Vietnamese official goes on defensive as infidelity rumor spreads

By Vo Hai   September 19, 2016 | 12:01 am PT
Vietnamese official goes on defensive as infidelity rumor spreads
Trinh Van Chien, the chief of Thanh Hoa Province's Communist Party Unit. Photo by Le Hoang/VnExpress
Rumors on social media say the married man had an affair with a housing official.

The top leader of Thanh Hoa Province in central Vietnam has denied rumors on social media he is having an affair, allegations that if proved true would likely hurt his political career in a country where adultery is illegal.

Vietnamese social media over the weekend was filled with rumors that Trinh Van Chien, the chief of the Thanh Hoa’s Communist Party unit, is cheating on his wife with a 30-year-old woman, who is incidentally head of the housing unit at the province’s construction department.

Chien, 56, is said to also have a 4-year-old son with the woman, who is pregnant with another child.

There are also details about her luxury houses and cars.

The Party official, who is customarily viewed as the most powerful leader in the province, addressed the issue on Monday for the first time.

He accused those spreading the information of “violating the laws by making up stories just for the purpose of slandering and smearing public officials.”

He said the province government has opened an investigation into the matter.

His deputy Do Trong Hung also said that the province has sent a statement to the Ministry of Information and Communications, affirming that the rumors were groundless and threatening punishment on those spreading them.

But social media users are not giving up just yet. Some blogs have challenged Chien to take DNA tests to support his statement.

In Vietnam, people who are found guilty of adultery can be fined VND1-3 million (US$45-135). Government officials caught in such scandal would face extra punishment and may even lose their positions.

In 2013, the then mayor of the Mekong Delta’s Tra Vinh Province Tran Khieu asked for early retirement at 59 after a similar scandal.

Khieu then also denied his love affair with the female coworker, saying they were "like brother and sister.” Several news websites have recently reported that they have opened a restaurant together in neighboring Vinh Long Province.

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