Vietnam president to resume work 'soon' amid health rumours

Disappearing act: Vietnam's President Nguyen Phu Trong has not been seen in public for 11 days, sparking health rumours

Vietnam's president will "soon resume" work, a spokeswoman said Thursday, after the 75-year-old leader vanished from public view amid swirling speculation he fell ill earlier this month.

The sudden disappearance of hardline leader and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong sparked concerns of a power vacuum in the one-party state, with no immediately obvious successor in place if he was no longer able to govern.

But observers said even if there was political jockeying for his job, the party's firm grip on power would not likely be shaken.

Trong was last seen in public on his 75th birthday on April 14, meeting with officials in southern Kien Giang province.

"Trong's health has been affected by the high intensity of his workload and weather," foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters Thursday, without elaborating.

"He will soon resume his normal duties," she added.

Sources have confirmed to AFP that the president fell gravely ill in Kien Giang and was later seen by doctors, but did not offer details due to the sensitivity of the matter. His current condition is not clear.

On April 13 Trong was photographed visiting a shrimp farm in the sweltering heat and was also seen in a cooled processing plant at the same site.

Social media went into overdrive speculating on the health of the white-haired statesman while state media remained tight-lipped on his condition, reporting only on his written correspondence in the days since he was last seen.

Vietnam analyst Jonathan London said there were several Trong loyalists in place that could be eligible for his job, with no signs that potential rivals aligned with the previous administration would take over.

"Perhaps the current trend in politics will continue," he told AFP.

A conservative apparatchik and lifelong party member, Trong has led an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign in graft-prone Vietnam, jailing dozens of executives alongside former and current officials.

His hardline reputation has also been bolstered by a crackdown on activists, with dozens jailed under his tenure.

Vietnam is notoriously secretive about the health of its top politicians and keen to preserve an image of powerful, stable leadership.

Former president Tran Dai Quang died in September last year following a long illness, appearing in public just days before looking noticeably thin.

Hanoi did not speak about his health until after his death and never disclosed his precise illness.