Transport Minister Dinh La Thang, who was sworn in last July while vowing to tackle Vietnam's traffic problems via a series of controversial measures, has denied reports that he and his SUV were recently involved in a street accident.
On April 9, the transport ministry's office manager Nguyen Van Cong told Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that a car carrying Thang was hit by another vehicle while driving through Ninh Binh Province in March.
However, Cong said he did not have any information on the other car and did not know the exact location of the accident.
"It was said that car was badly damaged and the minister did not ask for a fine or compensation after the driver begged him," he said.
Thang's car, a Toyota Land Cruiser V8, suffered minor damage on one door and was brought to a garage in Hanoi for repairs that cost around VND30 million (US$1,445), according to Cong.
Cong said the car was owned by the transport minister and was a gift from an affiliate at the state-owned Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), who bought it for VND2.6 billion ($125,296). Minister Thang was chairman of PetroVietnam between October 2006 and August 2011.
"The gifting was properly documented and approved by the Ministry of Finance," Cong said.
However, Phu Nu (Women) Today news website quoted Minister Thang as saying that the there was no such accident.
"There is no story of any one [in his car] having an accident. I affirm that there was no such thing," he said.
In a statement after being appointed as Transport Minister, Thang vowed to improve traffic infrastructure and reduce traffic accidents and gridlock as his main initiatives.
Amid a slew of measures proposed by Thang that subsequently came under harsh criticism, and enthusiastic support, were high vehicle fees to limit the use of personal cars, and a regulation banning transport officials from playing golf.
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