Vietnam PM lashes out at political blogs

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered those responsible for three "slanderous" blogs, which have publicised a recent string of high-level corruption scandals, be "seriously punished". The hugely-popular Vietnamese-language websites Dan Lam Bao -- or Citizen Journalists -- and Quan Lam Bao have been running a series of articles detailing an intensifying factional battle within the communist country's ruling elite. They have "slandered the country's leadership, fabricated and distorted information, agitated against the party and the state, and caused suspicion and mistrust in society," a report on the government website said late Wednesday. The blogs are "villainous ploys of hostile forces," the report, quoting the Prime Minister, said, calling for "serious punishment" for those behind the sites and ordering civil servants not to read them. Vietnam, which does not allow private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run, routinely uses charges of spreading anti-state propaganda to prosecute dissidents. The rise of online blogs has vexed censors and prompted repeated crackdowns on bloggers, many of whom are currently languishing in jail. However, blogs remain a hugely-popular news source in the heavily-censored country. Dan Lam Bao said in an online post that after the Prime Minister's comments were broadcast on state television their site recorded a record 32,000 hits in an hour. Over the last three months, the sites, in particular Quan Lam Bao -- which translates as "Senior Officials working as Journalists" -- have been publishing highly-sensitive information about political infighting. They ran detailed, first-hand accounts of the August arrest of one of Vietnam's top banking tycoons, flamboyant multi-millionaire Nguyen Duc Kien, and the detention of the ex-head of the bank Kien founded. Kien is seen as being aligned with Prime Minister Dung and became the subject of intense speculation on the blogs over his business dealings with Dung's daughter. Experts have interpreted the arrest as the latest play in a long-running battle between the Prime Minister and his rivals, chiefly party leader Nguyen Phu Trong and President Truong Tan Sang. Sang and Trong's anti-corruption efforts have been given prominent coverage on the blogs. Both Sang and Trong are out of the country, attending an APEC summit and on an official visit to Singapore respectively.