Lawmaker apologizes, retracts malicious blog

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The National Assembly in session last year

Hoang Huu Phuoc, a lawmaker representing Ho Chi Minh City has apologized to Duong Trung Quoc of Dong Nai Province for a personal blog entry that derided his fellow parliamentarian.

On Wednesday, Quoc told Tuoi Tre newspaper that he had received Phuoc's letter of apology through the HCMC National Assembly Delegate.

At a meeting with the city's delegation of National Assembly representatives on Monday, Hoang Huu Phuoc admitted that he had not expressed his criticisms of Quoc in a "suitable" manner, adding that he had deleted the post since.

The firestorm began on February 9 when Phuoc posted an entry titled "Duong Trung Quoc and the Four Past Mistakes (aka Four Huge Idiocies)."

Phuoc identified the "idiocies" as Quoc's support for the legalization of prostitution and for a bill on the right to hold demonstrations, which the latter had voiced in recent National Assembly sessions.

He also called Quoc "arrogant" and "irrational" for the latter's suggestion that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung should stop apologizing and instead, initiate a "culture of resignation." Quoc had made the comments after the PM apologized for huge losses incurred by state-owned businesses at a National Assembly meeting last year.

Quoc has refused to respond to the entry, saying that it was a personal blog entry which contained "nothing worthy of comment."

   

Lawmaker Hoang Huu Phuoc (L) has apologized to fellow assemblyman Duong Trung Quoc (R) for his incendiary blog post disparaging the latter.

But the entry has drawn the ire of many residents, including Phuoc's constituents, as well as criticism from other lawmakers.

"It was insulting and counterproductive," said Pham Dinh Toan of District 4.

Nguyen Van Binh of District 1 said Phuoc should have voiced his opinions at National Assembly meetings, irrespective of whether Quoc was right or wrong.

"Phuoc took an oath to always uphold the honor of the nation as a member of the National Assembly, but he broke the promise he'd made to his constituents," he said.

Le Phuc Yen of District 3 said Phuoc should be dismissed from the National Assembly.

"He has said that Vietnamese people's intellect is low and now he has insulted a fellow parliamentarian on the Internet I think he is no longer trustworthy," he said, concluding, "The National Assembly must dismiss him."

In an interview with Tuoi Tre on Tuesday, Le Nhu Tien, vice chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said the assembly's related agencies should consider dismissing Phuoc.

Tien said it is "normal" for assemblymen to argue with each another, but to use one's personal blog to assess a peer with "offensive" and "disrespectful" words like "idiot" is "unacceptable."

Nguyen Minh Thuyet, an outspoken legislator who retired last year, said "the words [Phuoc] used are not even suitable for ordinary communication."

He also called Phuoc's knowledge of Vietnamese laws "very limited," regarding the assemblyman's claim that Quoc had no business questioning PM Dung.

Zachary Abuza, a Washington-based South East Asia analyst, said the Vietnamese people have the power to initiate Phuoc's removal from the house if they choose to.

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"If supporters of Duong Trung Quoc were really willing to be provocative, they could start a campaign targeting Hoang Huu Phuoc with Article 7 of the Constitution which lays out the ways that a legislator can be removed from office if they "˜are no longer worthy of the people's confidence'," Abuza explained.

But Abuza said this is more than an individual matter between two legislators.

"It represents a fundamentally different opinion of the role and responsibility of the National Assembly: between someone who wants to exercise its constitutional mandate versus someone who sees it as a body to ratify Party policies and personnel appointments."

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