BERLIN (AFP) — A Vietnamese grandmother whose 25-year battle against corruption has made her the target of death threats received a prestigious award from Transparency International on Monday.
Le Hien Duc has shown "personal strength and courage... to break the corruption cycle", said Transparency's Chair Huguette Labelle at a ceremony in the German capital.
The 75-year-old retired primary school teacher spends her days in Hanoi working through a stack of complaints from Vietnamese people who have been asked to pay bribes by local officials, policemen and companies.
She sends petitions to the authorities in the search for justice, sometimes harrying officials with repeated phone calls in a one-woman campaign financed by her monthly pension of about 70 dollars.
"This award is a great honour for me and for those affected by corruption, many of whom have contacted me for sympathy and help," Duc said after accepting the Integrity Award, given to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the fight against graft.
"I am not powerful, I am just a retired teacher who has dedicated her whole life to the fight against corruption."
Her stance has made her many enemies, but Duc brushes off the numerous death threats she has received.
"People are always threatening to knock me down with a motorbike or a car but I am not afraid," she told journalists before the prize-giving ceremony.
"An official from the United Nations Development Programme has tried to persuade me to have a bodyguard, but I have turned down the offer.
"I am old but I can look after myself. My only fear is that if I am killed the work I have been doing will stop.
"If we do not fight corruption, the poor will suffer most."
Vietnam ranks 123rd most corrupt out of 179 nations in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, a closely watched survey of business people and experts that lists Denmark as the 'cleanest' and Somalia as the worst.
The other winner of this year's Transparency award was Mark Pieth, a Swiss criminal law professor credited with playing a leading role in securing international implementation of the Anti-Bribery Convention drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) think-tank
Cobus de Swardt, Transparency's Managing Director, said the Convention was "widely regarded as the gold standard for monitoring mechanisms" and had "helped to stem the supply side of corruption".
Under Pieth's leadership, the OECD body that monitors corruption in business "has the courage to criticise even the most powerful, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan," de Swardt said.
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