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Cablegate: Press Reveals Vietnam's Richest People

VZCZCXRO6372
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0707 1060910
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160910Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5140
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2892
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 000707

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS and DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI VM
SUBJECT: PRESS REVEALS VIETNAM'S RICHEST PEOPLE

Ref: 06 HCMC 1144

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Local papers recently published for the first time a list
of the richest people in Vietnam. The list is a hot topic in cafes
and Internet chat rooms, and many have welcomed this as a new sign
of transparency and a possible source of inspiration to young
entrepreneurs. That said, other individuals -- including some who
made the list and some who could have, but did not, and do not want
to -- are less comfortable with this kind of transparency. Whether
a draft asset declaration government decree is approved, and to what
extent it enshrines openness and public access to information, will
send an important signal about the GVN's commitment to transparency.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Local papers such as Great Unity ("Dai Doan Ket") and Youth
("Tuoi Tre") recently published for the first time ever a list of
the richest people in Vietnam. For the most part, the individuals
made their fortunes in the banking, telecommunications, securities
and construction industries. Truong Gia Binh, Chairman of FPT,
Vietnam's largest IT company, ranks first with an estimated fortune
of USD 146 million. The rankings are a hot topic in cafes and
Internet chat rooms because of their unprecedented nature, and many
have welcomed the listing as a new sign of transparency and a
possible source of inspiration to young entrepreneurs. Vo Quoc
Thang, general director of a tile company and one of those making
the list, said publicly that the rankings are a good way to "honor
successful people."

3. (SBU) The two newspapers based their rankings only on the value
of the individuals' stock holdings and not on any other assets they
may hold. According to Le Thanh Kinh, a member of a local lawyers'
association, Vietnam's laws do not prohibit publishing information
collected on stock holdings or transactions. In fact, adding up
stock holdings is the only way to calculate Vietnam's richest
because freedom of information or asset declaration regulations are
non-existent, contacts at the Ministry of Information and Culture
(MOCI) told us. As a result, many Vietnamese citizens have
concluded that there are many, including probably some Communist
Party or GVN officials, who are even richer than FPT's Binh and the
others on the list because of their extensive land and property
holdings. However, the media has not investigated these stories
"out of fear and concern," these MOCI contacts add.

4. (SBU) The fear and concern may be mutual. Anonymous "listees"
have expressed misgivings about the rankings, telling the press that
recognition as one of Vietnam's wealthiest may bring them trouble in
their private and professional lives. As one MOCI official told us,
a number of GVN and State-owned enterprise officials may be
concerned that the media will try in the future to scrutinize their
land, property and share holdings. "It would be difficult for these
officials to explain how they obtained their assets," this contact
added.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) Vietnam's Government Inspectorate has finished a draft
asset declaration decree, but awaits guidance from the Office of the
Government (the Prime Minister's office) on next steps. Whether
this decree is approved, and to what extent it enshrines openness
and public access to information, will send an important signal
about the GVN's commitment to transparency. While the public no
doubt would welcome more openness, those in leadership positions may
be less enthusiastic about the kind of increased transparency that
he asset declaration decree would promote. End Coment.

MARINE

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