Vietnamese minister says sorry for abusing official privilege

By Viet Tuan, Nguyen Hoai   January 9, 2019 | 01:03 am PT
Vietnamese minister says sorry for abusing official privilege
Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh. Photo courtesy of the National Assembly
Vietnam’s Industry and Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh issued a public apology Tuesday for inappropriate use of his official car.

The apology came after the story of a car with blue license plates driving into the restricted aircraft parking area at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi to pick up the minister’s wife last Friday triggered a public backlash. 

Many passengers on the Vietnam Airlines flight complained that they had to make way for the minister’s wife to get off the plane, while the car belonging to the ministry picked her up right on the tarmac.

In Vietnam, blue plates are only granted to cars used by government officials, and public vehicles are to be used only for government business. Under current regulations, ministers can be picked up right in the aircraft parking area, but their relatives are not entitled to this privilege.

Following local media reports and harsh reactions on social media, Anh admitted his mistakes and extended an apology to the people.

He asked for public sympathy, explaining that he was indisposed and hospitalized when the incident took place, hence his delayed response.

The incident was a "profound lesson" for himself, his family and the ministry as a whole, the minister wrote in a letter published by major media outlets. He pledged to take steps to ensure that no similar breaches happen in the future.

This is not the first time a Vietnamese government official has drawn attention and attracted public criticism for misuse of official cars for personal purposes, but it is uncommon that senior officials apologize to the public.

In 2016, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a public apology after his motorcade drove down a pedestrian-only street in the well-preserved ancient town of Hoi An. 

The social media is playing an increasingly prominent role in scrutinizing the behavior of public servants, with netizens quick to express their opinions, including their grievances.

More than half of people in the 95-million strong Vietnam are online and most of them are on Facebook.

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