Commentary: It has been a common occurrence in Vietnam that people are beaten up to death during the custody at police station. About a dozen persons are found dead yearly for minor traffic violations during the police custody. Such victims rarely get the justice they deserve as the perpetrators or police officers hide behind the protection “accidents during police duty,” who receive usually very light sentence of a few years.
In a real democracy, such occurrence of murders during the police custody, the minister of Interior or Public Security may have been forced to resign because the minister is held accountable for the actions or bad behaviors of his subordinates. In Vietnam, the minister of Public Security is unharmed by the scandalous murders and instead is further promoted to the Major General rank.
Nowadays, the Vietnamese authorities plan to give “carte blanche” or “license to kill” to the police and security forces to use against any resistance. The motive of this new bill has more implications than just purely to allow the security force agents to defend themselves. This bill wants to intimidate the citizens with democratic aspirations and human rights activity. The regime is legalizing the use of force on its citizens if Spring may arrive to Vietnam.
Under a draft regulation proposed by the Ministry of Public Security, police in Vietnam including traffic officers are allowed to shoot their aggressive attackers with guns in a bid to curb the increasing violent assaults on law-enforcement forces.
Tran Vi Dan, deputy head of the Legislation Department under the Ministry of Public Security, said that the draft is aimed at protecting on-duty officers but does not allow them to abuse power.
Under the draft, on-duty officers are permitted to use force and assisting instruments (e.g bludgeons, tasers) to overpower and detain their attackers in case the assault shows signs of a “not-serious crime” and allowed to use guns if the assault is deemed a “very serious crime”.
Statistics show that more than 8,500 assaults on-duty officers have been reported and 13,700 assaulters have been detained in the past 10 years.
Accordingly, police took criminal proceedings against 11,000 assaulters in 6,900 cases, 90 percent of whom acted against police forces involved in traffic safety, social orders, and drug crimes.
The draft has ignited disagreement from some.
Colonel Mai Van Tan, former chief of criminal investigation at the Social Order Department, supported this proposed regulation, citing a reason that criminals, gangs and some violators are becoming more aggressive and ready to attack on-duty officers with deadly weapons.
“It is necessary to open fire if violators not only ignore orders but also attack police with knives and swords,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawyer Ha Hai of the Ho Chi Minh City’s Lawyers’ Association, show his concerns that it could lead to power abuse among police forces.
Hai called for more detailed guidelines on cases where guns are allowed.
“I think police should open fire in some cases where their lives are really in danger. For other cases, they should implement detention measures,” he added.
Agreeing with Hai, professor Dang Ngoc Dinh, director of Community Development Study Center, said the proposal should be carefully considered before being made into law.
“Police should use martial skills or assisting instruments to constrain violators,” he suggested.