Under Fire, Vietnam's Dung Fires Back

On Dec. 18, while the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist party (CPV) was meeting in another effort to agree on who will lead the nation for the next five years, a document was leaked to Anh Ba Sam, a Vietnamese political blog that averages nearly 100,000 hits daily. Nine pages long, it purports to be a letter sent six days earlier by Vietnam's Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, to his 15 colleagues in the party's politburo.

After 10 years as PM, Dung is bidding to succeed Nguyen Phu Trong as General Secretary, the top party position. Though he is billed as the “reform candidate,” much of Dung's support seems to come from party members whose principal objectives are position, power and the lucrative opportunities both bring. Arrayed in opposition is what might be called an “anybody but Dung” bloc dominated by party conservatives; Trong, who is not seeking re-election, is its leader.

The plan, as usual, has been for the Central Committee to reach consensus on a slate of new leaders, choices that would be confirmed at the CPV's 12th Congress in January. Since last summer, however, evidence has mounted that this time the central committee's personnel deliberations are unusually contentious and the Congress may be delayed, perhaps until June. The stakes are high; the party elite's choices this time will likely have momentous consequences for Vietnam's development trajectory and for the continued viability of the CPV as "the leading force of the State and society."

The letter to Trong and other members of the Politburo is Dung's reply to accusations he says have been levied against him. It was probably deliberately leaked by Dung's friends. Vietnamese commentators on Facebok seem convinced that it is authentic. Following is an abridged translation of the 12 charges and Dung's replies.

Charge #1. Because his strategic perspective is weak, over the last 10 years, PM Dung has issued many incorrect decisions, with serious consequences.

Dung's reply: My performance has been regularly reviewed by the party and the national legislature; never have they reached that conclusion. I acknowledged my own errors in the bankruptcies of Vinashin [the state-owned shipbuilding conglomerate] and Vinalines [the state-owned ocean shipping and port operator]; this matter was resolved by the party before the 11th Congress. As for allegations of improper financial management, the experts of the State Bank and the Finance Ministry have found no improprieties.

Charge #2. Although Dung told a World Economic Forum regional meeting that he would never barter national sovereignty for a quixotic sort of peace and friendship and some sort of dependency, there is nothing “quixotic”about Vietnam's relationship with China. Though there are conflicts, we have to live together peacefully. Since our revolution, Vietnam has never been dependent on China. Dung, whether intentionally or not, has given support to the enemies of the party who slander us as dependent on China and afraid to defend our territory. His remarks stir up confrontation between Vietnam and China. When China's deep-sea drilling ship dropped anchor in the Paracel Islands, Dung's provocative statements stimulated attacks by extremists on nearly 1000 foreign-invested factories, so that the State had to pay trillions of dong in reparations.

Dung's reply: At the WEF meeting, I replied to reporters for AP and Reuters on three matters: whether Vietnam had filed a complaint against Chinese actions; whether in consequence of the Chinese drilling rig confrontation, Vietnam has any proposals for the international community; and what might be the consequences if China continues to drill in Vietnam's waters. [The PM provides an extensive summary of his remarks, which closely parallel the posted text of his response to the news agencies' questions.] It's irresponsible to say my remarks stimulated the attacks on the factories, because they occurred on May 13-14, and the WEF meeting where I spoke to the reporters was not until May 21. Further, the party's Central Audit Commission concluded on October 23, 2015 that my remarks were necessary, appropriate to the situation and in accordance with party policy.

Charge #3. Like the presidents of capitalist regimes, Dung went on TV at New Year, 2014 to read a proclamation that included a call to change the regime and launch democracy.

Dung's reply: Actually, I just issued a letter to the Vietnamese press which inter alia called for greater effort to revise the laws in accordance with our new Constitution, etc. It wasn't a “proclamation.” You can read the text on the government website.

Charge #4. Dung forged a marital alliance with the family of Nguyen Ba Bang, a former US intelligence colonel and deputy minister of finance in the puppet Saigon regime.

Dung's reply: Before my daughter's marriage to the son of Nguyen Ba Bang, I asked the politburo to assess the matter. At the politburo's instruction, the Party Commission on Organization prepared a lengthy report. It confirmed, inter alia, that neither Bang nor his son, both American citizens, had engaged in any activities predjudicial to Vietnam and both were highly regarded in Vietnamese business circles.

Charge #5. Though she is a director, and also secretary of the party committee at the Viet Capital Bank, Dung's daughter has become an American citizen.

Dung's reply: The National Police have confirmed that this charge is untrue.

Charge #6. Dung has "pressed the National Assembly to pass a Law on demonstrations . . . to carry out an orange revolution." [This alludes to apprehension that foreign funded NGO's aim to foster an eastern European model peaceful revolution.]

Dung's reply: The proposed law is a party and state initiative, not my private idea.

Charge #7. Dung invited former UK PM Tony Blair, who is an authority on “peaceful change” organization, to be an advisor to the Vietnamese government.

Dung's reply: When former PM Blair visited Vietnam, he proposed that the UK and Vietnam form a strategic partnership. In that case, he was ready to assist the Vietnamese side at his own expense as an advisor and promotor of foreign investment, especially from the Middle East, in public-private partnerships. On the advice of concerned government offices, I agreed to Blair's proposal. My decision was reviewed and approved by the Central Audit Commission.

Charge #8. Dung has formed a "vested interests faction" on a national scale, aiming to win the post of CPV General Secretary first, then [also] to become President and change our system and our party.

Dung's reply: That is a slander and fabrication. I've told General Secretary Trong that I DON'T ASK FOR RE-ELECTION. My father and many other relatives gave their lives in the American War. I myself was wounded four times and still carry 10 US bullets in my body. I could never betray the objective, the path I've chosen, to which I've given my life.

Charge #9. According to media sources, Dung has many villas, palaces and landholdings in Saigon, Vung Tau, Dalat and Hanoi, has accounts in many foreign banks, including accounts each containing US$50 million in Malaysia; he's the richest man in Asia. Duong Chi Dung [former Vinalines chairman, now serving a 28 year sentence for embezzlement] gave PM Dung a very large sum to build a family mausoleum.

Dung's reply: All this is fabrication and slander; I swear it's not true. I have one house in Saigon and my official quarters in Hanoi. The Central Audit Commission has checked this. Re Duong Chi Dung, the Ministry of Security and the People's Court have checked the record; he never said anything like that.

Charge #10. Dung's daughter has gotten wealthy remarkably fast . . . as an officer of a number of companies. The Central Audit Commission confirmed this.

Dung's reply: My daughter has sworn that she's never been an officer of the various companies that were mentioned. When she married, both her husband and her husband's father had been in business for quite a long time. She lives with her husband's family. We don't talk with them about their business dealings. They haven't broken any laws. My wife and I swear we have not done anything to gain my daughter and her husband any special privilege.

Charge #11. Dung's sons are too young to be entrusted with high party positions.

Dung's reply: My sons were properly elected to their positions by local party organizations in accordance with party rules. I didn't have any part in it.

Charge #12. Regarding [allegations against] my siblings and my wife.

Dung's reply: My wife and I don't know about their affairs, and swear we have done nothing to secure preference or favors for them, or to cover up any wrongdoing on their part.

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