Vietnamese police on Friday arrested Communist Party Central Committee member Dinh La Thang on charges of economic mismanagement while serving as chairman of PetroVietnam, the main state energy firm.
Thang’s arrest was the latest in a crackdown on corruption in Vietnam’s energy and banking sectors that earlier this year saw the kidnapping by Vietnamese agents of another former oil executive, Trinh Xuan Thanh, in Berlin, Germany.
Thang will be charged with embezzlement and of violating government regulations on economic management, causing losses of over $35 million in oil company investments in Vietnam’s Ocean Bank, Vietnamese media said on Friday.
He has now been stripped of his Party posts, according to media reports.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, independent journalists and other sources voiced conflicting views of the reasons for Thang’s arrest, with some suggesting Party politics had influenced the decision to go after Thang and the timing of his arrest.
“Many people might believe that Dinh La Thang’s arrest comes as the result of a genuine anti-corruption campaign led by the Communist Party,” Hanoi-based civil society activist Nguyen Quang A told RFA.
“This is a part of their propaganda strategy,” he said.
“But if you look more closely, you can see that this is simply a purge within the Party, because if this was a real anti-corruption campaign, all of them would have been arrested already.”
“This is the Communist Party, not the legal system, punishing Thang,” he said.
Authorities had planned to put Thang in prison for a long time, but first had to gather sufficient evidence against him, Ha Hoang Hop, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore told RFA,
“The legal system had been calculating this step very carefully, though it does still work under Party control,” Hop said.
Other important Party figures may be arrested in the near future, Hop said, adding that Thang himself, a senior figure in the Party’s ranks, may not be handed more than a 20-year sentence at trial.
“Many people have lost their trust in the Party, and I don’t think that the arrest of Thang or other people will help the Party earn back that trust,” he said. “Other ways will have to be found.”
Thang’s arrest and prosecution come amid a “life-and-death anti-corruption battle” directed by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, said Saigon-based independent online journalist Pham Chi Dung.
“I think the path that Trong has been following will soon lead to former prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.