News / Asia

Corruption Trials Reveal Political Rift in Vietnam

FILE - Anti-corruption activist in Hanoi.
FILE - Anti-corruption activist in Hanoi.
Marianne Brown
In the last few months Vietnam has held several high profile corruption trials as part of a crackdown on graft. The government says it is using severe punishments, including death, to deter corrupt practices. However, critics say the trials are also part of an ongoing power struggle in the top leadership.
 
Last week the former chairman of Vietnam’s state-owned shipping giant Vinalines, Dương Chí Dũng, made a shocking allegation. Speaking at the trial of his brother, who is accused of helping him flee the country, Dung said he paid the Deputy Minister of Public Security $500,000 in a bid to avoid prosecution.

Exposing such payoffs is a priority for the government’s intensified anti-corruption campaign.
 
Recent investigations have resulted in jail terms for tens of public officials and some death sentences, including the former Vinalines boss, who fled to Cambodia after the company’s near-collapse under some $3 billion of debt.

Vietnam’s economic woes have put the spotlight on mismanagement and bribery at state-run firms, and the ruling Communist Party recognizes the public’s anger, said Alexander Vuving from the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.  “They [the Party] really want to do something to show the population to restore the regime’s legitimacy and rescue the regime from corruption. They are using the graft trials to deter against further corruption but also as a propaganda device to restore trust for the population,” he said.
 
However, some critics say the anti-corruption purge has more to do with an internal power struggle between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Chairman of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong.
 
Vuving said the prime minister is part of the “rent-seekers” faction - a group that uses their position to enrich themselves without benefiting society. Opposed to them is the “anti-corruption” faction under Trong, who is leading the crackdown.
 
“I believe that at the very top of the Vietnam Communist Party there are people who are relatively untainted by corruption, there are also people who are deeply, deeply involved in corruption," Vuving noted. "So you have both ice and fire in the same politburo.”
 
The anti-corruption campaign has already prosecuted several high-profile officials and businessmen who are closely linked with the prime minister.
 
This shows the campaign is more about political rivalry than good governance, said Professor Carl Thayer from the University of New South Wales in Australia. "Dismantling corruption is really aimed at the prime minister because he’s responsible," he stated. "And it’s his cronies and friends who have benefited from it.”

Although the corruption trials have received widespread media attention, there are few signs they are convincing the public that the government is truly tackling graft.

Jairo Acuña-Alfaro, Policy Adviser on public administration reform and anti-corruption at the United Nations Development Program in Vietnam, said to convince the public, authorities need to change the behavior of lower-level officials who interact with citizens on a daily basis.

“All these cases that are being discussed are very far away from the ordinary citizens. What the Vietnamese citizens want to have is a public administration that is free from corruption, that is free from abuse, that is free from a lack of respect," said Acuña-Alfaro. "In order to do that there has to be some work in addressing the incentives, for the public officials to address publicly and transparently what are those incentives, what are those rents they receive from the public sector and then put the house in order.”
 
Eighty-two-year-old Le Hien Duc is a veteran anti-corruption activist who receives tens of letters each week from people across the country seeking her help. She said she has been following the Vinalines case closely.
 
She said she does not know anything about the law but in such a big case she agreed with the death penalty.
 
However, she added that these cases should not eclipse the bigger picture which is to tackle corruption at its roots.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs