Party 'degenerates' targeted in drive to restore values

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 July, 1998, 12:00am

Communist Party 'degenerates' are being targeted by new party chief General Le Kha Phieu as part of a drive to restore cultural values after more than a decade of economic and social reform.

The party General Secretary wrapped up a plenum of its ruling Central Committee by warning cadres they had to take responsibility for a decline in the 'virtue, ideology and lifestyle' of members.

'The elimination of corruption must be our most crucial task,' he said.

'Thorough examination will show that although the majority of Communist Party members are well-behaved and virtuous, there remain more than a few - particularly among those with high vested power - who are degenerate.' General Phieu also spoke out against party elitists who set themselves apart from ordinary people while trying to suppress them.

The 11-day committee session covered a sweeping review of Vietnam's official and unofficial cultural life since doi moi reforms started 11 years ago.

Complex resolutions seek to 'build and preserve' Vietnam's now increasingly diverse culture, which encompasses Buddhist, Catholic and Confucian beliefs - all under a staunchly atheist party.

Diplomats said the closed-door session seemed to ensure there would be 'no turning back of the clock'.

'The party still wants to keep its hands on the wheel of ultimate control, yet is showing itself to be reasonably tolerant of a diverse nation,' a veteran envoy said.

'I don't see anything among all the verbiage and rhetoric that suggests a severe tightening of any cultural nooses.

'The party has reinforced fundamental religious freedoms, for example, yet has still given itself room to manoeuvre in terms of control.' Several observers said the party was keen to modernise to keep up with the increasingly Westernised young, who made up more than 60 per cent of the population.

Elements of Confucianism, for example, needed to be updated, particularly the view that people would always be satisfied being poor.

'That is clearly no longer enough,' another veteran party member said.

The cultural sessions were the first under the helm of General Phieu, who took over from Do Muoi in December.

His tenure has come as party mavericks voice open concern about the need for far faster democratic reforms, a view powerful party traditionalists fear would bring chaos.