HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s National Assembly, the country’s lawmaking body, on Thursday voted to dismiss two deputy prime ministers from their posts, a government statement said, in what analysts suspect is a new escalation in the country’s anti-corruption crackdown.

There was no explanation of parliament’s decision to remove Pham Binh Minh and Vu Duc Dam, but the move comes at a time when the communist-ruled country is intensifying its fight against graft, despite concerns the campaign is paralysing routine transactions as officials fear being entangled in probes.

Minh and Dam did not respond to a request for comment. The men have not been arrested and no charges have been filed against them.

If the dismissals are linked to the anti-corruption drive, they would be the most senior officials targeted so far.

The crackdown has already led to the arrest of a health minister, as well as other top officials and diplomats. In separate probes, prominent businessmen have also been detained.

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Minh, 63, served as the country’s foreign minister between 2011 and 2021, and as a deputy prime minister from 2013.

Dam, 59, was appointed as a deputy prime minister in 2013. Dam is widely known for his efforts to lead the Southeast Asian country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Carl Thayer, an expert in Vietnam’s diplomacy at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, said the dismissals may be tied to two scandals which disrupted the country’s handling of the pandemic, notably a bribery scandal linked to flying Vietnamese stranded abroad back home and the purchase of COVID-19 test kits.

The communist party in late December removed Minh from the politburo, its most powerful decision making body, and removed both Minh and Dam from the Central Party Committee.

The party last month disciplined the Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son over the involvement of several ministry officials and diplomats in the scandal over repatriation flights.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Francesco Guarascio and Ed Davies)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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