Secretary of the Kien Giang Provincial Party Committee Nguyen Thanh Nghi, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, has just been re-appointed as a deputy minister of construction in the midst of the Vietnamese Politburo preparing personnel for the upcoming 13th Party National Congress slated for early 2021.
Observers and commentators have mixed opinions as to whether this is a promotion move or possibly a demotion after Mr. Nghi was disciplined for his mistakes in Phu Quoc, Kien Giang.
According to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s decision on October 6, Mr. Nghi, also a member of the Party Central Committee and the head of the 14th National Assembly delegation of Kien Giang province, was “transferred and appointed” as a deputy minister of construction.
The decision was made more than a month after Mr. Nghi and dozens of officials in Kien Giang province were disciplined due to land management violations in the 2011-2017 period according to the conclusion of the Government Inspectorate at the end of August.
This is the second time Mr. Nghi, 44 years old, has held the position of deputy minister of construction.
Mr. Nghi, with a doctorate in construction science and technology, was the deputy secretary of the Kien Giang Provincial Party Committee for the 2010-2015 term before becoming the head of the Kien Giang Provincial Party Committee for the 2016-2020 term.
Before being transferred, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi was a member of the Party Central Committee, Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee, Head of the 14th National Assembly of the National Assembly of Kien Giang for the term 2015-2020.
In October 2015, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi was elected as Secretary of the Party Committee of Kien Giang for the 2015-2020 term. He was also the youngest Provincial Party Secretary at the time of his election.
According to domestic media, Mr. Dung’s son was Vietnam’s youngest party secretary at the time of his election. At the time he became deputy minister of construction for the first time in 2011, when his father was serving as the PM, Mr. Nghi was only 35 years old.
Former PM Nguyen Tan Dung, in a photo at the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in Hanoi on January 26, 2016, has just reappeared on television in an interview on the traditional day of the Central Economic Commission.
The reinstatement of Mr. Dung’s eldest son to the post of deputy minister of construction, according to public opinion and observers, is not surprising after the case of Mr. Nghi being disciplined for land management violations in the province.
On August 25, Mr. Nghi and two former chairpersons of Kien Giang Provincial People’s Committee and 12 former vice-presidents and members of the provincial People’s Committee for the period 2011-2017 were disciplined because according to the Government’s Inspector’s conclusion, all 145 the commune-level administrative unit of Kien Giang province does not formulate detailed land use plannings and plans because the district-level land use plans are slowly approved.
Also according to this conclusion, Kien Giang province is still slow to adjust the construction planning of functional subdivisions in Phu Quoc economic zone, leading to the Phu Quoc Economic Zone Authority to allocate and lease land to some organizations to implement investment projects are not suitable or exceed the area in comparison with the land use norms approved by the Prime Minister.
The transfer of Mr. Nghi back to the post of deputy minister of construction is part of high-level personnel developments taking place in recent weeks, with many provinces in Vietnam having new secretaries appointed. On October 6, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also made a decision to appoint Mr. Tran Van Son, Secretary of the Dien Bien Provincial Party Committee, as deputy chairman of the Government Office.
On October 5, the Central Committee started its 13th Plenum in Hanoi, in which personnel work of the 13th Central Committee was one of the issues to be discussed and considered.
Mr. Nghi’s father, former Prime Minister Dung, suddenly reappeared on television when he gave an interview to VTV on the occasion of the traditional day of the Central Economic Commission in which he used to be head of the committee, and according to observers that could be “some signal of balance” of power ahead of the 13th National Congress scheduled for January 2021.
The anti-corruption campaign, called “burning the furnace” by the domestic media, by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong – who gained more power in his hands when concurrently serving as the country president in October 2018 after Mr. Tran Dai Quang passed away, and over the past few years, observers said he targeted Dung through a series of “big crimes” involving many government officials, bank leaders, and the police generals which led imprisonment of former Transport Minister Dinh La Thang, and former oil and gas industry official Trinh Xuan Thanh.
The question posed by the public is whether Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi is “transferred” or “demoted”?
Sources from Hanoi told the BBC that his move to the Ministry of Construction was an indication that Mr. Nghi might be the minister of construction in the near future.
However, from a different perspective, some observers in the dissident circles think that Mr. Nghi may be moved out of his native province for taking responsibilities for his mistakes in Phu Quoc Kien Giang.
From Saigon, independent journalist Nguyen Ngoc Gia, when talking to Radio Free Asia on October 6, 2020 about the case of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi, gave an analysis:
“In August 2020, there was a conclusion of the Government Inspectorate on the violations of Kien Giang province, but in that conclusion, there was no important part to transfer the document to the investigating agency for legal consideration. Then I think, at that time, Mr. Nghi was safe. Second, the news that Mr. Nghi has been appointed as deputy minister of construction, I’m also surprised. I think this is a dangerous step down for Mr. Nghi as well as solidarity with his father, Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung. Also today I saw Tuoi Tre newspaper interviewing Mr. Pham Cong Kham, the head of the Propaganda Department of Kien Giang province about the transfer of Mr. Nghi. Mr. Kham said the province has not received an official document on this. It is a very strange thing, while the press has spread so widely that Kien Giang province knows nothing but only through the press. That is the first strange point.”
The second strange point, according to journalist Nguyen Ngoc Gia, is the working content of the Politburo to prepare for the upcoming Party Congress. In which, group 3 was assigned by Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong to work with Dak Nong and Kien Giang provinces.
But according to the observation of journalist Nguyen Ngoc Gia, Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong only came to work with Dac Nong province, but never came to Kien Giang to work. He continued:
“The fact that Mr. Vuong did not work with Kien Giang province combined with the reply of Mr. Pham Cong Kham, Head of Propaganda Department of Kien Giang province, it turned out to be a problem about Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi’s transfer. That is to put Mr. Nghi into the matter. Because Tuoi Tre newspaper said that Mr. Nghi was still running the upcoming congress in Kien Giang slated for October 17.
At the press briefing on October 6, to provide information on the preparation of the Kien Giang Provincial Party Congress. Head of the Kien Giang Propaganda Department Pham Cong Kham said, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi – Secretary of Kien Giang province will still chair the provincial congress scheduled for Oct 15-17.
Mr. Kham also said that up to this time, Kien Giang Provincial Party Committee has not received the PM’s decision on Nghi’s transfer to the Construction Ministry.
Will “Comrade X” mistakes be touched?
Many observers of the domestic and foreign political situation questioned whether, with the transfer of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi back to the position of Deputy Minister of Construction, as well as the discipline of reviewing Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi’s mistakes in Kien Giang, there is a major possibility of Hanoi government touching the mistakes of “Comrade X” (ie former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung) while in office?
Through these stories, according to journalist Nguyen Ngoc Gia, it shows a clear rift between the high-ranking party officials, as well as between the faction of Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung and his comrades in this conference. Journalist Nguyen Ngoc Gia thinks that this is dangerous for Nguyen Thanh Nghi personally as well as Nguyen Tan Dung’s lineage, if Mr. Nghi comes to Hanoi to take office. He continued:
“This also puts Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi in a difficult position. Because according to Clause 4, Article 9 of the Statute of the Communist Party of Vietnam, that is, the minority obey the majority, the subordinates obey the superiors, the individuals serving the organization …, the higher the level, the more they will always work together first, to convince the matter of changing appointments.
But this time obviously, they gave Mr. Nguyen Thanh Nghi and his whole family of Nguyen Tan Dung a so-called good thing, that is, they used press tools to deliver messages to Mr. Dung’s family. The move is similar to move a fish out from the water and move a tiger out of a forest.