The loneliness of a whistleblower

TN News

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"Sometimes I feel very lonely, because I have nothing except the truth," said Le Van Tach, on receiving the Trach Nhiem (Responsibility) award from the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Association two months ago.

Tach grabbed national headlines earlier this year when he exposed technical flaws that led his employer, Toyota Vietnam, to recall more than 65,000 cars.

The 35-year-old engineer, who was praised as a "courageous man" for his act, said over the years as he tried to convince the company's leaders to fix the faults before bringing it to the public in March, he had suffered many troubles in his work and personal lives.

After he lodged complaints with the Vietnam Register, the country's quality control agency, some of his best friends and colleagues in the company tried to stay away from him.

His family members continuously received many phone calls asking him to withdraw his complaints. Tach's mother was so worried about him that she once woke him up at midnight, telling him in tears: "Son, don't do silly things. It won't do any good, but it will only hurt you."

Tach's honesty was vindicated when Toyota Vietnam apologized to its customers and repaired their cars for free.

However, Tach's troubles are not over. The whistleblower was informed last Saturday that he would be suspended for three months and would only receive 50 percent of his salary during this period.

As the controversy rages over the rationale behind Toyota Vietnam's decision, Tach said: "I knew that this day would come, sooner or later. I have done what I need to do and I'm ready to take responsibility for my acts."

However, he hasn't given up. He said he is preparing documents to lodge complaints about the decision with related agencies.

Will he remain the sole warrior in the new battle? Only agencies with authority can answer this question.

Recently, we have seen many people like Tach suffer after acting in public interest. Tran Van Giap, in the central province of Nghe An, was repeatedly attacked after he, complained to local authorities about corruption in land trades and disaster relief activities.

We have seen several reporters attacked for exposing other cases of corruption.

National authorities have recently mentioned the need to recognize whistleblowers and reward them. But praise and rewards are not enough. The authorities, and society as a whole, need to support the whistleblowers more strongly so that they know they are not alone in the fight for justice.

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