State President Nguyen Phu Trong has just reported to Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly (NA) on the summary of his work for the 2016-2021 term. Accordingly, in the past five years, the state president signed the decision to promote 400 officers of the People’s Army and 174 police officers to generals.
Specifically, the military forces had 319 cases from colonel promoted to major general or rear admiral, 71 cases from major general or rear admiral to lieutenant general or vice admiral, nine cases were from lieutenant general or vice admiral to senior lieutenant general or admiral, and one case from senior lieutenant general to general.
For the police forces, 174 officers were promoted to the rank of general, including 147 officers from colonel to major general, 26 officers from major general to lieutenant general, and one case from senior lieutenant general to general.
Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the party’s chief, was elected as the state president on October 23, 2018, at the 6th session of the 14th NA, due to the sudden death of then-President Tran Dai Quang one month earlier.
Lieutenant Colonel Vu Minh Tri – a former officer of the General Department of Defense Intelligence (General Department II) said that the number of 574 officers being promoted to the general ranks is too many and unnecessary. There are positions where only an officer can take over, not a general. He said:
“In just five years, hundreds of military and police officers have been promoted to general ranks and it was too many. Probably the world record!
The first promotion to the general rank of the Vietnam People’s Army was in 1958 after the Dien Bien Phu victory and the number of troops was still relatively large, the number of generals was only 1/20 of the number of generals that had been promoted in the past five years. And if I remember correctly, at the end of the war in 1954-1975, the number of generals of the People’s Army of Vietnam was less than 40 people.
Now they are too many. A military enterprise also has several generals, such as Viettel. Or an ordinary economic unit like the Helicopter Corporation having only about a hundred people whose general director is also a general. Or the director of a military port like Ba Son port, the director is also a general. That is very absurd.”
As of May 16, 2018, the People’s Army of Vietnam has 415 generals, including three generals, 18 senior lieutenant generals, 81 lieutenant generals, and 313 major generals.
Mr. Vo Minh Duc, who was the head of the mobilization department of a division of the Vietnam People’s Army in the late 1990s, said that his boss at that time was only a lieutenant colonel, as head of the Political Department (The military has four main bodies: staff, politics, logistics, and technology), now he has been promoted to general. During an unofficial meeting, this general said that in order to have been promoted to the rank of general, he had lost a lot of lands, not a little. This general is still in position.
Talking about hundreds of officers enlisted in the armed forces in just five years, Duc said:
“In the past, I did not know what the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) was like, but in the North there were very few generals, only counting on the fingers. The people who get the rank of generals were really talented people. They have merit and virtue. For the past 20 years, there have been many generals but the quality is very poor. Talent and virtue are very limited.
I have a feeling that since the economic development, the quality of life is higher, the promotions to general in police and army are like giving each other a fortune. Because the general is definitely a high salary, but according to the regulations when I was in the army when the general retired, the pension would remain 100%, unlike the rank of colonel, the ceiling pension was only about 75% compared to that while in service.”
Since 2014, the NA has discussed the amendment and supplementation of a number of articles of the Law on Officers of the Vietnam People’s Army due to excessive promotion of generals. The Law on Officers of the People’s Army has only given the army 415 generals. The new People’s Public Security Law prohibits the police from having more than 205 generals.
Before comments about the ceiling with military engineering schools, logistics, military medicine, army officers, the Political Academy should only be major general, Mr. Phung Quanh Thanh – then-defense minister asked for permission to hold the ceiling which had been implied for decades as a lieutenant general for the position of director and political officer. He explained that this has been done for a long time, it had lowered, it would have made officers unhappy.
Mr. Thanh expressed: “The six armies forming the military service, with each dean formerly major general, now it is very difficult to cut it off, comrades!”
The current salary level of the police and military is said to have a large difference compared to other branches receiving salaries from the state budget while the retirement age in these two industries is five years earlier than the others. In addition to the salary, the generals also received other privileges and policies before and after retiring.
Lieutenant Colonel Vu Minh Tri raised this issue:
“When getting the rank, there are many accompanying privileges, such as vehicles or allowances… that our taxpayers like us have to spend money to feed. As a taxpayer, I do not accept peoples that are ineffective. Among them is a not small number of useless individuals.
I think this is jealousy that comes with greed. Perhaps there is no regime that giving so many titles and positions not necessary like under a communist regime. The benefits may not be much because the cake divided among the more people is the smaller the part, but the fame has caused many people to lobby for being promoted to general. That is the way to seduce people to bribe, bind and dominate people so that they can serve.”
In recent times, many armies and police generals have been disciplined for corruption, taking advantage of positions and powers to do wrong things …
In 2018, former police lieutenant general, General Director of Police General Phan Van Vinh, was sentenced to nine years in prison, and former Major General Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the High-Tech Crime Prevention Department, was sentenced to 10 years in prison because of involved in Internet gambling lines worth hundreds of millions of US dollars.
In 2019, Mr. Phan Huu Tuan, former Deputy General of Intelligence, Ministry of Public Security, was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison and Mr. Phan Huu Bach, former Deputy Director of B61, General Intelligence Department, Ministry of Public Security were also convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Both were found guilty of “intentionally disclosing state secrets.”