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Former top Vietnamese official implicated in Formosa scandal asks to resign as legislator

Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 11:33 GMT+7

A former top provincial official who was among those punished by the government for their roles in the notorious Formosa environmental disaster has asked to step down as a delegate of the lawmaking National Assembly, citing “health reasons.”

Vo Kim Cu was voted in as one of 494 members of the 14th National Assembly for the 2016-21 tenure in May 2016, as a representative of the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance, of which he is the incumbent chairman.

The 60-year-old has submitted a petition to leave his post, saying his health no longer permits him to continue working as a lawmaker, a source revealed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday.

Cu is among four high-ranking government officials punished by Vietnam's Party Secretariat last week over the so-called Formosa incident, whereby the release of chemicals from a steel mill being developed by Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group last year polluted more than 200km of the Vietnamese coast. Fish died en masse in the wake of the chemical leak.

In 2008, Cu, the then deputy chairman of Ha Tinh Province, granted the license for Formosa to officially start developing the steel mill in the provincial Vung Ang Economic Zone.

When the Formosa scandal broke last year, Cu deflected blame and denied that he should be held responsible for the license he gave to the Taiwanese firm in 2008.

As of January 2015, Cu held three high positions concurrently - chairman of the Ha Tinh administration, secretary of the province’s Party Committee, and a 13th National Assembly member.

Cu had been dismissed from all of those posts in the Ha Tinh administration, but his lawmaker status and his chair position at the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance were not included in the punishment, according to the Party Secretariat announcement on Friday last week.

Dismissed or voluntarily stepping down?

Tuoi Tre’s source has confirmed that Cu asked to ‘return’ his lawmaker status and made no mention of the top post at the cooperative alliance in his resignation letter.

On Monday, Nguyen Hanh Phuc, general secretary of the National Assembly, told Tuoi Tre that he had not received any letter from Cu.

According to the legislature’s rules, a lawmaker is allowed to willingly step down, with the National Assembly itself or its Standing Committee authorized to approve such a request.

With the National Assembly scheduled to convene its third plenary meeting in late May, the case of Cu would likely be decided by the legislative body during that session.

Should Cu’s request be approved, the National Assembly will issue a resolution to remove his legislator status.

However, with Cu recently punished by the Party for his role in the Formosa disaster, it has been argued that he must be stripped of his lawmaker status, rather than leave the post of his own volition.

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