Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang (pictured), who had mostly ceremonial duties of greeting visiting leaders and hosting summits in a bid to boost Vietnam’s international profile, has died aged 61 in Hanoi.
He suffered from a “serious illness despite efforts by domestic and international doctors and professors”, according to Vietnam Television.
State-run VnExpress reported that national health committee boss Nguyen Quoc Trieu said Quang had contracted a rare and toxic virus in July 2017 and had travelled to Japan six times for treatment.
“Japanese professors and doctors treated him and helped consolidate the president’s health for about a year,” Trieu told the media. “However, there are no medicines in the world that can cure the illness completely, instead it only could prevent and push it back for some time.”
Vietnam has no paramount ruler and is officially led by the president, prime minister and Communist Party chief.
Quang took office in April 2016 after holding the role of public security minister that protects the one-party state against broad perceived threats.
He had a reputation as a tough leader with little tolerance for dissent and often appeared uncomfortable in the public eye, lacking the charisma of some of his Communist peers.
After growing up in a Ninh Binh province farming community south of Hanoi, Quang became a police general and joined the decision-making politburo.
Quang’s illness had been discussed on social media for months and during the visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Hanoi on September 11, he was visibly unwell and stumbled while inspecting a guard of honour.
In a 2016 media “interview”, ahead of a visit by the former French president Francois Hollande, Quang read from a statement and was escorted out of the room when a reporter’s question went off-script.
His time in office was dominated by tensions with China over the South China Sea and Vietnam cancelled at least one oil-drilling project in the sea during Quang’s tenure in an apparent attempt to improve relations.
Quang hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang last November, hosting Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He has been associated with a crackdown on dissent on social media.
Phil Roberston, Human Rights Watch’s Asia spokesman, said Quang would be remembered for “a multi-year crackdown on human rights and putting more political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam than any time in recent memory”.
More than 40 people jailed this year and around 100 were being incarcerated in April this year, according to Amnesty International.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Vietnam’s Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi in September 2016. Picture credit: Wikimedia