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World : Asia : Vietnam
 
Vietnam

Vietnam's identity has been shaped by long-running conflicts, both internally and with foreign forces. In 111 BC, China's Han dynasty conquered northern Vietnam's Red River Delta and the ancestors of today's Vietnamese. Chinese dynasties ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture. In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty. After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward, finally reaching the rich Mekong Delta, encountering there earlier settled Cham and Cambodians. While Vietnam's emperors reigned ineffectually, powerful northern and southern families fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 1858, the French began their conquest of Vietnam starting in the south. They annexed all of Vietnam in 1885, but allowed Vietnam's emperors to continue to reign, although not actually to rule. In the early 20th century, French-educated Vietnamese intellectuals organized nationalist and communist-nationalist anti-colonial movements. Japan's occupation of Vietnam during World War II further stirred nationalism.

Vietnamese communists under Ho Chi Minh organized a coalition of anti-colonial groups, the Viet Minh, though many anti-communists refused to join. After Japan stripped the French of all power in March 1945, Ho Chi Minh announced the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945.

France's post-World War II unwillingness to leave Vietnam led to failed talks and an 8-year guerilla war between the communist-led Viet Minh on one side and the French and their anti-communist nationalist allies on the other. Following a humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, France and other parties, including Britain, China, the Soviet Union, and the United States, convened in Geneva, Switzerland for peace talks. On July 29, 1954, an Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam was signed between France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The United States observed, but did not sign, the agreement. French colonial rule in Vietnam ended.

The 1954 Geneva agreement provided for a cease-fire between communist and anti-communist nationalist forces, the temporary division of Vietnam at approximately the 17th parallel, provisional northern (communist) and southern (noncommunist) zone governments, and the evacuation of anti-communist Vietnamese from northern to southern Vietnam. The agreement also called for an election to be held by July 1956 to bring the two provisional zones under a unified government. However, the South Vietnamese Government refused to accept this provision. On October 26, 1955, South Vietnam declared itself the Republic of Vietnam.

After 1954, North Vietnamese communist leaders consolidated their power and instituted a harsh agrarian reform and socialization program. In the late 1950s, they reactivated the network of communist guerillas that had remained behind in the south. These forces--commonly known as the Viet Cong--aided covertly by the north, started an armed campaign against officials and villagers who refused to support the communist reunification cause.

In December 1961, at the request of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, President Kennedy sent U.S. military advisers to South Vietnam to help the government there deal with the Viet Cong campaign. In the wake of escalating political turmoil in the south after a 1963 generals' coup against President Diem, the United States increased its military support for South Vietnam. In March 1965, President Johnson sent the first U.S. combat forces to Vietnam. The American military role peaked in 1969 with an in-country force of 534,000. However, the Viet Cong's surprise Tet Offensive in January 1968 deeply hurt both the Viet Cong infrastructure and American and South Vietnamese morale. In January 1969, the United States, governments of South and North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong met for the first plenary session of peace talks in Paris, France. These talks, which began with much hope, moved slowly. They finally concluded with the signing of a peace agreement, the Paris Accords, on January 27, 1973. As a result, the south was divided into a patchwork of zones controlled by the South Vietnamese Government and the Viet Cong. The United States withdrew its forces, although U.S. military advisers remained.

In early 1975, North Vietnamese regular military forces began a major offensive in the south, inflicting great damage to the south's forces. The communists took Saigon on April 30, 1975, and announced their intention of reunifying the country. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (north) absorbed the former Republic of Vietnam (south) to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.

After reunification, the government confiscated privately owned land and forced citizens into collectivized agricultural practices. Hundreds of thousands of former South Vietnamese Government and military officials, as well as intellectuals previously opposed to the communist cause, were sent to re-education camps to study socialist doctrine.

While Vietnamese leaders thought that reunification of the country and its socialist transformation would be condoned by the international community, this did not happen. Besides international concern over Vietnam's internal practices, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 and its growing tight alliance with the Soviet Union appeared to confirm suspicions that Vietnam wanted to establish hegemony in Indochina.

Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia also heightened tensions that already existed between Vietnam and China. Beijing, which had long backed the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, retaliated in early 1979 by initiating a border war with Vietnam.

Vietnam's tensions with its neighbors and its stagnant economy contributed to a massive exodus from Vietnam. Fearing persecution, many Chinese in particular, fled Vietnam by boat to nearby countries. Later, hundreds of thousands of other Vietnamese nationals fled as well, seeking temporary refuge in camps throughout Southeast Asia.

The continuing grave condition of the economy and the alienation from the international community became focal points of party debate. In 1986, at the Sixth Party Congress, there was an important easing of communist agrarian and commercial policies.

 

CIVIL DISORDER

North Vietnam, before and during the Second Indochina War, experienced few serious internal security challenges. Disorders were recorded; however, the most famous being the so-called Quynh Luu uprising in 1956, in which farmers in predominantly Roman Catholic Nghe An Province demonstrated and rioted against the agricultural collectivization program. During the war, however, and despite South Vietnamese and American clandestine efforts to provoke resistance to the Hanoi regime, little internal opposition resulted. After the war, security problems were experienced in the newly occupied South, and a rise in dissidence was recorded in the North. As far as can be determined, however, in neither case were the problems serious enough to be considered a challenge to the regime. In 1987 public attitudes in the south remained widely anticommunist and there was greatly increased antipathy for the party in the North. In official circles, these conditions were labeled negative phenomena and were explained in the press as rising criminal and counterrevolutionary activity caused by a decline in social responsibility.

The most dangerous negative phenomenon was organized internal resistance to the regime that occurred chiefly in, but was not limited to, the South. For the most part this resistance found expression in graffiti, antiparty poetry, outlaw theater, rumor mongering, and general disinformation efforts. Less common, but still in evidence, were more militant resistance elements, who attempted, but rarely succeeded in, sabotaging the transportation and communication systems, party and state facilities, and economic enterprises. Finally, there were the armed resistance groups, which engaged in guerrilla war. By far the most challenging resistance effort was carried on by the people of the Central Highlands in the South, who are usually called Montagnards. Many were associated with the organization known as the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (Front Unifíe pour la Lutte des Races opprimees--FULRO) and operated in the region known in the Hanoi press as the "nameless front," that is, the area between Buon Me Thuot and Da Lat. They were supplied and supported by Khmer rouge forces in Cambodia and, through them, by the Chinese. Hanoi handled the Montagnards in the South after the Second Indochina War far less skillfully and effectively than it had managed the northern Montagnards a generation earlier. The primary reason appeared to be that in the North in the mid-1950s the problem had been handled by trained party cadres, some of them Montagnards themselves, who had dealt carefully with their ethnic brethren. In the South in 1975 (because the war ended so unexpectedly), responsibility was given to combat troops, who were ill-prepared to handle such a sensitive problem. Since the war's end, large battles reportedly have taken place occasionally in the Highlands, some involving as many as 1,000 resistance fighters.

The Montagnard resistance has not represented a revolutionary movement in the modern sense because it has not tried to overthrow or change the government in Hanoi. Rather, the upland dwellers of southern Vietnam have sought autonomy, and they would settle for being left alone. In 1987 a stabilized condition of local accommodation appeared to have been achieved between local PAVN commanders in the "nameless front" region and indigenous Montagnard tribes.

The second most important resistance elements were the militant southern socioreligious sects called the Hoa Haoand Cao Dai, whose total membership was more than a million. The Hoa Hao sect is concentrated in Chau Doc Province and adjacent provinces. The Cao Dai is headquartered in Tay Ninh Province, and most of its followers live in this region. In the early years after the Second Indochina War, the two sects offered considerable armed resistance to the new government. By the mid-1980s, however, resistance had fallen off because it was widely believed local accommodation had been achieved.

A third resistance element comprised various nationalistic and patriotic groups, many of whom came under the generic term chu quoc or "national salvation." The bulk of these were members of the Dai Viet and the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang, two militant anticommunist nationalist organizations dating from the 1930s, or were ARVN holdouts in the far south. Other resistance groups, with more exotic names, reported by emigres included the Black Sail Group (Catholics in the Ho Nai region); the Black Dragon Force (ex-ARVN 7th-Division Catholic soldiers in the My Tho vicinity); the Yellow Crab Force (Cao Dai in Tay Ninh Province); the White Tigers (Hoa Hao in An Giang Province); the Laotian National Cobra Force (Vietnamese and Lao along the Laos-Vietnam border); and the Cambodian Border Force (a similar group in the Cambodia-Vietnam border region). Armed resistance, as practiced by these groups, commonly consisted of attacks on reeducation camps, remote military installations, and VCP offices. Reported resistance activities during the 1980s included launching rocket attacks on a Phan Rang reeducation camp and on a Xuan Loc camp (during which 6,000 inmates escaped), dynamiting a Ho Chi Minh City water pumping station, detonating a bomb near that city's Continental Hotel, and throwing a grenade into the yard of the former United States ambassador's residence, which had been transformed into living quarters for several PAVN generals. There were also reports of road mining incidents and booby-trapped railroad switching equipment.

Catholics in Vietnam, who number almost 3 million, have represented a significant potential resistance force of increasing concern to Hanoi officials. Initial policy was to control the church as an institution, while allowing free religious expression. In the late 1970s, however, all religious groups increasingly were harassed, and attendance at religious services was discouraged. A few well publicized trials of clergy followed. By the mid-1980s, it was apparent that the initial tolerance for religion had waned. Some observers, including church officials in the Vatican, speculated that Hanoi officials were concerned because of the growing appeal of religion to the young.

Intellectual dissent also was reported to be increasing in the mid-1980s. Fueled by the obvious failure of the party and state to solve the country's more pressing economic problems, intellectual dissent took the form of psychological warfare conducted by literary and cultural figures and ordinary people alike. There had been a similar outbreak of intellectual dissent in North Vietnam in the 1956-58 period, when the regime experimented, to its regret, with a "hundred flowers movement" similar to that in China. In the late 1980s, the most common medium was graffiti such as "Born in the North to Die in Cambodia" and "Nothing is More Precious than Independence and Liberty--Ho Chi Minh" (a famous Ho quotation used as an ironic commentary by southerners). The slogan Phuc quoc, or "restore national sovereignty," was reported to have been seen on walls in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hue. Propaganda leaflets also were scattered along city sidewalks at night or left in schoolroom desks, and underground literary societies were founded, including the Hanoi Barefoot Literary Group, the Danang Han River Literary Society, the Ho Literary Society of Hue, and the Stone Cave and Literary Flame societies of Ho Chi Minh City. According to editorials in the official press, the writings of these subversive groups "depict resentment and incite antagonism" through the use of "ambiguous symbolism and double entendres." An example cited by Lao Dong (August 22, 1985) was the following excerpt from a poem: "Biting our lips, hating the North wind We lay with aching bones Lamenting the West wind." Poets have been incarcerated for their works. A cause celebre in 1984 was the arrest of a leading novelist, Doan Quoc Sy, of the Danang Han River Literary Society.

Resistance activity is supported by the nearly 1 million Vietnamese emigres living abroad. There is a welter of supportive organizations--more than fifty in California alone--about which little reliable information is available. The broadest-based group is the Overseas Free Vietnam Association, which has chapters in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

 

ECONOMY

Vietnam is a poor, densely populated country that has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally planned economy. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1996 in moving forward from an extremely low starting point - growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997. The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy but, rather than prompting reform, reaffirmed the government's belief that shifting to a market oriented economy leads to disaster. GDP growth of 8.5% in 1997 fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999. Growth then rose to 6.8% in 2000 and dropped back to 4.7% in 2001 against the background of global recession. These numbers mask some major difficulties in economic performance. Many domestic industries, including coal, cement, steel, and paper, have reported large stockpiles of inventory and tough competition from more efficient foreign producers. Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities have moved slowly in implementing the structural reforms needed to revitalize the economy and produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement entered into force near the end of 2001 and is expected to significantly increase Vietnam's exports to the US. The US is assisting Vietnam with implementing the legal and structural reforms called for in the agreement.

 

BELIEFS

The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, adopted in 1980, proclaims that "citizens enjoy freedom of worship, and may practice or not practice a religion" but that "no one may misuse religions to violate state laws or policies." Despite the Constitution's ostensible protection of the practice of the religion, the status of such was precarious in Vietnam in late 1987.

Historically, most Vietnamese have identified themselves with Buddhism, which originated in what is now southern Nepal around 530 B.C. as an offshoot of Hinduism. Its founder was Gautama, a prince who bridled at the formalism of Hinduism as it was being interpreted by the priestly caste of Brahmans. Gautama spent years meditating and wandering as an ascetic until he discovered the path of enlightenment to nirvana, the world of endless serenity in which one is freed from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. According to Buddhist thought, human salvation lies in discovering the "four noble truths"--that man is born to suffer in successive lives, that the cause of this suffering is man's craving for earthly pleasures and possessions, that the suffering ceases upon his deliverance from this craving, and that he achieves this deliverance by following "the noble eightfold path." The foundation of the Buddhist concept of morality and right behavior, the eightfold path, consists of right views, or sincerity in leading a religious life; right intention, or honesty in judgment; right speech, or sincerity in speech; right conduct, or sincerity in work; right livelihood, or sincerity in making a living; right effort, or sincerity in aspiration; right mindfulness, or sincerity in memory; and right concentration, or sincerity in meditation.

Buddhism spread first from China to Vietnam's Red River Delta region in approximately the second century A.D., and then from India to the southern Mekong Delta area at some time between the third and the sixth centuries. The Chinese version, Mahayana Buddhism, became the faith of most Vietnamese, whereas the Indian version, Theravada (or Hinayana) Buddhism, was confined mostly to the southern delta region. The doctrinal distinction between the two consists of their differing views of Gautama Buddha: the Mahayana school teaches that Gautama was only one of many "enlightened ones" manifesting the fundamental divine power of the universe; the Theravada school teaches that Gautama was the one-and-only enlightened one and the great teacher, but that he was not divine. The Mahayana sect holds further that laypersons can attain nirvana, whereas the Theravada school believes that only ordained monks and nuns can do so.

Few Vietnamese outside the clergy, however, are acquainted with Buddhism's elaborate cosmology. What appealed to them at the time it was introduced was Mahayana ritual and imagery. Mahayana ceremony easily conformed to indigenous Vietnamese beliefs, which combined folklore with Confucian and Taoist teachings, and Mahayana's "enlightened ones" were often venerated alongside various animist spirits.

Before the country was unified under communism, Buddhism enjoyed an autonomy from the state that was increasingly threatened once the communists gained power. For pragmatic reasons, however, the regime initially avoided overt hostility toward Buddhism or any other organized religion. Instead, it sought to separate real and potential collaborators from opponents by co-optation and control. For example, within months after winning the South, the communist regime set up a front called the Patriotic Buddhist Liaison Committee. The committee's purpose was to promote the idea that all patriotic Buddhists had a duty to participate in building a new society liberated for the first time from the shackles of feudal and neo-colonialist influences. The committee also tried to show that most Buddhists, leaders and followers alike, were indeed rallying behind the new regime and the liaison committee. This strategy attempted to thwart the power of the influential, independent groups of Buddhist clergy, particularly the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which had been a major pre-1975 critic of the Saigon government and of the roughly twenty Buddhist sects in Vietnam the most vocal in opposing the war.

Communists also pressured monks and nuns to lead a secular life, encouraging them to take part in productive agricultural labor or to become actively involved in the work of the Patriotic Buddhist Liaison Committee. For their refusal to collaborate, some prominent clerical leaders in the South were placed under house arrest or imprisoned, their pagodas were converted to public use, and their holdings were confiscated. Such activity closely paralleled communist actions against Buddhists in the North in the 1950s. In addition, the party prevented Buddhist organizations from training monks and nuns in schools that previously had been autonomous. In April 1980, a national committee of Buddhist groups throughout the country was formed by the government. The government-controlled Vietnam Buddhist Church was established in November 1981, and it emerged as the only officially sanctioned organization authorized to represent all Buddhist groups both at home and abroad.

As a result of communist policy, the observance of Buddhist ritual and practice was drastically reduced. A 1979 study of a Red River Delta commune, reported to be "overwhelmingly Catholic," disclosed that the commune's two pagodas were "maintained and frequented regularly by the faithful (the majority of whom were old women), especially on the Buddhist feast days." No monks or nuns had been observed, however, and the study went on to note that pagodas had been eliminated entirely in nearby Hanoi. In 1987 occasional reports suggested that the observance of Buddhist ritual continued in some remote areas.

The communist government's attitude toward Buddhism and other faiths being practiced remained one of tolerance as long as the clergy and faithful adhered strictly to official guidelines. These guidelines inhibited the growth of religious institutions; however, by restricting the number of institutions approved to train clergy and by preempting the time of potential candidates among the youth whose daily routine might require study, work, and participation in the activities of communist youth organizations. In an apparent effort to train a new generation of monks and nuns, the Vietnam Buddhist Church reportedly set up one Buddhist academy in Hanoi in November 1981 and another in Ho Chi Minh City in December 1984 . These academies, however, served as an arm of the state.

Despite the Roman Catholic Church's rejection of ancestor worship, a cornerstone of the Confucian cultural tradition, Roman Catholicism established a solid position in Vietnamese society under French rule. The French encouraged its propagation to balance Buddhism and to serve as a vehicle for the further dissemination of Western culture. After the mid-1950s, Catholicism declined in the North, where the communists regarded it as a reactionary force opposed to national liberation and social progress. In the South, by contrast, Catholicism expanded under the presidency of Ngo Dinh Diem, who promoted it as an important bulwark against North Vietnam. Under Diem, himself a devout Catholic, Roman Catholics enjoyed an advantage over nonCatholics in commerce, the professions, education, and the government. This caused growing Buddhist discontent that contributed to the eventual collapse of the Diem regime and the ultimate rise to power of the military. Roman Catholics in reunified Vietnam numbered about 3.0 million in 1984, of whom nearly 1 million resided in the North and the remainder in the South.

In 1955 approximately 600,000 Catholics remained in the North after an estimated 650,000 had fled to the South. That year the Liaison Committee of Patriotic and Peace-Loving Catholics was set up in the North by the communist regime in an attempt to win over those Catholics who had chosen to remain (but were slower than non-Catholics to embrace the regime) and to "reintegrate" them into northern society. The church was allowed to retain its link with the Vatican, although all foreign priests had either fled south or been expelled, and normal church activities were permitted to continue, albeit in the shadow of a campaign of harassment. The appearance of normalcy was misleading, however. The church was stripped of its traditional autonomy in running schools, hospitals, and orphanages. Its traditional right to own property was abolished, and priests and nuns were required to devote part of their time to productive labor in agriculture. Nevertheless, officials claimed that Catholics had complete freedom of worship as long as they did not question the principle of collective socialism, spurn manual labor, or jeopardize the internal and external security of the state.

In November 1977, the Vietnam Courier reported that the church in the North had changed from "opposition to acceptance and participation," but that the transformation had been difficult for Catholics. In the same month, the government unveiled a decree on religion that reaffirmed the constitution's position on religious freedom, but made it unequivocally clear that such freedom was conditional and depended on the compatibility of church activities with such higher imperatives as patriotism and socialism. The new decree not only prescribed the duties and obligations required of the clergy by the state but also imposed state control over the conduct of religious services, education, training, investitures, appointments, travels, and transfers.

Applicable to all religious communities in the North and South, the new law clearly introduced a period of more active state intervention in church affairs. The regime apparently acted out of concern that the church in the North, despite having coexisted with socialism for twenty-three years, was not progressive enough to lead in the socialist transformation of the Catholic community in the South. The Vietnam Courier suggested this link between the northern and southern situations in November 1977, after noting that the northern Catholic church would have to shoulder the additional task of helping to reintegrate Vietnam's entire Catholic population into the national community.

The government claimed that after April 1975 the religious activities of Roman Catholics were quickly stabilized, major services were held, and many cathedrals and churches that had been damaged or destroyed in the war were rebuilt. The regime claimed further that there was no religious persecution, or if there was persecution, that it was directed at the activities of "reactionary forces" bent on taking advantage of "the backwardness of a number of the faithful . . . ." Nevertheless, the authorities acted to isolate and to neutralize hard-core opposition to party policy and to persuade less strongly opposed factions to join a party-controlled "renovation and reconciliation" movement. A considerable number of Northern and Southern Roman Catholics, however, remained opposed to communist authority.

Religions with less of a following than Buddhism or Catholicism were treated similarly by the regime, with the exception of those the regime considered merely superstitious, which incurred its outright hostility. Two religious movements that enjoyed considerable followings before 1975 were the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao. Both were founded in this century in the Mekong River Delta. The Cao Dai, the older of the two and a self-styled reformed Buddhist sect, flourished in the rural areas of the southern delta region. An amalgam of different beliefs derived from Confucianism, Taoism, and Christianity, among other sources, it claimed 1 million to 2 million adherents. The Hoa Hao, with more than 1 million followers, identified itself as a reformed Theravada Buddhist sect, but, unlike the Cao Dai, it preserved a distinctive Buddhist coloration. Based mostly in the southernmost areas of the delta, it stressed individual prayer, simplicity, and social justice over icon veneration or elaborate ceremonies. Before 1975 both faiths sought, with some success, to remain neutral in the war between Hanoi and Saigon. After 1975, however, like Buddhists and Roman Catholics, they were under heavy pressure from the communist regime to join its ranks.

In addition to organized religions, there existed a melange of beliefs without institutional structure that nevertheless had an enduring impact on Vietnamese life well into the 1980s. These, beliefs derived partly from Confucianism, stressed the virtues of filial piety, loyalty, family solidarity, and ancestor veneration--all central to the family system of the old society. Taoism, another important system of belief introduced from China, emphasized the importance of an individual's relationship to nature and to the universe. Beliefs rooted in Taoism were condemned by the regime as superstitious.

Despite official disapproval of superstitious practices, most Vietnamese, regardless of their professed religion, level of education, or ideology, were influenced at one time or another by such practices as astrology, geomancy and sorcery. Diviners and other specialists in the occult remained in popular demand because they were believed to be able to diagnose supernatural causes of illness, establish lucky dates for personal undertakings, or predict the future. Moreover, many Vietnamese believed that individual destiny was guided by astrological phenomena. By consulting one's horoscope, one could make the most of auspicious times and avoid disaster. It was not unusual, for example, for a couple to consult an astrologer before marrying. He would determine if the betrothed were suitably matched and even fix the date of the ceremony.

The belief in good and evil spirits, or animism, antedated all organized faiths in Vietnam and permeated the society, especially in the rural areas and in the highlands. These beliefs held that all phenomena and forces in the universe were controlled by spirits and that the souls of the dead were instrumental in determining an individual's fate. If propitiated, they provided the living with protection; if ignored, they induced misfortune. Although officially condemned as "superstitious practices," these beliefs continued to proliferate in the rural and in the highland areas as well as in the cities in the 1980s.

 

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

The crime rate in Vietnam is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Vietnam. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Vietnam will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 1.08 per 100,000 population for Vietnam, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 1.64 for Vietnam, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 1.48 for Vietnam, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 7.15 for Vietnam, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. The total of these four major crimes is 11.35 per 100,000 population. (Note that data for rape are drawn for 1999 report to INTERPOL, and were omitted from the 2000 report to INTERPOL. No data were reported for for burglary, larceny, or auto theft.)

 

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1996 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 1.57 to 1.08 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 31.2%. The rate for rape increased from 1.22 to 1.64 (for 1999), an increase of 34.4%. The rate of robbery decreased from 2.30 to 1.48, a decrease of 35.7%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 10.40 to 7.15, a decrease of 31.3%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 15.49 to 11.35, a decrease of 26.7%.

 

LEGAL SYSTEM

Vietnamese legal thought with regard to the treatment of criminals is the result of three major influences: classic Confucianism, the Napoleonic Code, and Marxism-Leninism. The relevant Confucian concept is that society is to be governed not by law but by moral men and that crime is symptomatic of an absence of virtue that engenders conflict and disharmony. Most important, the Confucian ethic provides no principle of judicial administration. In imperial China, justice was an interpretation of the moment by the emperor and his mandarins, meaning that in every instance imperial will was superior to the law. The spirit of the law the French brought to Vietnam was that guilt should be determined by fair and impartial means and should be assigned appropriate punishment. However, French colonialism inculcated a view of the law as something to be manipulated and the courts as institutions to be bribed or subverted. The result was a general lack of respect for the judicial process. Marxism-Leninism added to this attitude the perspective that crime is a reflection of environmental factors that victimize the individual by turning him into a criminal. The proper remedy for this condition is to eliminate the causal factors while rehabilitating the criminal. The combination of the three legacies has produced in Vietnamese society a legal philosophy that is inquisitional rather than adversarial, seeking reform rather than punishment. The system imposes on the individual and the state the responsibility of bringing all members of society to a condition of self-imposed moral rectitude in which behavior is defined in terms of collective, rather than individual, good. In contrast to the West, where law is the guarantee of rights that all may claim, in Vietnam the law concerns duties that all must fulfill.

Vietnamese law seeks to give the prisoner the right to reformation. In theory, at least, there are very few incorrigibles. It also permits a relativist approach in fixing sentences, much more so than do the precedent-based systems of the West. Mitigating circumstances, such as whether the accused acted out of passion or premeditation, loom large as a factor in sentencing. Murder by stabbing is treated more leniently than murder by poison, for example, because the latter is perceived to require a greater degree of premeditation than the former. The personal circumstances of the accused are also a factor in determining punishment. In the administration of criminal justice in Vietnam, an effort is made to understand the criminal, his crime, and his reasons; and the notion of permanent or extended incarceration is rejected in favor of an effort to determine whether or not and, if so, how the criminal can be rehabilitated and restored to society.

Political crimes are treated less liberally, however. In such cases, the administration of justice can be arbitrary and harsh. Politics clearly plays a role in the arrest, trial, and sentencing procedures. The rationale for this policy, which is openly acknowledged, is that the revolution must be protected and that the individual may be sacrificed, perhaps even unjustly, for the common cause. The courts also take a more jaundiced view of the rehabilitation of political prisoners than of common criminals.

 

POLICE

Internal security was never much of a problem in North Vietnam; it was probably somewhat more tenuous in unified Vietnam. Unification, understandably, introduced new internal threats, which the regime in the 1980s was able to keep in check. As perceived in Hanoi theoretical journals, the most significant internal threat was the danger of counterrevolution, a possibility that had both internal and external implications. Hanoi feared that a resistance effort in Vietnam would mount an effective guerrilla war aided by outsiders who sought either to roll back communism in Indochina or to effect change in Hanoi's leadership. These outsiders might include not only foreign governments but also emigre Vietnamese seeking to destroy the ruling system.

There was widespread latent opposition to the regime, particularly in the South. In general it was low-level, widely scattered, and poorly organized and led. Opposition activities ranged from graffiti and similar token gestures to fairly largesized guerrilla attacks in the Central Highlands. In the early 1980s, an active militant resistance force was estimated by observers abroad to number about 25,000 combatants. That figure tended to dwindle later in the decade. Given the extraordinary amount of social control in Vietnam, as in other Marxist-Leninist societies, it would be difficult for a resistance force to achieve sufficient size, strength, and cohesiveness to present a serious challenge to the existing system. The regime's strategy, therefore, was to keep the opposition off balance and prevent it from organizing.

Police, crime-detection, and law-enforcement activities tended to be treated collectively under the heading of "public security." These activities were conducted by overlapping, but tightly compartmentalized, institutions of control, separated by only hazy lines of jurisdiction. In particular, there was no sharp division between the internal security duties of PAVN forces and those of the civilian elements of the Ministry of Interior. This amorphous organization of law enforcement and internal security work can be traced to the VCP's early heritage and its experiences in the First Indochina War when functional distinctions within the party organization were less pronounced. Contributing to it is the clandestine character of such activity and the penchant for secrecy and covert action endemic in Vietnamese culture. Both party and state have paid enormous attention to the maintenance of public order. Perhaps it is for this reason that internal security has always been well managed and security threats have always been contained. The methods employed are sophisticated, often subtle, and there is less use of naked repression than many outsiders believe.

Four clusters of agencies were responsible for crime prevention and the maintenance of public order and internal security under the 1985 Criminal Code. The enforcement bodies were the People's Security Force (PSF) or People's Police, operating chiefly in urban areas; the People's Public Security Force (PPSF), called the People's Security Service or PSS at the village level; the plain-clothes or secret police; and the People's Armed Security Force (PASF), a quasi-military organ, including some PAVN personnel, operating chiefly in the villages and rural areas and concerned both with crime and antistate activities. These agencies of control had the broad responsibility of mobilizing the general population to support internal security programs, in addition to performing internal auditing, inspection, and general monitoring of both party and state activity. The judiciary promoted security and law enforcement. The courts, i.e., the investigative elements of the judicial system, were charged with uncovering evidence in addition to prosecuting the accused.

These institutions were charged under the Criminal Code with protecting the public from crime, broadly defined as "any act dangerous to society." Supporting them, although independent of them, was the party apparatus, which reached to the most remote hamlets of the country. In the mid-1980s, both urban and rural geographic areas were divided into wards, sub-wards, and blocks and were administered by security cadres, who were aided and supported by the mass organizations. Each of the basic units (generally the ward or block) had a security committee. In addition, in key or sensitive areas, there was a special party unit (called Red Flag Security) also organized at the ward or block level. The philosophy of this internal security system was that self-implemented, self-motivated, social discipline was required for true internal security and that this was both the duty and the right of the individual citizen. An important characteristic of the public security sector was that, although it extended equally across the civilian (the Ministry of Interior) and the military (PAVN, especially its paramilitary forces) sectors, the dominant influence was civilian and, ultimately, the party.

During the First Indochina War, police and internal-security functions were regarded as a single activity. Security cadres and personnel had three duties: guarding Viet Minh facilities, highlevel personnel, lines of communication, and troop movements; insuring public safety in the Viet Minh-controlled areas; and conducting counterintelligence and antisabotage work.

At the time of the DRV's formation in 1945, all of this activity was vested in the Ministry of Interior. Within the ministry was a large sub-element called the Directorate General for Security, concerned with counterrevolution. This arrangement was abolished in 1954, when the police and internal-security functions were separated and the Ministry of Public Security was created. After the takeover of the South in 1975, which imposed new internal security tasks, the two functions were again combined, this time into the Ministry of Interior, which was then vastly enlarged.

By the mid-1980s, the ministry was composed of seven major departments: the People's Police Department, responsible for general law enforcement; the Traffic Police Department, responsible for traffic control; the Public Security Department, responsible for general internal security; the Social Order Department, responsible for detention, the family registration system, immigration-emigration, border control, and port-of-entry security; the Public Security Forces, responsible for both law enforcement and internal security in the rural areas; the Counterespionage Department, chiefly responsible for investigative work and dossier compilation; and the Counterreactionary Department, chiefly responsible for investigation of religious organizations in the South.

Also in the ministry were smaller, more specialized offices under vice ministers, including those concerned with counterintelligence, foreign intelligence coordination (shared with PAVN intelligence agencies and primarily concerned with Cambodia and Laos), official communication systems operations (including mail censorship), political indoctrination of ministry personnel, and ethnic minorities' activities.

The Ministry of Interior was again enlarged and restructured in 1979, when, according to Hanoi, China launched its "multifaceted war of sabotage." This brought increased and more systematic coordination with PAVN, especially in the China border region. The restructuring moved the ministry closer to the Soviet model of internal security organizations, a development undoubtedly encouraged by Soviet Komitet Gosudavstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB, Committee of State Security) advisers. It is possible that in these shifts the ministry gained a certain degree of autonomy from the VCP.

Tran Quoc Hoan created Hanoi's state security system in the 1940s and ran it until he stepped down or was forced out in 1982. He then served as a director of the Central Committee's Proselytizing and Front Department. Hoan continued to publish extensively on security problems, and he remained an influential figure in the field until his death in late 1986. Pham Hung replaced Hoan as Minister of Interior in 1982 and served until December 1986, when he relinquished the post to Mai Chi Tho. Before his elevation to the ministry and the Political Bureau, Tho was in charge of security in southern Vietnam as the mayor of Ho Chi Minh City.

Police functions, such as routine crime detection, apprehension of suspects, and enforcement of judicial orders, were vested in two elements that differed both conceptually and functionally. The PSF was a law enforcement agency in the same sense as the term is used in the West. It operated chiefly in urban rather than in rural areas and was first established in 1962. Its purpose was "to execute the laws of the state, maintain public order and security, protect public property, protect the lives and property of individuals, and prevent juvenile delinquency." These functions were expanded and made more specific in 1972, and again in 1976, by National Assembly directives authorizing the PSF to "arrest, temporarily detain, and temporarily release suspects; search people, homes, belongings, and mail; temporarily hold evidence; issue identification certificates, travel permits, and other documents; motivate citizens to observe the law and security measures; stop acts of sabotage; prevent juvenile delinquency; give aid to victims of accidents, including commandeering transportation to perform this function; and punish or carry out other compulsory measures against those who infringe on public order and security regulations." Fire fighting was also administered by the PSF. Members of the PSF were admonished to "serve the people wholeheartedly, show bravery, and constantly demonstrate responsibility, revolutionary vigilance, and political and military professionalism."

The second unit was the PASF, a combination of gendarmerie and police field force, which operated chiefly in the villages and rural areas. The PASF had a broader security function than the PSF, since its concern extended beyond criminal and illegal political activity to insurgency threats and transprovincial organized counterrevolutionary activity. It was a hybrid security institution composed of party security cadres and PAVN personnel whose duties were in a gray area between ordinary police work and guerrilla warfare. The PASF was similar to the militia of the Soviet Union, with a domain described as "inland security," and functioned both as a protective and investigative body. PASF units guarded defense-industry installations, state and party offices, communication facilities, and important economic centers and supplied bodyguards for high-level officials. It was also charged with handling antigovernment conspiracies requiring sensitive political investigations and with investigating intraprovincial crimes such as counterfeiting, smuggling, and hijacking.

PASF was created in March 1959 by combining several small party- security and PAVN special units. From the start it had a semimilitary character. In 1960, the Third National Party Congress assigned it the "leading mission of defense against counterrevolution" and stressed the political character of its work, which in part meant activities designed to make security measures more acceptable to the general public through what was termed PASF's "people-motivating mission." Its formation also relieved PAVN regular forces of certain border and coastal static-defense duties. In the decade that followed unification in 1976, it became something of a catch-all security institution.

The structure of the PASF was quasi-military--that is, it was organized by battalions and companies with administrative centers in provincial capitals. In 1987 the PASF was estimated to have at least 500 personnel in each province, with a total strength of at least 21,000. It was more heavily armed and more mobile than ordinary police.

The PASF headquarters in Hanoi was in a Ministry of Interior building, once the Don Thuy French Military Barracks on Hang Bai Street. It was divided into eight bureaus. The first handled administration, including personnel, supply, and housing. The second maintained criminal records and handled correspondence. The third was responsible for the Hanoi capital area and supervised crime detection, fire fighting, traffic control and issuance of identity cards. The fourth conducted investigations, including interrogations. The fifth handled incarceration of persons under arrest, including their detention while awaiting trial. The sixth controlled political and indoctrination training, as well as internal police affairs. The seventh handled budget and fiscal matters for the organization, and the eighth managed communication surveillance, censored mail, and controlled unauthorized publications.

PAVN's function is dual in nature, having been derived from the French concept of police duty, introduced in the colonial period, and the Soviet Union's idea of militia. It rests on the belief that all challenges to the regime should be treated as law-enforcement rather than military problems. Even in the suppression of insurgency movements such as FULRO, PAVN's responsibilities were carried out as an exercise in law enforcement rather than as a military enterprise.

PAVN shared command responsibilities with the Ministry of Interior over a host of specific police organizations, including Regional Police Force units operating out of the country's forty provincial capitals; the Border-Control Police or Port-of-Entry Police, established by the Ministry of Interior in 1981; and Naval Security units, which used armed civilian fishing boats to apprehend persons illegally leaving the country. In theory, all such organizations functioned under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. Their place in PAVN's organizational structure, however, remained ambiguous.

Deputized, nonprofessional law-enforcement units were reportedly numerous, but they were only vaguely described in press reports. They included the People's Protection Squads (active in both street-patrol work and fire fighting), the Enterprise Protection Force (active in factories, government buildings, and communes), the Municipal Security Protection Force (active in major cities), the Neighborhood Protection Civil Guard Agency, the Capital Security Youth Assault Units, the Township Public Security Force, and the Civil Defense Force. Many of the personnel in these units served concurrently with the Paramilitary Force.

In addition, PAVN elements were detailed to police duty, usually on a temporary basis, and assigned chiefly in the South and along the China border. Their primary responsibilities in these areas were the prevention of smuggling and of illegal departures or entries.

The Ministry of Interior divided Vietnam into "security interzones," and the major cities--Hanoi, Haiphong, and Ho Chi Minh City--were allotted separate security status. The interzone headquarters coordinated law enforcement and internal security work with the judiciary, local military commanders, and provincial party officials. Each of the interzone directors (as well as the director of the Hanoi Security Service) reported directly to the Ministry of Interior and the Political Bureau Secretariat.

The villages, which normally experienced little crime, had only rudimentary law enforcement, usually in the hands of a deputized nonprofessional working part-time and often without a regular salary. If a major crime occurred--for example, a murder- -it was investigated by an official sent from the provincial capital.

The function of the nonprofessional deputized law-enforcement officer, indeed even his existence, was not formally established or codified. The position of the village deputy was conceived as a means by which local authority could organize the village to police itself. Crime prevention and security became the responsibility of all, under the guidance of a local figure backed by the local party committee. This made for a pervasive surveillance system. It could also result in inept law enforcement and the accruing of enormous power by the deputy, who was privy to information gathered through the surveillance system.

Vietnam did not have a secret police force of the same kind as Nazi Germany's Gestapo. The PPSF (or PSS at the village level), a plainclothes internal security organization charged with handling sensitive security threats, bore the closest resemblance.

Actually, the secret police function in Vietnam appeared to be distributed among the Ministry of Interior, the party, PAVN, and the Paramilitary Force, with the PPSF as the pivotal element. The PPSF was more a party than a state organization, and observers believe that its chain of command ran from the district level through a hierarchy to the Political Bureau Secretariat in Hanoi. In its reporting responsibilities as an organ of the party, the PPSF largely bypassed or coordinated only laterally with the minister of interior, its nominal superior in the government hierarchy. This organizational arrangement was instituted in the early 1950s by two top party security figures, Le Giang and Tran Hieu, at the time the director and deputy director respectively of what was then the First Directorate for Security of the Ministry of Public Security. Some observers believe that the PPSF was in reality an institution of professional police and trained security agents disguised as ordinary party administrative cadres.

During the First Indochina War, the PPSF supervised the issue of travel permits and identification cards, checked on the movements of marine fishermen, identified strangers in the villages, and maintained family census and travel records. At one point it also monitored and reported on public health, apparently in the belief that North Vietnam was to be subjected to chemical warfare attacks.

The PPSF assumed new importance in the late 1970s with the rise of the China threat and the increased prospect of a serious sabotage and espionage effort by outsiders. In order to cope with these developments, authorities in 1980 enlarged the hamletvillage -level structure. A nationwide system was instituted, with a PSS chief and two cadres detailed to every hamlet and a chief and five cadres assigned to each village. In many instances, they replaced PASF personnel. At the same time, higher recruitment standards were established (for education and age), a six-month training program was introduced, and an effort was made to create a more professional service with more sophisticated operations. In 1983 plans for putting the PPSF into uniform were announced, but in 1987 they had yet to be acted upon.

In the South, the PPSF (or PSS) was more or less under direct party control. Members wore yellow armbands with a red inscription, Order and Security Control, to differentiate them from PAVN security units, whose members wore red armbands with a yellow inscription, Military Control, and from the PASF forces, whose red and blue arm bands bore the yellow legend Order.

The rise of the China threat highlighted certain weaknesses in the security system related to the proper division of labor between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of National Defense. In 1981 a concerted effort was launched to increase and improve coordination between the two ministries: they signed two interministerial directives, one establishing the mechanism for systematic, joint security work and the other spelling out the respective duties of each in "the three tasks of maintaining political security, strengthening social discipline, and insuring public safety."

Under the new arrangement, there was unified recruiting for the two services. A recruit could choose the service he would enter and, in many instances, the province to which he would be assigned. PAVN made available to the Ministry of Interior some of its military hardware, including such highly desirable items as equipment used by special weapons and tactics teams. The Ministry of Interior relieved the Defense Ministry of its responsibility for guarding foreign missions in Hanoi and for supplying guards to the country's prisons. Personnel also were transferred, most from the Ministry of Interior to PAVN, and a new PAVN unit called the Police Protection Regiment was formed. Transfers from this ministry to strengthen PAVN units along the China border were probably due to the growing China threat, the nature and size of which was perceived as simply beyond Ministry of Interior capabilities. Some PASF units were converted into PAVN Border Defense Command regiments, although their duties, like those of the Police Protection regiments, were not known in 1987.

Some observers noted that the net effect of the security reorganization initiated in 1981 was the Ministry of Interior's improved ability to check on the actions and loyalties of highranking PAVN generals. Others observed that PAVN authority now extended deeper into the civilian sector. The new arrangement also highlighted the underlying competition between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of National Defense with respect to security responsibilities and authority.

One other dimension of security activity was the use of youth and youth organizations for internal security purposes. Hanoi appeared to have calculated that young people tended to have greater loyalty to the existing order than their elders, and that they represented a vast manpower pool ideally suited to mass surveillance work. The mass media commonly referred to Vietnam's three security forces as PAVN, public security, and "fourth generation" youth (that is, the fourth generation since the founding of the VCP). The security role of youth was stressed more in southern Vietnam, where, through an umbrella youth group called the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), the energies of the young were harnessed in the name of social improvement. Much of this activity was economic and related to various nationbuilding programs; some, however, concerned political security, social order, and safety, areas of activity commonly given the collective label of "revolutionary action against negativism."

RAM had a large corps of organizations from which to draw. In the mid-1980s, the total party youth force was about 4.5 million; this included the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League (2 million) and the organizations for those younger in age--the Vanguard Teenager Organization, the Ho Chi Minh Young Pioneers, and the Ho Chi Minh Children's Organization (2.5 million). A front organization called the Vietnam Youth Federation included about 10 million party and nonparty youth.

The most important RAM subgroup was the Ho Chi Minh Assault Youth Force (usually termed the AYF), the core of an amorphous organization called the Young Volunteers Force or volunteer service. The AYF was open to males seventeen to twenty-five years of age and females seventeen to twenty, who volunteered for two years' service (the males thus could escape the military draft). The AYF was organized along quasi-military lines and was assigned chiefly economic duties, mostly in the rural areas of the South.

Within the AYF were smaller organizations, such as the Assault Security Team and the Assault Control Team, which had security assignments. Some teams focused on ordinary crime; others were engaged in covert surveillance, particularly of other youth. The most elite of these were the Youth Union Red Flag teams, which were made up entirely of Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League members. (AYF teams, by contrast, were a mix of party and nonparty youth.) Red Flag teams were entrusted with the most sensitive assignments given to the young. The high point of AYF security activity apparently came in the few years immediately following the 1979 China incursion. After that, vigilance in security matters tapered off somewhat.

As of year 2001, the military services, including the border defense force, are responsible for defense against external threats. The military forces are assuming a less prominent role as the ultimate guarantor of internal security, which primarily is the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). However, in some remote areas, the military forces are the primary government agency, providing infrastructure and all public safety functions, including maintaining public order in the event of civil unrest. The MPS controls the police, a special national security investigative agency, and other units that maintain internal security. It enforces laws and regulations that significantly restrict individual liberties and violate other human rights. It also maintains a system of household registration and block wardens to monitor the population, concentrating on those suspected of engaging, or being likely to engage in, unauthorized political activities. However, this system has become less obvious and pervasive in its intrusion into most citizens' daily lives. Members of the public security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.

Early in the year, at least one extrajudicial killing reportedly occurred during the ethnic clashes in the Central Highlands. On March 10, in Plei Lau Village in Gia Lai Province, hundreds of soldiers and police clashed with hundreds of ethnic minority persons; two or three soldiers reportedly shot and killed a civilian who had threatened another soldier with a spear. Reports suggest that there were at least three or four other killings by security personnel related to the ethnic unrest in the Central Highlands; however, these cannot be confirmed because independent outside observers were unable to reach the area until July, and even then had limited access. Government officials denied any killings related to the ethnic unrest

There were reports of more than 40 disappearances related to ethnic unrest in the Central Highlands, but the reports cannot be confirmed by independent outside observers. Some of the individuals who reportedly disappeared may have gone into hiding. Others may be among the hundreds who fled to Cambodia.

The law prohibits physical abuse; however, police beat suspects during arrests. In the course of the suppression of the ethnic unrest in the Central Highlands, security personnel reportedly beat many of the demonstrators and used tear gas, water cannons, and electric prods in putting down the demonstrations.

Several sources report that on March 10, up to 300 villagers who had gathered in a Protestant church in Plei Lau village of Phu Nhon district clashed with up to 700 police officers and soldiers who used tear gas and electric prods to disperse the crowd. One person reportedly was killed and at least two others were wounded when police opened fire. The security forces reportedly forced villagers to burn the church later that day.

In December 2000, during an unauthorized demonstration by Hoa Hao followers, police intervened to separate scuffling groups, and using batons beat one follower, Truong Van Duc, so severely that he required hospitalization.

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy of home and correspondence; however, the Government restricts this right significantly. Household registration and block wardens systems exist for the surveillance of all citizens, but are used with less vigor and thoroughness than in the past, and rarely intrude on most citizens. The authorities largely focused on persons whom they regarded as having views critical of the Government, or whom they suspected of involvement in unauthorized political or religious activities, and, for example, government informants who attend worship services share information concerning the activities of the congregation and clergy with government and party officials. Citizens formally are required to register with police when they leave home, remain in another location overnight, or when they change their residence. However, these requirements rarely are enforced; many citizens move around the country to seek work or to visit family and friends without being monitored, and many families who sought employment moved to other locations without prior government permission. However, there were reports that some "spontaneous migrant" families have been unable to obtain household registration or residence permits in their new locations, causing them legal and administrative problems. In urban areas, most citizens were free to maintain contact and work with foreigners, but police questioned some individual citizens and families of citizens with extensive or close relations with foreigners. In theory, the Government requires that citizens who work for foreign organizations be screened and hired through a government service bureau. Laws governing foreign business enterprises are more lenient. In practice, many foreign organizations and enterprises hire their own personnel and only "register" them with the service bureau or employment bureau.

The Government opened and censored targeted persons' mail, confiscated packages, and monitored telephone, electronic mail, and facsimile transmissions. However, this practice appeared to be sporadic and is not applied consistently. The Government monitors e-mail, searching the text for sensitive key words, and regulates Internet content.

 

DETENTION

The Government continued to arrest and detains citizens arbitrarily, including arrest and detention for the peaceful expression of their political and religious views. The Criminal Procedure Code provides for various rights of detainees, including time limits on pretrial detention and the right of the accused to have a lawyer present during interrogation; however, in practice the authorities sometimes ignored these legal safeguards. Moreover, a directive on administrative probation gives security officials broad powers if they believe that a suspect is a threat to "national security."

A revised Criminal Code came into effect in July 2000. The revised Code places more strict limits (12 months) on the time allowed for the procuracy (the office which investigates cases and initiates public prosecutions) to end its investigation, and allows less time for the judge's panel (a body consisting of at least one judge and one lay assessor to rule on a case. Prior to being formally charged, a detainee has a statutory right to notify family members. However, in most cases the police inform the family of the detainee's whereabouts. Prior to being charged the detainee may contact a lawyer if permitted by the head of the investigating office; following a formal charge the detainee has a statutory right to contact an attorney.

The Supreme People's Procuracy approves the issuance of arrest warrants. However, police may make an arrest without a warrant on the basis of a complaint filed by any party alleging the commission of a crime. The MPS may prohibit contact between a detainee and his lawyer as long as the procurator's office is investigating a case, which may be up to 1 year and may be without formal charges. In general, time spent in pretrial detention counts toward time served upon conviction and sentencing.

Persons arrested for the peaceful expression of views opposed to official policy were subject to charge under any one of several provisions in the Criminal Code that outlaw acts against the State.

Prisoners who are "under investigation" sometimes experience harsher conditions than those who have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms. No official statistics are available on the percentage of the prison population that consists of pretrial detainees or the average period of time that such detainees have been held.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of political detainees, in part because the Government usually does not publicize such arrests and because the Government does not consider these persons to be detained for political reasons.

The Government continued to isolate certain political and religious activists by placing restrictions on their movements and by pressuring the supporters and family members of others. The Government continued to utilize its l997 decree on "administrative probation," which gives authorities extremely broad powers to place persons under surveillance, to monitor citizens closely, and to restrict movement. The regulations define "administrative probation" as an administrative penalty imposed on persons over the age of 18 who break the law and violate national security, as determined by the definition of crimes in the Criminal Code, but whose offenses are not at the level that warrants "criminal responsibility." The "probation" can last from 6 months to 2 years; persons under administrative probation must live and work in designated places, and remain subject to the "management and education of the local administration and people." The MPS is the lead agency in implementing the decree and uses these measures mainly against suspected political and religious activists.

To put someone under administrative probation, the chairperson of a district people's committee first collects dossiers on the person recommended for probation, then submits the dossiers to the chairperson of the Provincial People's Committee for a final decision. The district police, people's committees, wards, and townships all help collect information for the dossier. The dossier includes a person's curriculum vitae, his or her past criminal record, as well as any comments from the people's committee, the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF, the mass front organization controlled by the Communist Party), and the district police. The chairperson of the Provincial People's Committee uses the information to make a final decision on the probation. In effect, the decree allows the MPS to place persons under house arrest without trial for up to 2 years.

 

COURTS

The court system was reorganized in 1981 into four basic levels: the Supreme People's Court; the provincial municipal courts reporting to Hanoi; the local courts, chiefly at the district precinct levels, reporting respectively to provincial or municipal governments; and military courts. In addition, a number of specialized courts were created. In judicial procedure the courts still owed much to the French example, particularly with respect to the role of the procurator, who had much broader responsibilities than the prosecutor or district attorney under the Anglo-Saxon system.

On January 1, 1986, a new Penal Code officially went into effect after nearly five years of preparation. It contained 280 articles divided into 12 chapters or sections. Unlike earlier laws, the new code included detailed sections on juvenile and military offenders. The first eight chapters defined jurisdiction and judicial procedures; distinguished among infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies; and outlined sentencing procedures. The last section, consisting of four chapters, defined specific crimes and fixed penalties. The code identified seven categories of legal punishment: warning, fine, reform without detention, house arrest, imprisonment, life imprisonment, and death. There was no parole, but remission of punishment was possible and the conditions for it appeared to be lenient (eligibility for remission of a life-imprisonment sentence began after seven years). In general, definitions of crime were broad, vague, and could be interpreted so that virtually any antisocial word or deed was indictable. Penalties were stern and included capital punishment for a lengthy list of crimes. In 1986 Minister of Justice Phan Hien defended in writings and interviews the new code's long list of capital crimes, arguing that in general the code was liberal. He cited as evidence that polygamy was a crime, whereas adultery was not. Most serious crimes (all drawing the death penalty) were crimes endangering the national security, i.e., treason, "taking action to overthrow the people's government," espionage, rebellion, sabotage, terrorism, "undermining unity," spreading "antisocialist" propaganda, "disrupting security," obstructing or inciting to obstruct state agencies' activities, hijacking, destroying important national security projects and property, and "crimes against humanity."

Upon arrest, an individual was taken first to a Ministry of Interior records office where he was fingerprinted and interrogated, and where his record was checked. He was then remanded to a detention cell to be held until his trial. Posting bail to obtain temporary release was not practiced, although in some instances release on one's own recognizance was permitted.

Trials themselves were brief, businesslike, and conducted in an informal, somewhat nonjudicial atmosphere. All participants were expected to seek justice rather than simply to observe the letter of the law. The defense was supposed to proceed in an objective manner, meaning it was expected to pursue the truth and not to engage in courtroom tactics "that distort the truth or conceal the guilty person's faults." The defendant was expected to confine his efforts to presenting facts that proved his innocence or that supported his plea to the tribunal for reduction of the gravity of the charge. In most trials, defense strategy was not directed toward exoneration but toward a sentence of reform without detention.

Sentences for nonpolitical crimes, and particularly for less serious felonies, tended to fall into three categories: reform without detention, reform with detention, and detention (i.e., an ordinary prison sentence). Perhaps half of the sentences imposed for these crimes were of the first category, and the remaining half was divided more or less equally between the other two categories. The system rested on the assumption that most criminals could be rehabilitated, but the procedure required that the individual petition the court for rehabilitation. The court might also sentence a person to loss of civil rights, an auxiliary penalty that deprived the individual of certain rights for a specific period of time. Formal incarceration that resulted from judicial proceedings might be either in a prison or a work-reform camp (detention with labor). Vietnamese prisons imposed confinement in a manner more or less like prisons anywhere in the world. Work reform camps incarcerated prisoners as well, but also required them to perform outside physical labor, constructing roads, clearing brush, and similar tasks on contract for the state. Beyond confinement arising from judicial proceedings, there was also administrative detention that did not involve the courts and was usually the result of action by party officials. Eligible for this type of incarceration was a host of offenders that included juvenile delinquents, foreigners (chiefly Laotians), northerners who had defected to the South during the war, and "enemies of the people" (those judged to be dangerous to society by virtue of their social, political, economic, or family background). The largest and best known facilities for administrative detention were the re-education camps and social- labor camps. Both were "educative" in purpose and both were designed for "social negatives." The difference between the two, insofar as there was any, was that the re-education camp was for those whose attitudes, ideas, and beliefs required correction, while the social-labor camps were for those of "backward behavior," such as draft dodgers, tax evaders, and persons who "spread social negativism."

In official Hanoi thinking, there was a sharp difference between confinement as a result of judicial proceedings and administrative detention. Those who were incarcerated in a prison or a work-reform camp as the results of a court sentence were considered incorrigible or without social value. Prisoners confined under administrative detention were those for whom there was some hope of rehabilitation. While the individual inmate caught up in the system might find the distinction meaningless, it was important for an observer of the Vietnamese judicial and internal security system to bear in mind the distinction between the two institutions.

As of year 2001, the Constitution provides for the independence of judges and jurors; however, in practice the Party controls the courts closely at all levels, selecting judges at least in part for their political reliability. Constitutional safeguards are significantly lacking. Credible reports indicate that party and government officials, including top leaders, instruct courts how to rule on politically important cases. CPV and government officials may exert influence over court decisions by pressuring both the lay assessors and the judges who sit on a panel together to decide cases. The CPV has strong influence over high-profile cases, or in cases where a person is charged with challenging or harming the CPV or the State. The National Assembly votes for judicial nominees presented by the President for Supreme People's Court (SPC) President and Supreme People's Procurator. The National Assembly also controls the judiciary's budget, including judges' salaries, while the executive branch pays judges' salaries at the local level. By contrast, the procuracy, also a separate branch that reports to the National Assembly, has a unified line of command and controls its own budget. The President appoints all other judges.

The system of appointing judges and lay assessors also reflects the lack of judicial independence. Court panels at all levels include judges and lay assessors. However, while lay assessors help decide cases, they have little legal training. District and provincial people's councils appoint the lay assessors at the lower levels. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly appoints and discharges the SPC lay assessors. The VFF must approve candidates for SPC lay assessors. The President appoints the District People's Court and Provincial People's Court judges to 5-year terms. The President also appoints SPC judges. The CPV's influence over the courts is amplified both because the people's councils appoint the lay assessors, and because the judges serve limited terms and are subject to review.

The judiciary consists of the Supreme People's Court, the local people's courts, military tribunals, and other tribunals established by law. Each district throughout the country has a district people's court, which serves as the court of first instance for most domestic, civil, and criminal cases. Each province has a Provincial People's Court, which serves as the appellate forum for district court cases, as well as courts of first instance for other cases. The SPC is the highest court of appeal and review. The Ministry of Justice administers most district and provincial courts, and the National Assembly administers the SPC. The judiciary also includes military tribunals, economic courts, labor courts, and administrative courts that resolve disputes in those specialized fields. Administrative courts deal with complaints by citizens about official abuse and corruption. The economic and administrative courts have addressed few cases since their creation in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Local mass organizations, such as those under the VFF, are empowered to deal with minor breaches of law or disputes. In addition the CPV and Government have set up special committees to help resolve local disputes.

The Supreme People's Procuracy brings charges against the accused and serves as prosecutor during trials. A judging council, made up of a judge and one or more lay assessors, determines guilt or innocence and also passes sentence on the convicted. The relevant people's council appoints lay assessors, who are required to have high moral standards but need not have legal training. The legal institutional framework and legal culture, which favor the procuracy over the judiciary and preserve a presumption of guilt in criminal cases, constitute a major obstacle to free and fair trials. Although the Constitution asserts that citizens are innocent until proven guilty, a foreign legal expert who analyzed the court system during 2000 found that more than 95 percent of the persons who are charged with a crime are convicted.

Many judges and other court officials lacked adequate legal training, and the Government conducted training programs to address this problem. A number of foreign governments and the U.N. Development Program provided assistance to the Government to strengthen the rule of law and develop a more effective judiciary. However, the lack of openness in the judicial process and the continuing lack of independence of the judiciary undermined the Government's efforts to develop a fairer, more effective judicial system.

The amendments to the Criminal Code in July 2000 defined crimes more precisely than the previous code. The new code provides two or three levels of punishment for each crime, depending on the crime's seriousness and circumstances. The new code also provides "punishment brackets" (a range of possible fines or prison sentences) for a larger percentage of the crimes; less than 10 percent have no punishment bracket at all. The changes were intended to discourage abuse by law enforcement officials, allow courts to render verdicts and punishments more appropriate to the particular offense, hinder arbitrary sentencing by judicial panels, and allow crime to be punished more uniformly.

District courts may adjudicate cases for 346 of the 672 crimes defined in the country's legal statutes. The other 326 types of crimes (generally more serious) are adjudicated at the provincial level. In June the National Assembly rejected a bill that would have given district courts authority over 516 types of crimes. According to several National Assembly delegates the legislators were concerned that the change could have led to miscarriages of justice and an unnecessary increase in the prison population.

There is a shortage of trained lawyers and judges and no independent bar association. At the Supreme Court level, there is a 20 percent shortage of qualified judges. The shortage ranges from 30 to 40 percent at the provincial level, according to a U.N. official. Low salaries hinder the development of a trained judiciary. The few judges who have formal legal training often have studied abroad in countries with Socialist legal traditions and are slow to change. Young educated judges have little influence within the system.

Although the Constitution provides for legal counsel for persons accused of criminal offenses, the scarcity of lawyers makes this provision impossible to enforce. With few qualified attorneys, the procurator often handles both the prosecution and the defense, resulting in legal counsel that frequently is of little help to the defendant. Consistent with its Marxist-Leninist political system, the Government requires that the Bar Association be a subordinate part of the VFF. At the provincial level, the Bar Association is subordinate to representatives of the central Government, the VFF, the provincial people's council, and the people's committee.

Trials generally are open to the public; however, judicial authorities sometimes closed trials or strictly limited attendance in sensitive cases. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to have a lawyer. The defendant or the defense lawyer has the right to cross-examine witnesses. However, in political cases, there are credible reports that defendants are not allowed access to government evidence in advance of the trial, to cross-examine witnesses, or to challenge statements. Little information is available on the extent to which defendants and their lawyers have time to prepare for trials. Those convicted have the right to appeal.

The Government continued to imprison persons for the peaceful expression of dissenting religious and political views. There are no reliable estimates of the number of political prisoners, in part because the Government usually does not publicize such arrests, and sometimes conducts closed trials and sentencing sessions. Informed sources estimated that there were up to 150 political prisoners. However, many of the names included on these lists are difficult to verify. The number of confirmed political prisoners is much lower than 150.

 

CORRECTIONS

Under the Hanoi government, "control" was a legal term used both as a verb and a noun. "Control" meant use of state power to deal with individuals who committed either civil or political crimes judged not serious enough to warrant imprisonment, but serious enough to deserve reform without detention. "Control" referred also to the status of an individual under such sentence (also one released from prison but considered not fully reformed). Hence it combined the condition of being on parole with that of being in the custody of the court or under state surveillance. A person under "control" had to report periodically to local authorities to account for his activities and detail his efforts to reform. He was proscribed from certain occupations, including teaching, publishing, practicing medicine or pharmacy, and operating a restaurant, hotel, or bookstore. Such restrictions were deemed legal because one under "control" was considered to have already forfeited some of his civil rights, at least temporarily.

The mechanism of "control," called the People's Organ of Control, was hierarchically organized and formally defined by the 1980 Constitution. At the top was the Supreme People's Organ of Control, and at the bottom were the district and precinct organs of control. These institutions functioned to "control the observance of the law by the ministries, armed forces, state employees and citizens; to exercise the right of public prosecution; and to insure strict and uniform observance of the law." Their purview was "any act encroaching upon the interests of the State, the collective, or the lives, property, freedom, honor, and dignity of citizens." The underlying justification for their existence was that major internal security problems developed because of a breakdown in social discipline and that restoration of discipline was best achieved with a system of self-control or self-discipline. The system was composed of many activities: physical control; re-education and reform; indoctrination, emulation, and motivation; and education. Its essence was organization and motivation, and in the hands of skilled cadres it could harness social pressure to induce new attitudes and ways of thinking.

Massive relocation of the population, blandly called the "state redistribution of labor" program, began after reunification in 1976 and has been an integral part of the security effort. At least 5 million people have been uprooted in this process, known as "breaking the machine." While partly economic in its motivation, the relocation's main purpose has been to break up the existing social structure. In assigning individuals to new economic zones, for instance, care has been taken to scatter those from a single urban area or village to separate locations. The formation of new associations by these people was then supervised by the VCP, which used various mass movements and proletarian social organizations--augmented by communication and education programs intended to raise class consciousness--to help foster class struggle and to turn the middle and upper classes into social pariahs. This social ostracism was one of the reasons that many middle-class Vietnamese left the South after 1975 as "boat people."

The re-education camp remained the predominant device of social "control" in the late 1980s. It was used to incarcerate members of certain social classes in order to coerce them to accept and conform to the new social norms. This type of camp was one feature of a broader effort to control the social deviant and to campaign against counterrevolution and the resistance. The concept of re-education was borrowed from the Chinese communists and was developed early in the First Indochina War, at least in part because the nomadic government of North Vietnam was unable to maintain orthodox prisons. The process was continued in the North in 1954, but it came fully to the world's attention only after North Vietnam's takeover of the South in 1975. The camps were administered by PAVN or the Ministry of Interior, but they were not regarded as prisons and indeed were separate from the prison system. They were considered to be institutions where rehabilitation was accomplished through education and socially constructive labor. Only those who "deserved rehabilitation" (as opposed to those who deserved jail) were sent to the camps, where their political attitudes, work production records, and general behavior were closely monitored.

The re-education camp system, as it developed in the South, was both larger and more complex than its counterpart in the North. Three types of camps were created to serve three purposes--short-term re-education, long-term re-education, and permanent incarceration. The system was also organized into five levels.

There were two levels of short-term re-education. The first was the study camp or day study center which was located in or near a major urban center, often in a public park, and allowed attendees to return home each night. Courses, chiefly lectures to "teach socialism and unlearn the old ways lasted about thirty days." They were attended mostly by southern proletarians and juvenile delinquents. These level-one camps, which instructed perhaps 500,000 people, were the most common kind in the South in the first few years after the end of the Second Indochina War, but were phased out near the end of the 1970s. The level-two camps were similar in purpose to level one camps, but they required full-time attendance for three to six months, during which time the inmate was obliged to supply his own food. Security was minimal, and it was possible simply to walk away from the camp, although later arrest was likely. During the 1970s, there were some 300 of these level-two camps in the South, with at least 200,000 inmates. Some level-two camps remained in the 1980s, although most had been phased out.

Long-term re-education was undertaken at level-three camps. Termed the collective reformatory, level three had thought reform as its purpose. Whereas re-education of individuals in the first two levels of camps was regarded chiefly as a matter of informing them of the "truth" and making them aware of facts about the new social order, reforming the thought of those in level-three camps required a process of deeper examination and analysis. The orientation was both more psychological and more intellectual. Although the inmate was apt to be better educated, and thus less susceptible to manipulation, than most Vietnamese, the system considered him salvageable. The level-three camps at their most prevalent, in the late 1970s, were found in every province in southern Vietnam and dealt with at least 50,000 persons. Although the camps were still in use both in the North and South, by 1987 the number had decreased.

The third type of re-education camp, the socialist-reform camp, was intended for permanent incarceration, and re-education involved indoctrination and forced labor. When these camps were first established in the South, individuals were assigned according to the probable time that each person's re-education would require. Level-four camp inmates were said to require three years and level-five camp inmates, five years. For this reason the two were commonly termed "three-year-sentence" and "five-year-sentence" camps. Their true purpose, it became apparent eventually, was to incarcerate certain southern individuals--including educators, legislators, province chiefs, writers, and supreme court judges--until the South was judged stable enough to permit their release. In 1987 at least 15,000 were still incarcerated in level-four and level-five camps. When the three-year or five-year period expired, they were simply sentenced to three or five more years of re-education.

Initially, the five levels of re-education were structured in ascending order of perceived individual recalcitrance and ascending length of incarceration. In 1987, however, only the level-three camp remained dedicated to its original purpose. The level-four and level-five camps were simply detention centers for those judged potentially dangerous to the system. Camp conditions were reportedly poor, with little food, no medicine, and a high death rate.

Perhaps the most effective instrument of social control in the 1980s was the "revolutionary vigilance" surveillance system, commonly called "the warden method." In theory at least, every hamlet, city block, state farm, factory, school, and state and party office had its own Revolutionary Vigilance Committee headed by a warden and made up of a team of neighbors, usually 25 to 40 households (120 to 300 persons). Institutionally, the Vigilance Committee was described as neither party nor state, but a form of alliance. Its purpose was to "help the government in all ways and aspects," specifically by monitoring the behavior of its members, reporting public opinion to higher authorities, and promoting various state and party policies and programs locally. The committee's authority was shored up by the Ho Khau registration system, which required each individual to have an identity card and each family to have a family registration certificate or residence permit (listing the names of all persons authorized to live at one address). Both identification cards and family registration certificates were checked frequently by security cadres.

It is historical fact that social "control" as administered by the Vietnamese party and government worked impressively over the years to organize, mobilize, and motivate the society to serve the interests of national security. It produced an implacably determined military force and an internal security system that virtually policed itself. However, it was evident by the late 1980s that the system no longer worked as well as it once had. The Political Bureau acknowledged the influence of "negativism" that endangered the "quality of socialist life," and military and security service professional journals emphasized the need to improve security methods, including "techniques for suppressing rebellions." Although the spread of full-scale social unrest in Vietnam was not likely, the idea was no longer unthinkable.

What developed in Vietnam in the 1980s was not so much a rise in internal security consciousness on the part of the government as a change in public attitudes toward security problems. Military and public alertness to the dangers of counterrevolution, crime, and antisocial behavior diminished to the point of indifference. Nguyen Van Linh, before his appointment as VCP general secretary in 1986, complained that the "spirit of vigilance" was lagging in Vietnam and that "some individuals suffer[ed] from revolutionary vigilance paralysis." Massive indoctrination campaigns, undertaken to correct this shortcoming by arousing public concern, apparently met with indifferent results. The condition was symptomatic of a society that was beginning to be buffeted by the winds of change.

Detailed information on Vietnam's prison system--the number and location of its prisons and the size of its prison population--has always been extraordinarily difficult to obtain, and much of the information available in 1987 was questionable. Hanoi had not published anything of consequence on the subject. Credible available data tended to combine statistics on prison, work-reform camps, and administrative detention facilities. Each of the forty Vietnamese provinces had at least one prison with a capacity ranging from about 1,000 to 5,000 inmates. Some provinces also had what were called model prisons, which resembled new economic zones in that, in the spirit of modern penology, they offered the prisoners financial incentives to engage in agricultural production. Most of the district capitals had small prisons or detention centers, and the PPSF (or PSS) operated detention cells in most villages and some hamlets. In addition, there were perhaps a dozen central (or national) prisons that could hold as many as 40,000 inmates. The largest of these were the Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi (with a branch in Haiphong) and the Chi Hoa prison outside Ho Chi Minh City. The major cities also had detention centers (Hanoi had 18, which could hold 500 prisoners each) where individuals were held awaiting trial.

Life in a Vietnamese prison, as reported by ex-prisoners, was harsh. There were work details for those in prisons, as well as in the work-reform camps, that chiefly involved agricultural production for prison use. Rehabilitation lectures were held daily, and prisoners spent much time describing past behavior and thoughts in detail in their dossiers. Visitors were permitted only infrequently in most prisons. Discipline was strict, and prisons in particular were well guarded; usually there was 1 guard for every 250 prisoners. In general, the use of torture, corporal punishment, and what might be termed police brutality were no longer legal but were still condoned by officials and even accepted by the general public.

As of year 2001, prison conditions are harsh, but do not generally threaten the lives of prisoners. There were no reported differences in male and female death rates in prison. Overcrowding, insufficient diet, and poor sanitation remained serious problems. Prison guards sometimes treat prisoners badly and frequently beat them. Inmates punished with solitary confinement are stripped and locked in a small windowless shed for days or even weeks at a time. They are given one small bowl of rice for lunch and dinner and a single bucket of water each day. Conditions in pretrial detention reportedly were particularly harsh, and there were credible reports that authorities sometimes denied inmates access to sunlight, exercise, and reading material. The pretrial detention system provides few rights. Prisoners who await trial and remain "under investigation" sometimes experience harsher conditions than those convicted and sentenced. After trial a prisoner is sent to a different location. Most prisoners have access to basic health care. Prisoners with money can improve their conditions by purchasing supplemental food, medicine, and privileges. However, some political and other prisoners were denied visitation rights, and there were reports that some prisons required inmates to work for little or no pay. Prisoners sentenced to hard labor complained that their diet and medical care were insufficient to sustain health, especially in remote, disease-ridden areas. Although political and religious prisoners are held under harsh conditions in remote prisons, such as Z30a at Xuan Loc in an isolated part of Dong Nai province, with limited medical care, there is no evidence to suggest their conditions are significantly different than those for the regular prison population.

The Government did not permit independent monitoring of its prison and detention system.

 

WOMEN

International NGO workers and many women reported that domestic violence against women was common. The law addresses the problem of domestic violence, officials increasingly acknowledge the problem, and it is increasingly discussed in the media; however, authorities do not enforce the law effectively. Reportedly about two-thirds of divorces are due in part to domestic violence, and the divorce rate has risen dramatically in the past few years, but many women likely remain in abusive marriages rather than confront the stigma and economic uncertainty of divorce.

Under the Penal Code it is a crime to use violence, threaten violence, take advantage of a victim being unable to act in self-defense, or resort to trickery to have sexual intercourse with a victim against that person's will. This is believed to criminalize rape, spousal rape, and, in some instances, sexual harassment. However, there are no known instances of prosecution for spousal rape.

Prostitution, although officially illegal, appears to be tolerated widely. Some women are coerced to work as prostitutes, and some are victimized by false promises of lucrative work. Many more women feel compelled to work as prostitutes because of poverty and a lack of other employment opportunities. The HCMC People's Committee acknowledged that more than 10,000 women in the city engaged in prostitution. Hanoi, the port cities of Danang and Haiphong, and smaller cities such as Can Tho and Nha Trang also have large numbers of women engaged in prostitution. There are reports that some persons in HCMC addicted young women to heroin and forced them to work as prostitutes to earn money for drugs. Parents often expect an eldest daughter to assume responsibility for a significant part of the family's finances. There are reports that parents coerced daughters into prostitution or made such extreme financial demands on them that they felt compelled to engage in prostitution. The Women's Union and Youth Union, as well as international and domestic NGO's, are engaged actively in education and rehabilitation programs to combat these abuses.

Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, both domestically and internationally, is a serious problem.

While there is no legal discrimination, women face deeply ingrained societal discrimination. Despite provisions in the Constitution, in legislation, and in regulations that mandate equal treatment, and although some women occupy high government posts, few women compete successfully for higher status positions. The Government has ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on Equal Remuneration and Discrimination in Employment. The Constitution provides that women and men must receive equal pay for equal work; however, the Government does not adequately enforce this provision. Very poor women, especially in rural areas but also in cities, perform menial work in construction, waste removal, and other jobs for extremely low wages. Despite the large body of legislation and regulations devoted to the protection of women's rights in marriage as well as in the workplace, and Labor Law provisions that call for preferential treatment of women, women do not always receive equal treatment. Nevertheless, women play an important role in the economy and are engaged widely in business and in social and educational institutions. Opportunities for young professional women have increased markedly in the past few years, with greater numbers entering the civil service, universities, and the private sector.

The party-controlled Women's Union has a broad agenda to promote women's rights, including political, economic, and legal equality, and protection from spousal abuse. The Women's Union operates micro-credit consumer finance programs and other programs to promote the advancement of women. International NGO's and other international organizations regard the Union as effective, but they and Women's Union representatives believe that much time is required to overcome societal attitudes that relegate women to lower status than men. The Government also has a committee for the advancement of women, which coordinates interministerial programs that affect women.

 

CHILDREN

International organizations and Government agencies reported that despite the Government's promotion of child protection and welfare, children continue to be at risk of economic exploitation. While education is compulsory through the age of 14, the authorities did not enforce the requirement, especially in rural areas where government and family budgets for education are strained. Thousands of children work in exploitative child labor, although these practices occur almost exclusively on family farms, in family businesses, or in private, small-scale enterprises. On May 25, the country ratified two optional protocols to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, one on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the second on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. The Government continued a nationwide immunization campaign, and the government-controlled press regularly stressed the importance of health and education for all children. While reports from domestic sources indicate that responsible officials generally took these goals seriously, concrete actions are constrained by severely limited budgets. According to the World Bank, despite growth in incomes over the past decade, severe malnutrition remains an entrenched problem; approximately 45 percent of children under 5 years of age suffer from stunted growth.

Widespread poverty contributed to continued child prostitution, especially of girls, but also of some boys, in major cities. Many prostitutes in HCMC are girls between the ages of 15 and 17. One NGO advocate stated that some child prostitutes, such as those from abusive homes, are forced into prostitution for economic reasons, having few other choices available to them. There were reports that some persons addicted young girls to heroin and forced them to work as prostitutes to earn money for drugs.

Some children are trafficked domestically, and others are trafficked to foreign destinations for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Press reports documented the conviction and imprisonment of some traffickers. The authorities also are concerned about cases in which parents have received payments in exchange for releasing their babies for adoption.

According to a government report on child labor, there are 20,000 street children in the country. Street children are vulnerable to abuse and sometimes are abused or harassed by police

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

The Penal Code prohibits trafficking in women and children; however, trafficking in women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and for labor, both domestically and internationally, is a serious problem. While no law specifically prohibits trafficking in men, existing laws could be used to prosecute traffickers who recruit or send men abroad to work for "illegitimate profits" or illegal purposes. Incidents of trafficking of adult males domestically or abroad are rare. While reliable statistics on the numbers of citizens trafficked are not available there is evidence that the numbers have grown in recent years.

Vietnam is both a country of origin and transit for trafficking. Vietnamese women are trafficked to Cambodia and China for sexual exploitation and arranged marriages. According to one report, between 1990 and 2000, approximately 20,000 young women and girls were sent to China to become brides, domestic workers, or prostitutes; however, it is not clear how many were victims of trafficking (observers believe many, if not most, of these young women were voluntary migrants and, at least initially, not victims of trafficking). Between 1995 and 2000, approximately 5,000 women and children were trafficked to and escaped from Cambodia. Some Vietnamese women also have been trafficked to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There also have been reports that some Vietnamese women going to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and China as "mail-order brides" have become victims of trafficking. Women and children also are trafficked within Vietnam, usually from rural to urban areas. The country also is a transit point for trafficking. Typically, persons are trafficked from China or the Middle East to Australia, Europe, or Canada; however, this appears to have decreased during the year.

Some children are trafficked domestically, and others are trafficked to foreign destinations for the purpose of prostitution. An NGO advocate estimated that the average age of trafficked girls was between 15 and 17 years. Although statistics are not reliable, women and girls are trafficked from southern delta and highland provinces to Cambodia and from northern provinces into China generally for the purposes of prostitution, domestic work, or marriage. The Vietnam Women's Union and Youth Union are especially active in drawing attention to these problems and helping with education programs to warn vulnerable families of the dangers of deception by those who would lure young women and children into prostitution.

There are reports that some women from HCMC and the Mekong Delta who married men from Taiwan were forced into prostitution after their arrival in Taiwan. There is reported trafficking in women to the Macau Special Administrative Region of China with the assistance of organizations in China that are ostensibly marriage service bureaus, international labor organizations, and travel agencies. After arrival women can be forced into conditions similar to indentured servitude; some may be forced into prostitution.

Poor women and teenage girls, especially those from rural areas, are most at risk for being trafficked. Some are sold by their families as domestic workers or for sexual exploitation. In some cases, traffickers pay families several hundred dollars (a large sum for many families) in exchange for allowing their daughter to go to Cambodia for an "employment offer." Many victims face strong pressure to make significant contributions to the family income. Others are offered lucrative jobs by acquaintances. False advertising, debt bondage, confiscation of documents, and threats of deportation are other methods commonly used by the traffickers, spouses, and employers.

Individual opportunists and informal networks, rather than organized groups, lure poor, often rural, women with promises of jobs or marriage and force them to work as prostitutes. There appears to be some organized crime involvement in the transit of trafficked persons through the country.

Corruption is a serious problem at all levels, and some officials may be involved in the flow of overseas workers into exploitative conditions or into trafficking. While it is likely that some individual officials have assisted traffickers, there is no evidence of official, institutional, or government involvement in trafficking in persons.

There have been allegations supported by evidence that state-owned labor supply companies trafficked workers, primarily women and girls, to American Samoa, where they were employed by a Korean-owned garment manufacturer, Daewoosa. There are allegations that these workers were subjected to debt bondage, mistreated, threatened, and abused. These or similar allegations are being raised in civil and criminal cases pending in U.S. courts, although no Vietnamese companies or officials are defendants in the criminal case. As a result of this case, the Government initiated a widely publicized review of the operations and finances of licensed labor supply companies, which resulted in the temporary or permanent suspension of the operating licenses of the two state-owned enterprises that supplied labor to Daewoosa. The Government also brought charges against, and convicted, an official from one of those enterprises in relation to the Daewoosa case.

The Government increased its efforts during the year to prosecute traffickers. The law provides for prison sentences of 2 to 20 years for persons found guilty of trafficking women, and for 3-year to life prison sentences for persons found guilty of trafficking children. Some traffickers have been convicted and imprisoned. The Government is working with international NGO's to supplement law enforcement measures and is cooperating with other national governments to prevent trafficking. In 2000 it signed an agreement with Australia stating a mutual commitment to combat trafficking in women and children. It also cooperates closely with countries within the INTERPOL and ASIANPOL frameworks.

Official Vietnamese institutions including MOLISA, the Women's Union, the Youth Union and the Committee for Protection and Care of Children have active programs in place aimed at prevention and victims' protection. These programs included publicity to warn women and girls of these dangers, repatriation programs to help female returnees, and vocational training for teenage girls in communities considered vulnerable to trafficking in persons. Government agencies worked closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a number of international NGO's to provide temporary shelter, some medical services, education, and rehabilitation to returned trafficking victims. Although voluntary commercial sex workers are subject to criminal sanctions, the Government seeks to assist trafficking victims. Trafficking victims in general are not treated as criminals, but women trafficked into prostitution may be prosecuted for prostitution.

Government agencies work with international NGO's on mass media campaigns, community outreach visits, distribution of leaflets, and vocational training in their efforts to prevent trafficking. In one project, IOM and the Women's Union trained 7,000 activists for community outreach and distributed half a million pamphlets in 14 of the country's provinces most vulnerable to trafficking.

 

DRUG TRAFFICKING

In 1998, Vietnam began staffing its Drug Control Committee secretariat and approved a drug control action plan. Trafficking through Vietnam continued at a high level and may be increasing, but has been accompanied by a steady increase in arrests. Opium poppy cultivation appears to have declined in 1998, after an increase in 1997. Vietnam is highly supportive of bilateral and international cooperation to stem the flow of drugs into the country and sponsored two international conferences in Hanoi during the year. It also sent capable delegations to other international conferences. The United States Government (USG) and the Government of Vietnam (GOV) are expanding bilateral cooperation, including negotiating a counternarcotics agreement and exchanging information on drug trafficking cases. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will open an office in Hanoi in 1999. In November 1997 Vietnam became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

In recent years Vietnam has become an important transit route for heroin and more recently for amphetamines. Narcotics flow into Vietnam from drug producing areas in Burma, Thailand, Laos, and China along Vietnam's long mountainous borders. Drugs entering the country are used locally and transshipped to other destinations. Increased availability of heroin and methamphetamines has fueled a sharp increase in domestic drug abuse.

Vietnam initiated a new drug control action plan to cover the period 1998-2000. Signed by the Prime Minister in July, the plan calls for a new campaign to raise awareness and prevent young people from participating in trafficking and drug abuse, efforts to eradicate opium and cannabis cultivation, increased efforts to improve law enforcement, and increased international cooperation. Party Secretary General Le Kha Phieu addressed a national conference in October to discuss implementation of the plan. The National Drug Control Committee, created in 1997 and headed by a Deputy Prime Minister, assumed responsibility for drug control coordination. The central government allocated the equivalent of $3 million for drug control in 1998 to fund law enforcement, alternative development, treatment and rehabilitation, education, mass organizations, and local administration. This year the GOV formed the Vietnamese Marine Police under the Vietnamese Navy to control smuggling and enforce maritime laws and regulations.

The Office of the National Drug Control Committee, staffed largely by officers of the Ministry of Public Security, began operation in March 1998. The Committee organized regional conferences in Hanoi, such as the Senior Officials Committee of six sub-regional countries in May, and an ASEAN Regional Conference on Drug Abuse Among Youth in November. It also prepared senior Vietnamese officials for international meetings, such as the UN Special Session on Drugs in June, and coordinated preparation of the drug control action plan.

The GOV set up border control task forces, with help from the UNDCP, which provided training and some equipment, to promote needed collaboration among police, customs, and border defense forces. Mobile teams formed to work with the task forces are expected to begin operating in early 1999.

Each year Vietnamese law-enforcement authorities handle an escalating number of narcotics cases, many resulting in arrest and prosecution. The number of arrests grew from 3600 in 1995 to 6600 in 1996, over 14,000 in 1997, and over 18,000 in 1998. In 1998, arrests were up 28 percent, and the quantity of heroin seized more than doubled. Most of the seizures are in the form of small doses, indicating that local pushers are being targeted. The police launched a nation-wide crackdown in December, arresting over a 1000 dealers in a two-week period. Vietnamese law deals harshly with drug traffickers, who may be sentenced to death for possession of as little as 100 grams of heroin and 5 kilograms of opium. In 1998 Vietnamese courts imposed the death penalty against 19 people convicted of drug charges and sentenced 11 defendants to life imprisonment. The increase in seizures and arrests resulted from both more active counternarcotics efforts by the police and continued high incidents of drug trafficking activity.

The Vietnamese Government does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of drugs or laundering of the proceeds. A drug ring that involved police and other officials was broken in 1996. No new corruption cases were exposed publicly in 1998.

The USG and the GOV are nearing completion of a bilateral Letter of Agreement on Counternarcotics Cooperation. In 1998, Vietnam concluded counternarcotics cooperation agreements with Thailand, Laos, Russia, Malaysia, and The Philippines. Vietnam and Cambodia signed a Memorandum of Understanding, paving the way for a future agreement, and the Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam and in China have agreed to cooperate in the fight against drugs. Vietnam is a party to the 1962 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1972 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Vietnam is a member of the Counternarcotics Accord for the Mekong Sub-Region and the ASEAN Drug Control Cooperation Program. In concert with the other ASEAN member countries, Vietnam signed the Declaration for a Drug-Free ASEAN at the Manila meeting in July. The declaration records ASEAN's intention to rid the region of illicit drug production, processing, trafficking, and use by the year 2020.

USG survey figures show a decline in the area used for opium poppy cultivation from 6,150 hectares in 1997 to 3,000 hectares in 1998. The Vietnam Government reports that 443 hectares had been planted with opium poppy this year and that only 3 hectares were harvested. It claims that no opium was produced in Vietnam from the 1997-98 harvest due to a drought. The difference in estimates may be partly explained by the fact that many fields are inaccessible and hard to measure accurately from the ground. So far no heroin refining has been detected in Vietnam.

Over the last year, inexpensive amphetamines entered Vietnam from China, while heroin, ecstasy, and LSD entered through Laos. Major trafficking routes continue to be Highway No. 6 from Laos through Lai Chau Province northwest of Hanoi, from China through Lao Cai Province, and along Highway No. 7 from Laos through Nghe An Province south of Hanoi. Drugs transiting Vietnam go primarily to Australia and North America and secondarily to Europe, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. According to the Vietnamese police, at least 60 percent of all drugs seized in Vietnam come from Laos. Because of a bilateral agreement, container cargo traffic from Laos to Vietnamese coastal ports is not inspected in Vietnam. Vietnamese narcotics reports indicate increased cannabis and heroin smuggling from Cambodia as well as drug smuggling by sea from Thailand to the Ho Chi Minh City area. Chinese crime syndicates operate in Vietnam and may be laundering drug profits by investing in development projects.

International organizations support a number of drug treatment programs. Rehabilitation efforts have not been very successful, however, and drug abuse may be spreading to younger age groups. Official figures list 130,000 drug users, a decrease from the 180,000 previously reported, but some officials acknowledge that the figures significantly understate the extent of the problem. Reports indicate that at least 70 percent of drug users are less than 30 years of age and that about 3,000 addicts are of school age. Heroin is still the drug of choice, but use of amphetamine, ecstasy, and LSD is rapidly increasing. Police believe that 70 percent of robbery cases in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are drug-related. The National AIDS Committee reports that 80 percent of persons infected with HIV are intravenous drug users.

The United States Government supports three UNDCP anti-drug projects, drug abuse prevention in schools, training for community-based treatment and rehabilitation, and interdiction and seizure capacity building. The two demand reduction related projects began in June 1998.

The USG and the GOV are on the verge of concluding a bilateral counternarcotics cooperation letter of agreement. The agreement will provide the legal basis for USG assistance programs to strengthen Vietnamese law enforcement capabilities.

DEA instructors conducted seminars on effective counternarcotics operations at DEA and UNDCP workshops attended by Vietnamese police, customs, and border security forces in July and November. The U.S. Customs Service held a train-the-trainer program for Vietnamese customs officials in Hanoi in August. The programs were well attended and much appreciated. Vietnam sent a Vice Minister of Public Security, the Chief of the National Drug Control Program Office, and two other officials to the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) "Key Leaders" Conference in November in Bangkok. The delegation expressed Vietnam's intention to participate in ILEA training programs, which will begin in early 1999. The DEA and Vietnamese anti- narcotics police have developed a positive working relationship, enabling them to share information and intelligence and to anticipate additional areas of cooperation. DEA will assign agents to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in 1999, allowing them to work more closely with their Vietnamese counterparts.

The Vietnamese Government is preparing a separate law to deal with drug crimes, which it hopes will receive National Assembly approval in 2000. The Vietnamese criminal code needs further revision to provide a legal basis for protecting police informants, conducting undercover operations, preserving evidence in drug cases, and regulating extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements with other countries. Vietnam requires additional resources to strengthen agencies with anti-narcotics responsibility, as well as for drug abuse prevention and education programs. Police and prosecutors need to coordinate their efforts to improve the quality of drug case investigation. They also need to work more closely with their counterparts in neighboring countries to make their law-enforcement efforts more successful.

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Dr. Robert Winslow
rwinslow@mail.sdsu.edu
San Diego State University