Friday, February 02, 2007

Vietnam cashew chairman nuts over position
amid oppositionIn February last year VINACAS held a congress and elected Doctor Pham Van Bien to be its chairman amid controversy. Bien at the time was not eligible for the post as he was not an official member of the association.
He was then director of the Agricultural Science Institute of Southern Vietnam which was only an honorary VINACAS member. The VINACAS charter not only requires its chairman to be an official member but also requires he/she to be leader of a company or an organization.

^^^Mr. Pham Van Bien, the head of the Vietnam Cashew Association (VINACAS) is vehemently defending his position, as members of the influential organization claim he is both incompetent and ineligible for the key post.
Thus, 20 days before he retired last December as director of the agriculture organization, meaning his membership and the prerequisite to be chairman was automatically gone, he had applied to VINACAS for an official membership. This would in effect legalize his position as VINACAS chairman.
Just some 10 days ago, his deputy Pham Van Cong ratified his membership request and issued a resolution, ruling he could continue as chairman. Many opposed, saying they need a congress to decide on that matter and not a resolution from a deputy. Others said he was incompetent and did not win members’ trust, causing them to “boycott” VINACAS by halting payment of membership fees.
He had never visited the members in person, they said further. Late last year when his chairmanship was in jeopardy, he asked the trade ministry to stop considering awarding titles of “prestigious exporters” to 12 cashew firms for failing to pay membership fees.
He told Thanh Nien angrily on Wednesday that he had been member of the VINACAS management board for 12 consecutive years. “That means I have already been an official member…when I retired, I applied for official membership as an individual and was granted it. So, I have met the requirements to continue as chairman. It is only a switch from official membership as a representative of an agriculture institute to official membership as an individual,” Bien said.
Last year VINACAS collected over VND300 million (US$18,750) in membership fees, less than half compared to the year before, when he was not chairman. Vietnam, which exported over 130,000 tons of cashew nuts worth US$520 million last year, is one of the largest cashew exporters worldwide.
VINACAS holds certain sway over the cashew market. It is instrumental in setting floor and ceiling prices, advising the government on cashew polices, and engages in international negotiation.

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