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Friday, September 21, 2018, 17:54
Vietnam's President Tran dies after 'serious illness'
By Reuters
Friday, September 21, 2018, 17:54 By Reuters

In this Sept 13, 2018, file photo, Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang meets with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi (not in frame) at the Presidential Palace during the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi, Vietnam. Official media say Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang has died at age 61 due to illness on Sept 21, 2018. (KHAM / POOL / AP)

HANOI - Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang, one of the country's top three leaders but with mostly ceremonial duties, died on Friday after an illness, state television and radio announced. 

Tran, 61, died in a military hospital in Hanoi from a "serious illness despite efforts by domestic and international doctors and professors," Vietnam Television reported. 

He had hosted a reception for China's Supreme Court chief on Wednesday, state-owned newspaper Vietnam News said.

Tran, 61, died in a military hospital in Hanoi from a "serious illness despite efforts by domestic and international doctors and professors," Vietnam Television reported

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Tran had been ill for months, said former health minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu, who now oversees healthcare for high-ranking officials. 

"He began showing symptoms of illness in June last year and has been treated in Japan six times since," Nguyen told Reuters

"He suffered from a kind of highly virulent virus, for which there has not been any efficient treatment." 

Vietnam has no paramount ruler and is officially led by four "pillars": its president, prime minister, the chief of its Communist Party and the national assembly chair. 

The president has a more ceremonial role, although he sits on the powerful decision-making politburo. 

Before his April 2016 appointment as president, Tran had been minister of public security, heading an organization with broad powers responsible for intelligence gathering and thwarting domestic and foreign threats to the party. 

ILLNESS RUMOURS 

Posts about the death of Tran, once tipped by some analysts as a potential general secretary, spread quickly on Facebook before state media took the rare step of announcing it within two hours of the event. 

Rumours of his illness had circulated on social media for months, and there was no significant reaction in Vietnam's benchmark index. 

At one of Tran's last appearances, during a visit to Hanoi by Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sept 11, the president appeared visibly unwell and stumbled as he stepped on to a platform to inspect a guard of honour. 

Tran hailed from a small farming community 115 km south of Hanoi, rising through party ranks to become a police general and Politburo member. 

"We are saddened to hear the news that the president has died," said Bui Duc Phi, council chairman of the village where he was born. 

Vietnam's constitution provides for the vice president to perform the president's duties should he be unable to work. 

"Vice-president Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh will handle his duties until the National Assembly elects a new president," said prominent lawyer Tran Vu Hai. 

The national assembly is set to meet in late October, but the date could be brought forward, he added.

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