An influential member of Vietnam’s parliament has questioned the arrest of two of his employees accused of stealing state secrets in a case believed to be connected to infighting amongst the country’s leadership.
National Assembly Deputy Dang Thanh Tam, a businessman with strong ties to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, said there were “abnormalities that needed clarification” in the charges against the Sept. 7 arrests of Nguyen Duy Hung and Nguyen Thi Bich.
Tam sent a letter to official media outlets and to several members of parliament, seeking help to clarify the charges and “bring greater attention” to the case, according to official news website Vietnam Education Online Wednesday.
Observers say the arrests of his staff could be a prelude to possible action against Tam in what they see as political retribution against President Sang by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Reports have indicated that Vietnam’s president and prime minister are increasingly at political odds with one another.
Vietnam Education Online said reporters were unable to contact Tam for further details.
Tam is the brother of Dang Thi Hoang Yen, who also served as a deputy in Vietnam’s National Assembly but was removed from office in May after she was allegedly found to have omitted certain information from her declaration of candidacy for the lawmaking body.
Yen is the chairwoman of several organizations including Tan Tao Group, Tan Duc Investment and Industry Joint-Stock Co., and Tan Tao University.
Just days ago, Tam had accompanied President Sang in a delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit talks in Russia.
Tam’s staff Hung is head of Saigon Invest Group’s representative office in the capital Hanoi, and Bich is an employee of Tan Tao Investment Industry Joint-Stock Co. Tam is a chairman of Saigon Invest and oversees both entities.
In what is seen as a reflection of the proxy battle between the two Vietnamese leaders, tycoon Nguyen Duc Kien, believed to be aligned with Dung, was arrested last month for economic crimes at Asian Commercial Bank—one of the country’s biggest banks.
The cofounder of the giant lender is being held for “illegal business activities” in connection with three private companies he chaired.
The Vietnamese stock market has tumbled since Kien was put into custody, as investors fear further arrests in the country’s finance industry.
Carl Thayer, a Vietnam scholar at the University of New South Wales in Australia, suggested that some of Vietnam’s political elite may be concerned that the prime minister has amassed too much power "and needs to be pulled back a peg."
"The atmosphere for some reason is just right for going after big fish,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Mac Lam. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.