Vietnam dismisses report of defense minister’s death

by P.V20 July 2015 Last updated at 20:46 PM - An article published by German news agency DPA saying that Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phung Quang Thanh died in France on Sunday is groundless, a senior military official has said.

Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, made the rejection on Monday morning when replying to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s question about the health condition of General Thanh, who has been under treatment in France since June 24.

“The health of General Thanh is developing well. He is healthy,” Lt. Gen. Tuan said, adding that Gen. Thanh will return to Vietnam at the end of this month.

He affirmed that the DPA report about Gen. Thanh’s death is unfounded. “This is a manner of irresponsible journalism,” the official said.

DPA said in a report written from Hanoi on Sunday that Gen. Thanh had died the same day at a French hospital where he was being treated for lung cancer, citing an anonymous military source.

The German news outlet added that the source declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the matter.

Lt. Gen. Tuan told Tuoi Tre that he last phoned Gen. Thanh yesterday.

“The last time I called him was on the afternoon of July 19. His voice was very relaxed,” the official said.

Recently, Gen. Thanh has often made phone calls to Vietnam to direct work under his authority, he added.

On July 1, the Board for Protection and Care of Health of Central-Level Officials informed that Gen. Thanh had had  surgery on a lung tumor  in France on June 30.

Minister Thanh, 66, arrived in France a week earlier for treatment before undergoing the operation, the board said.

Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper cited board chief Nguyen Quoc Trieu as confirming that the tumor was benign.

The minister has suffered from a chest injury received during wartime, and the wound has over time caused fibrosis in a part of his lungs, according to a Tuoi Tre source.

Two months ago, the minister developed serious coughing and a biopsy was performed, but no signs of lung cancer were found, the board said.

However, pulmonary fibrosis and serious coughing attacks are worrying signs of cancer, the board warned.

One of the most recent activities of Minister Thanh was on June 1, when he and visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter signed in Hanoi a Joint Vision Statement to guide future defense cooperation between the two countries, amid increasing tension in the East Vietnam Sea.

Minister Thanh was born in 1949 in Me Linh District, Hanoi.

He joined the military in 1967 and fought on battlefields in southern Vietnam.

He was conferred the title of Hero of the People’s Armed Forces in 1971.

He was once the Commander of the First Corps of the Vietnam People’s Army.

In 2001, he became the Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army and has been Minister of Defense since 2006.


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