More power for police? Proposal meets opposition in Vietnam's parliament

By Doan Loan   August 15, 2016 | 11:46 pm PT
More power for police? Proposal meets opposition in Vietnam's parliament
Security forces escort U.S. President Obama during his visit in Hanoi on May 24, 2016. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Van
Amendments to the public security law involving guns and bodyguards have leaders divided.

Vietnam is looking to extend the role and power of its public security forces with a new draft law which provides them with extra privileges while carrying out their duties and more detailed regulations on the use of firearms.

A report on the draft law was delivered by Minister of Public Security To Lam to Vietnam's highest legislative body - the National Assembly (NA) - at a session held yesterday morning, August 15.

With five chapters and 29 articles, the newly proposed draft says that public security forces, defined as local security, communal police and police forces in general, will be given extra powers to carry out their tasks. These include special authorization papers, technical equipment, traffic priority and permission to carry firearms into airports and on aircraft.

On the use of guns, a number of NA deputies have voiced their concerns, saying the use of weapons must be mentioned in the law because it relates directly to human rights and citizenship. "According to the Constitution of 2013, these rights must be defined in the law," said Minister Lam. 

The NA’s Standing Committee of Defense and Security said the draft law should regulate in detail the use of weapons by public security forces, allowing them to take the initiative in situations that require, while also avoiding the misuse of guns.

“Intending to fire a gun may vary as a warning to injure or to eliminate… So firing in any case must be specifically regulated by the law in detail,” said Le Thi Nga, chairwoman of NA’s Justice Committee.

In response, Minister Lam mentioned that if the regulations are too strict then guards and officers may be more hesitant to draw their weapons for fear of breaking the law.

Bodyguards for top state officials

The draft also lists the top positions in Vietnam’s political system that should be protected by bodyguards. They included the party general secretary, state president, NA chairperson, prime minister and members of the Politburo, among other senior officers in all three branches of the government.

Compared to current regulations, the new draft law has added foreign minister and heads of the Supreme People’s Procuracy and Supreme People’s Court to the list of key figures who require protection.

Explaining the new additions, Public Security Minister Lam said that with legal reforms, crime fighting and expanding international cooperation, the nature of their jobs will become more complicated, possibly putting them at higher risks.

NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan opposed the idea, saying that it was not necessary. “If the foreign minister is included then why aren’t the other ministers? In reality, it is unnecessary for people in those roles to have bodyguards,” said Ngan.

An ordinance regulating public security forces was issued back in 2005, which provides a legal foundation for them to carry out their tasks.

The draft Law on the Public Security Forces was discussed for the first time at the second session of the NA’s Standing Committee, and is set to be submitted to the upcoming NA session in October.

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