National Assembly Officially Appoints General To Lam as New President

National Assembly Officially Appoints General To Lam as New President
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Notable events:

  • National Assembly Elects Police General To Lam as New President
  • The 88 Project: Vietnam Arrests Another Trade Unionist
  • Political Prisoner Dang Dang Phuoc Sent to Solitary Confinement

National Assembly Elects Police General To Lam as New President

The National Assembly, Vietnam’s parliament, passed a resolution with near unanimity to elect General To Lam, the public security minister, as president for the 2021-2026 term at the 7th plenary session on May 22. According to the voting results, 472 of 473 lawmakers approved Lam’s appointment, with only one objection. General Secretary of the National Assembly Bui Van Cuong drafted and presented the resolution to the National Assembly to elect the new president.

On May 21, National Assembly Secretary Bui Van Cuong presented the lawmakers with a draft resolution regarding the discharge of To Lam from the Minister of Public Security. The National Assembly members are expected to cast secret ballots to formalize the decision to dismiss Lam in this plenary session.

Lam, 66, who held the top position in the influential Ministry of Public Security since 2016, was said to have used his position of power to carry out an investigation against corruption within the state sector, dubbed the “blazing furnace” campaign by party chief Nguyen Phu Trong. However, many critics also believe Lam has weaponized the anti-graft campaign to eliminate his political rivals.

In an oath-taking ceremony on the same day, Lam vowed to “resolutely and persistently fight against corruption and negativity” while working to “prevent ‘self-evolution’ and ‘self-transformation’ of Communist Party members” and “tighten the close relationship between the Party and the people.”

After Lam’s official departure, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh temporarily appointed Senior Lieutenant General Tran Quoc To, deputy minister of Public Security, to manage this ministry until the government decided on Lam’s replacement. According to Article 28 of the Law on Government Organization, the Vietnamese prime minister can appoint and dismiss different governmental bodies' ministers and deputy ministers.

 The 88 Project: Vietnam Arrests Another Trade Unionist

The 88 Project, a nonprofit human rights advocacy group, reported in a May 20 press release that the Hanoi Police Department has arrested Vu Minh Tien, a trade unionist and head of policy and legal affairs at the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) and director of the Institute for Workers and Trade Unions (IWTU).

According to The 88 Project verification, Tien was detained under Article 337 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the disclosure of classified information. His arrest occurred after the police confirmed the detention of Nguyen Van Binh, 51, another labor reformist who was prosecuted with the exact charges. Both Tien and Binh have worked to amend and align Vietnam’s labor law with international standards by ratifying ILO Convention 87, which could allow the formation of independent trade unions without prior state authorization.

More notably, Tien’s detention exemplifies Hanoi’s increasing crackdown on civil society groups since the IWTU is part of Vietnam’s Domestic Advisory Group (DAG), established under the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) to monitor Vietnam’s compliance with labor and sustainability commitments. 

Moreover, in November 2023, the IWTU reported on a bilateral meeting between the EU’s DAG and Vietnam’s DAG, in which several European civil society organizations criticized Vietnam’s arrest of activists and its failure to enable workers to engage in collective bargaining actively. According to The 88 Project, this IWTU report could be a pretext to arrest Tien.

Directive 24, issued by the Politburo last year, is believed to have led to the prosecution of Vu Minh Tien. The directive perceives independent trade unions as a threat to national security and orders the Vietnamese authorities to prevent reformist tendencies among officials “that weaken our regime from within and threaten the interests of the nation, people, and the survival of the regime.” The 88 Project’s press release suggests that the government is implementing these orders with the recent arrests of influential trade reformers.

Political Prisoner Dang Dang Phuoc Sent to Solitary Confinement

Xuan Phuoc Prison authorities have sent political prisoner Dang Dang Phuoc, 61, a music teacher in Dak Lak Province, to solitary confinement as a punishment for his violation of unspecified regulations, his wife, Le Thi Ha, told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Ha said that she learned about Phuoc’s punishment when she received a notice from the prison saying that her husband was being disciplined in a solitary cell between May 10 and 20. The notice did not specify his violations, but Ha believed it resulted from her last visitation on May 9, when Phuoc gave her a piece of paper containing a cellmate’s phone number and asked her to pass it to that prisoner’s family. The correctional officers intervened and took that information away.

Ha also expressed worries over her husband’s health since prison rations lack nutritious food, and visitations from relatives have been reduced to once every two months from once a month. She added that she would file a complaint with the Phu Yen Provincial Procuracy regarding Phuoc’s punishment.

The Dak Lak music teacher received an eight-year sentence in June 2023 on charges of “distributing anti-state propaganda.” Phuoc lost an appeal in September of the same year and was transferred to Xuan Phuoc Prison in Phu Yen Province.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam Must Not Let Political Rumours Online Undermine Its Anti-Corruption Campaign

Fulcrum/ Nguyen Thanh Giang/ May 21

“The leaking of information from anti-corruption investigations is worrying for the rule of law. Whether accidental or intentional, this degrades the Vietnamese state authorities because their use of covert tactical operations and the information they produce is not strictly controlled by an independent body. In Britain, for example, there is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) to prevent investigators from abusive practices. A lack of similar oversight in Vietnam makes official police announcements the only news that the public is told to believe.

The problem becomes serious with social media leaks because the principle of presumed innocence of the suspects no longer applies. In Vietnam’s one-party state, the investigator also holds judicial power, making it unlikely for any victim of such rumours to seek a fair trial. Worse, any trial may be prejudiced by a ‘social media verdict’ before it begins.”

Race for Vietnam’s Top Job: New Candidates, Old Challenges

Fulcrum/ Le Hong Hiep/ May 21

“Among the four potential candidates, To Lam stands out as a strong contender. His previous position as minister of public security gives him significant leverage over other officials, including Central Committee members. However, his success may ultimately depend on who his successor is. According to the CPV’s norms, the position should be held by a Politburo member. Last week, the Central Committee added four new members to the Politburo, but none of Lam’s deputies or allies were promoted. If one of his protégés or allies, such as Deputy Minister of Public Security Luong Tam Quang, is eventually appointed to succeed Lam, it will bolster his political prospects. However, if someone from a rival faction or someone he has no sway over is chosen, To Lam’s prospects may be in jeopardy.”

Imprisoned Writer Serving 9 Years Illustrates Vietnam's Crackdown on Expression

Just Security/  Anh-Thu Vo/ May 17

“[Pham Doan] Trang’s publications are often censored and suppressed through the denial of publishing permits or by being reported on social media platforms. However, they continue to report on events that the Vietnamese government has tried to censor. That includes the Dong Tam incident, a violent government attack on Dong Tam village on Jan. 9, 2020 amidst a longstanding land dispute. The incident resulted in a number of casualties, including the death of the village leader and three police officers. The incident was followed by a trial in September 2020 where villagers received severe sentences, raising significant concerns about police brutality, abuse of power, and contradictions surrounding land ownership in Vietnam. Trang co-authored an independent report on the  Dong Tam incident, and her subsequent Facebook post sparked conversations and thousands of reactions.”

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