Vietnam tries to plug police gun control loopholes after fatal shootings

By Vo Hai   November 1, 2016 | 11:42 pm PT
Vietnam tries to plug police gun control loopholes after fatal shootings
Le Thi Nga, chairwoman of the NA Committee for Justice. Photo by VnExpress/Vinh An.
Should an officer with no education or training have the right to carry a firearm?

Vietnamese lawmakers looked at whether communal-level police should be allowed to carry firearms at a National Assembly meeting on Monday held to discuss a new gun control decree.

In Vietnam, communal-level police are defined as semi-professional armed forces made up of volunteers who do not have to pass high school or receive police training.

Communal-level police officers are currently allowed to use security equipment such as batons and electric whips, and that is not expected to change under the new decree.

The discussion to extend their arsenal to include military weapons has been more controversial, given the lingering impacts of the fatal shooting of two Vietnamese officials in the northern province of Yen Bai in August and a rise in the number of civilian shootings recently, mostly related to land clearance disputes.

Le Viet Truong, a former senior lawmaker, was quoted by local media as saying that "there seem to be loopholes in gun control in Vietnam" following the deadly shootings in Yen Bai.

According to Nguyen Thanh Hong, a member of the parliamentary Committee on National Defense and Security, the communal police force in fact has been equipped with military weapons for some time.

Hong claimed that some situations demand the use of weapons, so the issues that should be discussed are the legalization of military weapons for the communal police force and whether they should be treated as semi-professional or professional, Hong said.

“I’m concerned about who should be eligible to possess and use a [military] weapon” said Le Thi Nga, chairwoman of the parliamentary Justice Committee, who addressed the issue of the limited qualifications necessary to join the force at a previous meeting.

“I agree that if communal-level police are allowed to continue using guns and other law-enforcement equipment, they need to be treated as a professional force,” Nga said.

Vo Trong Viet, chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security also agreed that the officers need to be armed, saying that the communal police force is considered part of the Vietnam’s Public Security Force.

Besides gun control, there are concerns that the communal police force, despite their semi-professional status, already have too much power, given their limited educational and professional backgrounds.

According to the draft law on communal-level police, they have 11 duties, including the power to launch a criminal investigation.

Phan Thanh Binh, another senior lawmaker, said they are incapable of fulfilling these duties since only a few communal police officers had graduated from high school and received police training.

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