Several Vietnamese officials sacked, accused of embezzling bird flu funds

Two Vietnamese officials were sacked and stripped of their Communist Party membership for allegedly embezzling 80 million dong (US$5,000) from state funds earmarked to fight bird flu, an official said Wednesday. Phan Bach Tuyet, head of the Agriculture Department of An Phu District in southern An Giang province, and accountant Van Van Phet allegedly embezzled money earmarked for equipment to try to contain the spread of bird flu in 2004 and 2005, said Lam Minh Giang, chairman of the district People's Committee.

Giang said the two were dismissed from their positions and stripped of their Communist Party membership last month.

Police are still investigating and will determine whether to press embezzlement charges against the two officials, he said.

Last month, four village officials in Hanoi 's suburban District of Dong Anh were arrested for allegedly collaborating with poultry farmers to inflate the number of birds being culled.

The government would have lost 3.3 billion dong (US$206,000), but the funds were not yet paid, officials have said. The government compensates ranchers 5,000 dong (31 US cents) to 15,000 dong (93 US cents) for each bird culled.

More than 47 million birds have died or been culled in Vietnam since outbreaks began ravaging poultry farms in the country in late 2003, including nearly 4 million in the latest wave that began in early October last year.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's People's Army newspaper quoted Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat as saying that despite no outbreaks among poultry being reported in Vietnam in nearly two months, there is no room for complacency since the danger of new outbreaks remains very high.

Cool temperatures, coupled with farmers' defiance of a government ban on restocking water fowl, still pose a threat for new flare-ups, he said, adding recent outbreaks in Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq are also troubling.

Bird flu has also jumped to humans, killing at least 88 people since late 2003, the majority of them in Vietnam , reports the AP.


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