Vietnam appoints top policeman as new president

STORY: Vietnam's parliament elected police minister To Lam as the country's new president on Wednesday.

It comes days after Vietnam's National Assembly also appointed its new chairman.

Lam's election could temporarily end two-months of heightened political turbulence in the communist state which saw the exit of three of country's top five leaders over unspecified wrongdoings.

As head of the public security ministry, Lam has been a crucial figure in a sweeping anti-graft campaign, known as "blazing furnace."

The campaign aims to root out widespread corruption but has also been seen by critics as a tool to sideline political opponents.

After his election, Lam said he would continue the fight against corruption.

The state president holds a largely ceremonial role in Vietnam.

But it is one of the country's top four political positions – which also include the Communist Party chief, the prime minister and the parliament speaker.

Lam's appointment is seen by analysts to be a “stepping stone” for him to later bid for the position of the Communist Party chief, the country’s top job.

Lam’s rise has not been without controversy.

In 2021, while Vietnam was under a COVID-19 lockdown, Turkish celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, known as "Salt Bae”, uploaded a video of himself feeding Lam a gold encrusted steak at his London restaurant.

A noodle vendor who later posted a video imitating "Salt Bae" was sentenced to five years in prison for "anti-state propaganda."

Lam was also the head of the public security ministry when in 2017 Vietnam's security services allegedly carried out an extraordinary rendition of a Vietnamese business executive from Germany. The case rattled relations with both countries.

In 2023 the U.S. State Department produced a report on human rights in Vietnam and warned of significant violations by security forces.

It also cited "credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses."