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Cablegate: Soy Sauce War: Hcmc Provincial Aids Committee Vice Chairman

VZCZCXRO1014
OO RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0088/01 0251003
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251003Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7048
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4181
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHHMHAA/COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000088

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE/OGAC, EAP/MLS
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO HHS/OGHA (WSTIEGER, LVALDEZ, CHICKEY, MWYNNE)
AND NIH/FIC (RGLASS)
USAID FOR ANE (CJENNINGS, MWARD) AND GH (KYAMASHITA, KHILL)
BANGKOK FOR USAID/RDM/A (OCARDUNER, CBOWES)
CDC FOR COGH (BLOUT), CCID (COHEN), and GAP (BIRX, SIMONDS)
SECDEF FOR ISA\SHUBERT
PACOM FOR J5\LACY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PROP SOCI TBIO EAID SNAR KHIV VM
SUBJECT: SOY SAUCE WAR: HCMC PROVINCIAL AIDS COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN
DODGES PUBLIC ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT

1. (SBU) Summary. Newspaper reports highlighting corruption
investigations of HCMC Provincial AIDS Committee (PAC) Vice Chairman
Le Tran Giang have focused attention on his conduct but seem
unlikely to lead to his dismissal. Dr. Giang has the political
backing of HCMC People's Committee Vice Chairman Nguyen Thanh Thai,
who is also the HCMC PAC chairman. Post believes these recent news
reports have been instigated by health officials sacked in November
2007, along with their political allies, who may be seeking to fill
management positions within the soon to be established HCMC Center
for AIDS Control. The political attacks focus on Dr. Giang's role
in a soy sauce scandal that broke in May 2007 involving a cover-up
of locally produced soy sauce containing high levels of 3-MCPD
carcinogen and, more recently, uncorroborated news reports that
inspectors are continuing their investigation of Giang in pursuit
of corruption charges. Regardless of what happens to Dr. Giang, USG
is confident in its ability to continue its relationship with HCMC
in the fight against HIV/AIDS. End Summary.

HCMC HEALTH OFFICIALS SACKED WHILE DEPUTY ESCAPES UNHARMED
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (SBU) On October 22 2007, the HCMC People's Committee, acting on
the recommendations of an inter-agency inspection team, dismissed
HCMC Department of Health (DOH) Director Nguyen The Dung for
knowingly permitting the continued manufacture at 20 facilities of
soy sauce containing high levels of 3-MCPD carcinogen. News of the
affair, which broke in May 2007, created public uproar given that
the DOH had known of the high levels of the carcinogen since 2005
and failed to inform consumers. (NOTE: Dung was dismissed from MOH
on October 22, 2007 and administratively transferred to the
Department of Propaganda and Education within the HCMC Communist
Party.)

3. (SBU) Subsequently, on November 10 2007, HCMC DOH Chief Inspector
Nguyen Duc An was also sacked. In the same ruling, Giang received
an administrative warning, but no disciplinary action, despite
evidence that he had received an oral briefing in 2005 from
Inspector An on the inspections, had signed two documents allowing
the continued manufacture of the contaminated soy sauce, and delayed
public announcement of 3-MCPD levels until February 2006.
Subsequently, the deposed Dung allegedly wrote to concerned agencies
requesting a full investigation of Giang's "intentional acts" to
suppress information documenting his prior knowledge of the saucy
affair.

POLITICS OF REORGANIZING AIDS ADMINISTRATION: WHO'S ON TOP
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. (SBU) Decision 1112-TT, signed by the Prime Minister in 1997,
effectively created national and provincial AIDS committees (NAC and
PAC) to coordinate HIV/AIDS activities. Decision 61 of 2000 phased
out the NAC/PAC system and created a Committee for Drugs,
Prostitution and Social Evils. Nonetheless, the HCMC PAC has
remained intact, while, pursuant to Decision 25 of 2005, a
Department of AIDS has been set up within the Preventative Medical
Center of the HCMC DOH. In HCMC, the PAC reports directly to the
People's Committee and is led by two political heavyweights: HCMC
People's Committee Vice Chairman Nguyen Thanh Tai as PAC Chairman
and Le Tran Giang as Vice Chairman and Director of the PAC Standing
Office.

5. (SBU) According to PEPFAR staff, HCMC People's Committee Vice
Chairman Tai, a rising star in the city government, is currently the
fourth highest ranking official within the Communist Party in HCMC.
Dr. Giang reputedly is a close ally of Vice Chairman Tai, while
Director Dung and Inspector An are associated with a rival faction
within the Communist Party. As HCMC moves to implement Decision 25,
it remains to be seen who and from what political faction will fill
leadership roles within DOH's new Center for AIDS Control, which may
usurp much of the implementing authority currently held by the PAC
Standing Office that remains under the leadership of Dr. Giang.

6. (SBU) More recent newspaper articles highlighting HCMC
inspectors' continuing investigation of Dr. Giang are perceived by
locals as another attack in the soy sauce war aimed at publicly

HANOI 00000088 002 OF 002


rebuking Dr. Giang and, by association, Vice Chairman Tai. The
articles, likely written by editors sympathetic to Mr. Dung, lay out
three accusations: 1) HCMC PAC is an illegal entity operating
outside the guidelines of Decision 61 and Decision 25 (2005); 2)
HCMC PAC operates non-transparently and corruptly; and 3) HCMC PAC
achieves poor results after spending millions of dollars on HIV/AIDS
activities. Despite these generalized accusations, the press has
not provided any insight into the formal investigation of Dr. Giang
that began on October 29 and was scheduled to conclude after 30
days.

USG CONTINUES SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (SBU) HCMC has the highest HIV prevalence rate, highest
concentration of intravenous drug users and commercial sex workers,
and highest number of people living with AIDS among all provinces
and cities in Vietnam. Therefore, a significant amount of the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) activities focus
on target groups in HCMC and is delivered through local service
providers. PEPFAR provides a substantial portion of the HCMC PAC's
annual operating budget of USD 6.2 million. Through a CDC
cooperative agreement, HCMC PAC has received a combined USD 5.8
million during FY2006 and FY2007, and an additional USD 6.6 million
has been programmed for FY2008. Further, USAID provides over USD 2
million in grants to NGO implementing partners who collaborate
closely with HCMC PAC, including Family Health International,
Population Services International and Medecins du Monde. Regular
audits of the CDC cooperative agreement and all USAID grantees have
uncovered no abnormal financial procedures or mismanagement.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Post believes these latest press reports rehash
earlier charges against Dr. Giang and have not shaken the HCMC
People's Committee's faith in his leadership ability. In meetings
with the CDC Country Director in early January, Giang himself raised
the issue and stated, "I'm still in control and everything will be
fine." HCMC PAC has shown leadership and ability to combat HIV/AIDS
and remains an important PEPFAR partner. The USG continues its
relationship with this institution as the recipient of funds through
an existing cooperative agreement with CDC. Regardless of what
happens to Dr. Giang, we are confident that, with current safeguards
in place, we can continue our collaborative relationship with HCMC
in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Post will continue to monitor media
coverage of the soy sauce war and seek to ensure that allegations
against Giang do not adversely affect the GVN's prevention, care and
treatment programs in HCMC.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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