese government probably told the Russians that the time wasn't right because the position of state president is currently vacant, meaning uncertainty over who would have formally welcomed the Russian leader, according to an EU diplomatic source.”

Vietnam forfeits billions of dollars in foreign aid amid anti-graft freeze, document says

Reuters/ Francesco Guarascio and Khanh Vu/ May 17

“Vietnam forfeited at least $2.5 billion in foreign aid over the last three years and may lose another $1 billion because of administrative paralysis, the United Nations, the World Bank and Western donors told the government in a letter seen by Reuters.

The previously unreported figures from the unpublished document, dated March 6, highlight frustration among foreign investors over regulatory hurdles and lengthy approval procedures that have caused prolonged deadlock as the Communist-ruled country is gripped by an escalating anti-corruption campaign and political turbulence.”

The deepening ‘securitization’ of Vietnamese politics

RFA/ Zachary Abuza/ May 15

“In the 12th Congress, elected in 2016, four of 19 members had backgrounds in the MPS [Ministry of Public Security]. So this security bloc is likely to be an enduring feature of Vietnamese politics.

Six of the 200 elected Central Committee members hail from the MPS, second only to the Ministry of National Defense and the uniformed services. While not quite institutional capture, it’s clearly institutional dominance.

This will have profound implications on the Vietnamese public and shape the Internet and social media, civil society and the economy. These men view everything through the lens of security and regime survival.”

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