Pham Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Central Party Commission for Internal Affairs, spoke to Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper on Vietnam's efforts to battle corruption.
Reporter: How do you respond to a statement by the Government Inspectorate saying that Vietnam will have corruption under control by 2020?
Anh Tuan: The fight against corruption is an urgent task, but it cannot be done overnight. As we all know corruption is a chronic disease of power. During a full house meeting, a National Assembly deputy raised the question: "When can we launch a counter-attack against corruption?"
In my opinion by raising the question, the deputy only wanted to play on words because that fight should have already started, but many authorities have been talking about controlling corruption "by the year 2020".
No doubt by that time our legal system will be completed with strong support from the whole of society, so I'm confident Vietnam will be able rein in corruption by then.
As I mentioned, the fight against corruption requires time, resolve and continued efforts to win.
Reporter: How do you respond to the proposal for Vietnam to establish an anti-corruption agency?
Anh Tuan: It's a good idea but it needs thorough research. If an agency is established, its functions will be similar to investigative and procedural agencies.
That's why we have to consider it carefully before making a final decision. If not, this might lead to overlapping and conflicts that are not covered by current laws.
Reporter: At the 7th meeting of the Party Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption, the Party General Secretary assigned the Central Party Commission for Internal Affairs Commission to study measures to combat bribery. Will you tell us what the commission has done so far?
Anh Tuan: Bribes mainly occur within public agencies, particularly among public officials, whose duties are to deal with administrative papers, including birth certificates and operating licences.
In my opinion, there are various reasons for bribery, but the main one is poor information disclosure. If we increase transparency, accountability and administrative reforms, we'll be able to stamp out many bad practices, including bribery and corruption.
Reporter: At a recent discussion on amendments to the Criminal Code, some deputies said the death penalty should be commuted if the culprit was able to resolve the consequences of their crimes. How do you respond to the proposal?
Anh Tuan: If we want to recover stolen assets, we must have a mechanism that encourages dirty officials to surrender them, such as offering leniency.
However, the circumstances must be carefully considered by the judge.
Definitely, money cannot be used in exchange for the court's leniency.
I just want to reiterate again, returning stolen assets are just one element for the court to consider. It can't be used to replace the penalty.
One argument says that we should not give the death penalty for big corruption cases, and let culprits live so they can pay back their debt to society, but at present, we need severe penalties to deter people who nurture the idea of becoming rich quickly through illegal activities.
In my opinion, it is not time for us to eliminate the death penalty for big corruption cases. However, our country is in the process of international integration, so we have to slowly change our laws to match international legislature. I support the idea of commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment in the future for those who have redeemed themselves during their imprisonment.
Reporter: Besides reducing their sentences, what other measures should we apply to recover stolen assets?
Anh Tuan: In the past, we focused on collecting evidence to charge suspects with, but we didn't pay enough attention to recovering the assets.
That's why we should take measures to recover the assets as soon as corruption is detected, including freezing suspects' assets and bank accounts before the court has reached a verdict.
Giang Kim Dat in the Vinashin case is a good lesson for us to learn from.