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Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:

ABN # 65 648 097 123


Vietnam : Former PetroVietnam
Official Extradited
Carlyle A. Thayer
August 1,2017

We've got wind of the arrest and extradition of Trinh Xuan Thanh, former chairman
and CEO of PetroVietnam Construction JSC, to Vietnam and would really appreciate
your response to these following questions:
L. The Vietnamese government has wasted no resources on hunting him down and
getting him extradited. What is your take on that?
ANSWER: The PetroVietnam affair is a major corruption scandalthat was given major
attention in the Vietnamese media. Trinh Xuan Thanh appears to have been at the
apex of a network of corrupt officials. He fled Vietnam leaving his associates exposed
to arrest, trial and imprisonment. ln major cases Vietnam always like to identify the
ring leader and threat that person severely. Subordinates are also punished but some
are rewarded with lesser punishment if they cooperate with the Ministry of Public
Security.
ln Thanh's case the government wanted to go after the "big
fish" and dispel any notion
that he was given lenient treatment because he went overseas. The credibility of the
government's anti-corruption drive was on the line.
2. The arrest might be indicative of the ongoing infighting within the Communist Party.
But is it over-simplistic to interpret it that way? ls there anything more to it?

ANSWER: I disagree with western analysts who see every corruption scandal in
Vietnam as evidence for an intense power struggle among Vietnam's political elite. tt
is widely understood that when Nguyen Tan Dung stepped down there would be no
direct retribution against him or his family. However there were a number of large
corruption case when he was prime minister such as Vinashin and Vinalines and now
PetroVietnam that cried out for action. All these cases became public knowledge
Vietnam's political system is one of equilibrium. Vietnam has never purged the entire
network of hieh level officials who has been dismissed from office or forced to retire.
Officials appointed to office by Prime Minister Dung continue to serve even on the
Politburo and Central Committee.
3. Does the ongoing cleanup at PetroVietnam signalthat Vietnam is fighting corruption
with both barrels? lf, so why? lf not, why not?
ANSWER: Ending corruption like ending prostitution is a never-ending struggle
because the human factor of greed is at play. Going back over the past ten years or
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more high level party officials have repeatedly identified corruption as a major threat
to the authority of the Communist Party of Vietnam. lronically, one of the first acts by
Nguyen Tan Dung when he became prime minster was to set up an anti-corruption
body.

Because Vietnam is a one-party state there is political influence in law enforcement


and the judiciary. Politically sensitive corruption cases sometimes have to be handled
with discretion so as not to trigger political instability or damage Vietnam's economic
growth. My understanding is that the top part leaders took several months to weigh
the factors in the PetroVietnam case before proceeding. The question "how effective
is an anti-corruption campaign?" cannot be answered with certainty it is like the
proverbial question "how long is a ball of string?" The answer depends on how big the
ball of string is.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, "Vietnam: Former PetroVietnam Official


Extradited" Thoyer Consultoncy Background Brief , August L, 2077. All background
briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the
mailing list type, UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Vietnam: Is There a Difference
Between Kidnapping and
Extraordina ry Rendition ?
Carlyle A. Thayer
August 6,2017

Earlier this week it was reported that Trinh Xu6n Thanh, a former executive at a
subsidiary of PetroVietnam, was reportedly kidnapped in Germany by Vietnamese
security officials and flown home. We seek your ?ssessment of two issues:
Q1) ln the minds of the Vietnamese government, do you think they saw this
kidnapping as their own version of an "extraordinary rendition"?
ANSWER: The conceptualization of extraordinary rendition and kidnapping are viewed
differently by the United States and Vietnam. ln the case of the U.S., it is waging a
global war against terrorism and views lslamic extremists as illegal combatants. The
U.S., which is based on the rule of law, has created a legal formula to self-justify its
actions in extraordinary renditions.
ln the case of Vietnam, there has been at least one report of a kidnapping of a
dissident from Cambodia. Vietnam and Cambodia share a similar disregard for law and
lnternational norms when it suits the needs of their public security forces. The Hun
Sen regime couldn't care less if a "trouble maker" from Vietnam was forcibly returned
to face the legal music.
The current case is still murky, but for the sake of argument let us assume it was a
kidnapping. This his would be an extraordinary event. However, unlike Cambodia, in
dealing with Germany Vietnam is up against a more formidable state that pays high
regard to the rule of law. I can only surmise that Vietnamese public security officials
felt the political gain of bringing Tran Xuan Thanh back to Vietnam by whatever means
was worth the potential cost. ln other words, this was a one off incident not part of a
larger pattern of going after criminal "enemies of the state" globally.

Q2) Do you see any similarities between Trinh Xu6n Thanh alleged kidnapping and
America's extraordinary renditions in the War on Terror? Whether in the legal or
ethical sense?
ANSWER: The U.S. operates on a foundation of self-defined legality to justify its
actions. The war on terrorism is global, enemies of the US disregard the rule of war,
do not wear recognized uniforms etc. The U.S. feels no self-consciousness about its
actions. Vietnam, on the other hand, has established no legal basis or rationale for
kidnaping. They issued an international warrant via INTERPOL for Thanh's arrest. They
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acted before the German authorities responded to this warrant. We know both parties
discussed the Thanh case on the sidelines of the G20 when Vietnam's Prime Minister
was visiting Vietnam, The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry's response was weak and
vague. There was no brazen self-assertion of Vietnam's rightto kidnap a high-profile
individual wanted in a major corruption case because that person represented a
threat to the Vietnamese state.
Crucial details have yet to emerge about the manner in which Thanh was brought
home. Was he incapacitated and smuggled out of Germany and forced to return to
Vietnam against his will? Did the Vietnamese authorities threaten or use force to get
him to return home? Or did they "persuade" him to return home by threatening
violence against him and/or his family? Did Thanh just break down and acquiesce? Did
Vietnamese security officials act beyond their authority? Or did the public security
ministry in Hanoi order his involuntary repatriation? There is no such ambiguity in how
the U.S. conducts its extraordinary renditions.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, "Vietnam: ls There a Difference Between


Kidnapping and Extraordinary Rendition?" Thoyer Consultancy Background Brief,
August 6,2017. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer).
To remove yourself from the mailing list type, UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading
and hit the Reply key.

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Vietnam: Kidnapping Sours
Relations with Germany

Carlyle A. Thayer
August 10,2017

We seek your assessment of why Vietnam is risking its relations with Germany for
having taken Trinh Xuan Thanh, wanted in a corruption scandal, back to Vietnam.

Q1. What is your take?


ANSWER:Vietnam's actions in kidnapping Trinh Xubn Thanh are inexplicable, Vietnam
is so cautious in its foreign policy. lt is still unclear to me what possible gain Vietnam
expected that would have outweighed the costs of a brazen illegal kidnapping that
became public. lt leads me to surmise that the Ministry of Public Security overplayed
its hand and got caught out. Now the professional diplomats have to pick up the
pieces.

Q2. Do you think Vietnam could for see what would happen to their relationship when
breaking the law on German soil?
ANSWER: lt depends who in Vietnam made the decision to kidnap Thanh on German
soil. lf the foreign ministry was consulted then the answer is yes Vietnam would have
been fully aware of the likely negative consequences of being been caught red
handed. As it turns out they got Thanh out of Germany but couldn't keep the
kidnapping secret.

Q3. Some experts said Thanh is just a "fly" - not a "tiger" - in General Secretary Nguyen
Phu Trong's crackdown on corruption. Do you agree with that?

ANSWER: Thanh was at the apex of a network of corrupt officials in a major subsidiary
of PetroVietnam. lf the reports that over SL00 million was involved then he is a tiger
not a fly. The flies are those down the pyramid who have already been arrested.
Q4. What might Vietnam do with Thanh and at the same time deal with German
pressure of allowing him to return to Germany?

ANSWER: Vietnam has already tried to lay the basis for its defence with the domestic
press reporting that Thanh turned himself in to authorities voluntarily. This seems
incredulous as Thanh could face the death penalty. Vietnam might take this off the
table to assuage Germany. But Germany is likely to press this matter and demand that
Thanh be returned. I suspect Germany will take some punitive action and this could
reverberate at European Union level. No matter how this issue is resolved Vietnam
has blotted its copybook and badly damaged its international standing by its actions.
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After all Germany had not yet reached a final decision of whether to execute the
warrant issued through lnterpol nor had it decided on Thanh's request for asylum.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, Vietnam: Kidnapping Sours Relations with


Germany," Thoyer Consultoncy Bockground Brief, August L0,2077. All background
briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the
mailing list type, UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in2002.
Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Vietnam's Kidnapping from
Germany Remains Inexplicable

Carlyle A. Thayer
August 12,2017

We would like to ask for your assessment on the abduction case of Trinh Xuan Thanh
from Berlin. What is your explanation for this rather unusual move in a western
country?
ANSWER: Why Vietnam carried out the kidnapping still remains inexplicable to me. I
can only speculate that the Ministry of Public Security was behind it and may have
operated without the direct knowledge of the prime minister. Or it could be that a
Public Security officer posted in Germany (since expelled) acted on his own.

Thanh and the alleged corruption network that he headed has been given wide
coverage in the Vietnamese press. He even appeared on nationaltelevision to confess
and affirm that he returned on his own volition. Neither of these developments could
have taken place without high-level approval from the top of the party-state. Thanh
was a fugitive and the press kept guessing how he got out of Vietnam and where he
might be hiding. The high profile of his case suggests that the reputation of the
Ministry of Public Security was at stake.
Vietnam issued a warrant for hisextradition through lnterpol and then kidnapped him
before Germany decided on the case. Thanh had also applied for asylum in Germany.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, "Vietnam's Kidnapping from Germany Remains


lnexplicable," Thoyer Consultancy Bockground Brief , August 1.2,201-7. All background
briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the
mailing list type, UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.