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Vietnam's Outgoing PM Urges Tougher Action Against Corruption


In what may be one of his last official speeches, Vietnam's outgoing prime minister said the government's fight against high-level corruption has not gone far enough.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai told Vietnam's National Assembly Friday of his intention to resign, which he initially announced in April, during the Vietnamese Communist Party's Tenth Party Congress. He then turned to a problem that will remain after he is gone: high-level corruption.

Mr. Khai told the assembly that Vietnamese corruption investigators had not taken their investigations far enough.

He says investigators have focused too much on average employees, and have failed to attack corruption by state officials. In the future, he says, they should hold civil servants and officials responsible, too.

Vietnam has been wracked by a series of multimillion-dollar corruption scandals this year, centering on lucrative contracts at the Transportation Ministry. Mr. Khai said such practices as the buying of government jobs has also become a serious problem.

He says that, as prime minister, he takes responsibility for continued waste and corruption in the government, which he says threaten Vietnam's survival as a society.

Mr. Khai was widely seen as one of the forces behind the anti-corruption drive that uncovered the scandals earlier this year.

He is retiring in connection with a loose rule in modern Vietnamese politics that senior leaders should not stay in power past the age of 70. But retired Vietnamese leaders retain considerable influence. Former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet continues to be one of the country's chief advocates for economic and political reform.

Mr. Khai's speech suggested that, in retirement, he will continue to contribute to the struggle against corruption.

He predicted that corruption will remain a problem because of certain aspects of the Vietnamese national character.

Mr. Khai says that, while the Vietnamese are quick to learn, they are also quick to adopt bad habits.