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When public confidence is lost
Son Nguyen
Saturday,  Sep 30, 2017,01:32 (GMT+7)

When public confidence is lost

Son Nguyen

To the public, the theft may not seem to be a big one in terms of value, when an official reports the missing of VND385 million from his baggage inside a hotel room in Long An Province this Monday. However, most – if not all – newspapers in the country have given an extensive coverage of the case, and surprisingly still, the story has captured widespread attention, with feedback from readers overwhelming local media.

Nguyen Xuan Quang, deputy director of a Hanoi-based environmental protection agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, checked in to a hotel in Long An Province’s Tan An District last Tuesday to begin an inspection of 30 enterprises in the province. This Tuesday, Quang after waking up found that his laptop plus VND385 million, or roughly US$17,000, had been stolen.

The news was quickly alerted to local police. An initial investigation shows that apart from the lost money and the laptop, several envelopes were still in the hotel room, some still sealed and others opened, including U.S. banknotes amounting to the thousands. In the room was also a receipt showing an amount of money had been deposited at a bank the day before, meaning Quang is still lucky as he might have lost a bigger sum if the burglary had occurred one day earlier, according to, the news site of the Vietnam Radio station.

The value of the lost money and the laptop is not too big to a public haunted with losses of trillions at State corporations as shown at court hearings these days, but questions stemming from the theft emerge en masse. Instead of sympathizing with the victim, they cast doubt on the origin of the money.

When the incident occurred, Quang and his subordinates had inspected nine out of the 30 enterprises in the inspection scheme, according to Dan Tri online newspaper.

Most feedback from readers in local newspapers suspects that this might be bribe money from inspected enterprises.

Quang asserted in encounters with reporters that such an assumption was baseless, and the lost sum is his personal money he took along from Hanoi to hand over to a family member in HCMC. “This is my personal money taken along to settle a private family business, not the money given by enterprises,” Quang is quoted as saying in Tuoi Tre.

His assertion fails to persuade the public, and newspapers also have similar suspicion.

According to, the hotel owner told the police that some guests had come to the hotel to meet with Quang, and some had even been invited into his room, but the nature of their communications was unknown. Also according to the hotel owner, one member of Quang’s inspection team had also asked for the way to the nearest bank.

In an analysis titled “Inspector’s loss of VND385 million: Not just a theft,” Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper wonders why the inspector took along a huge amount of cash from north to south despite increasingly convenient banking services.

In addition, says the paper, “there is a good reason for rumors of corruption given so many suspicious vestiges at the scene such as envelopes and a money transfer receipt.”

In a sarcastic tone, Tuoi Tre quotes a blogger as saying “the case rings a bell of alarm on the property safety for leaders when taking a field trip to inspect environmental issues at enterprises.” The newspaper ponders whether all hotels should have a special safety box service to keep money for officials during field trips.

Thanh Nien suggests a backtracking measure to determine whether it is Quang’s personal money or bribes taken from enterprises by reviewing X-ray machines at the airport of departure to see whether the money was there when he began his trip. The newspaper also reminds readers of a similar incident years ago, when a leader of the Government Office after a field trip forgot a bag on board a plane, with VND400 million inside. The case had prompted the National Assembly to urge the Government to give an explanation.

Back to the case this time, according to Nguoi Lao Dong, leaders of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, aware of the sensitivity of the incident, has ordered Quang to give a full account.
Following the demand of the ministry, Nguoi Lao Dong says that an extensive investigation into the burglary is extremely necessary so as to shed light on the nature of the incident. A well-established outcome of the investigation will be beneficial for society.

If the money is ascertained to be Quang’s personal money, then all the rumors harmful to his prestige will be wiped out and he is proven clean again. Otherwise, if Quang is found to lie about the origin of the money, then the ministry can assure the public that it does not tolerate corruption and is ready to wage a war on such unlawful practices.

If police are hesitant to step in, and all the case is reliant on explanations by the victim to his agency, transparency cannot be obtained, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.

Given numerous cases of corruption in the country, given the worsening environment despite numerous inspections, there are good grounds for the public to doubt the case of theft as reported by the victim. The public confidence has been eroded or even lost, if no tough measures are taken to unveil the real nature.

“The public awaits a conclusion from police, even if there is no theft as declared by Mr. Quang,” says Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.

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