- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

HANOI — Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party is turning to the ideology and social teachings of its founder, Ho Chi Minh, in an uphill battle against rampant corruption that has resulted in the dismissal of thousands of officials in recent years.

The Politburo instructed the party’s local branches this week to begin a campaign “to encourage party members and the general public to study and follow [Ho’s] virtuous personality.”

By doing this, it said, “the party believes people will be able to effectively push back social evils” such as “corruption, waste and individualism,” a reference to the diminished role of the individual in communist ideology.

“The party’s offices and organizations will set up standards on virtue and lifestyle for cadres, party members and state employees,” said the new directive, which was published by the official Vietnam News Agency.

All Vietnamese read Ho’s teachings in school, but the party is worried that they either forget them as they grow older or give in to the vices of a modern and evermore developed economy, officials said yesterday.

The party has been embarrassed by the lengths to which some of its most senior members have gone for personal profit, one official said. “Thousands have been fired for corruption, embezzlement and graft.”

Some of those sacked include vice ministers and even the country’s anti-corruption chief. According to press reports, Luong Cao Khai received money and land from oil and gas officials and secured jobs in the energy sector for his relatives.

Last year, several oil and gas officials received sentences ranging from four years to life in prison for causing losses to the state worth millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, a betting scandal prompted the party leader, Nong Duc Manh, to say that corruption “threatens the survival of our system.”

Bets on soccer games worth $7 million were reportedly placed by the head of a government agency that handles hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign development aid for construction projects. According to local press reports, he lost $320,000 on a single match in Britain between Manchester United and Arsenal on Jan. 3.

Even Vo Nguyen Giap, the retired general who is revered for Vietnam’s victories over both the French and the Americans, felt compelled to remark: “The party has become a shield for corrupt officials.”

Another reason for the party’s appeal for its members to revisit Ho’s teachings is that ideology and traditional values are far from the minds of most young Vietnamese, officials said.

Vietnam has made impressive strides in the past decade in its quest to turn its previously planned system into a modern market economy.

It joined the World Trade Organization last week and is hosting the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit with 21 heads of state, including President Bush, this weekend.

But the United States, which is eager to fully normalize trade relations with Vietnam, is critical of the slow pace of political reforms. The Communist Party’s rule remains unchallenged, and democracy and human rights activists are regularly harassed.

Two decades ago, the Vietnamese Communist Party, faced with a faltering central-planning economy, formally abandoned Marxist approaches and began introducing market elements as part of a broad reform package called “Doi Moi,” translated as either “Renewal” or “Renovation.”

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