HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong, the architect of the Southeast Asian country’s corruption crackdown, made his first appearance in state media on Tuesday since falling ill a month ago.
Trong, 75, fell ill on April 14 during a visit to the south of the country and was later admitted to the 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi, four diplomatic sources told Reuters.
In images released by state media, Trong was seen in an official function room, seated at the head of a table in a white shirt hosting a meeting with other Vietnamese leaders on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear to what extent Trong’s condition had improved, and the statement made no mention of his health.
In the only official comments regarding Trong’s wellbeing since he fell ill, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said last month that Trong had been affected by a “heavy workload” and “changeable weather conditions”.
Trong has presided over a widespread crackdown on corruption in Vietnam that has seen several high-ranking ministers and politicians, including one Politburo member, handed prison terms on charges ranging from embezzlement to economic mismanagement.
During Tuesday’s meeting, he told other Vietnamese leaders, including Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, to continue with the corruption crackdown.
Officially, Vietnam has no paramount ruler and is led collectively by the president, prime minister, Communist Party chief, and chair of the National Assembly.
But Trong added the role of president to his existing role of Communist Party General Secretary in September last year following the death of former President Tran Dai Quang.
Trong’s whereabouts and health had been subject to intense scrutiny since he fell ill in April.
In the absence of information, unconfirmed rumor and speculation about Trong’s condition has spread quickly on social media.
If Trong’s two leadership positions were to become vacant it could spark a shift in the balance of power in Vietnam ahead of the next meeting of the Party congress, the country’s supreme body, in early 2021.
Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie and Darren Schuettler