>> Vietnam has no policy to arrest demonstrators
>> Hanoi orders end to anti-China demonstrations
The information on the planned new law was confirmed by the minister of justice last week during a session of the National Assembly’s standing committee.
Tuoi Tre had an interview with Major General, Associate Professor, Doctor Le Van Cuong, former head of the public security ministry’s Institute of Strategy:
Tuoi Tre: Demonstration is one of the most basic rights of a citizen, to show their attitude towards a domestic or international issue on the macro scale or things directly related to their lives.
If we look at the world, demonstrations are normal in a civilized society. So we can say that building a law on demonstrations is necessary and very normal.
This is necessary but so far we only have the decree No 38 that regulates measures on ensuring public order. We are yet to have a full law on demonstrations. Why is that?
It is not by chance that the right to demonstrations is included in the Vietnamese constitution. The constitutions in 1959, 1980, 1992 and 2001 all state that citizens have the right to carry out demonstrations in line with the law.
So we see that the policy of the Party and State is very consistent. But we are yet to have a law on demonstrations probably, I think, because of the previous model for national development…
Can you clarify on this?
According to the previous model, state economy and cooperatives play a dominant role while other economic sectors [like the private ones] account for an insignificant proportion.
So it means that the workers were their own bosses and there were no employer-employee relationship…so it led to the notion that there was no need for demonstrations.
But since the 6th Party Congress, we have been implementing renovation and building the country towards the market-oriented economy so there emerged totally new issues. In the new context, a large segment works in FDI projects, joint ventures, shareholding companies…
It is clear that such people are mostly employees, not employers so there naturally appears the need for such people to express their opinions to protect their interests.
We have many strikes every year at industrial zones across the country. Strikers demand pay raise, better working condition.. I think the situation exists objectively and need to be protected by the law.
But not only factory workers but people from other walks of life also need demonstrations. What do you think about this?
The citizens can demonstrate to show their support for a certain policy or activity of the government. They can demonstrate to support the trend of development, cooperation and peace in the world or protest against elements wanting to wage war or instability.
Local governments - in addition to hundreds of right things - must at some point have done something that does not reflect the public wishes, so the people may demonstrate to express their opinions. Such are legitimate rights.
They may take part in demonstrations to protest against companies that pollute the environment…
According to the head of the national assembly’s legislative committee Phan Trung Ly, besides support for the proposed demonstration law, there are concerns that if passed, it would enable bad [political] elements to demonstrate to damage the government.
We only fear in the absence of the law. If the law is clear, no one can take advantage of it to harm society, harm the State. We assert that the state belongs to the people, was created by the people and serves the people, so what should we fear?
I always think that our people are good-natured, have a close-knit attachment to the Party so we need to trust them, not fear them.
What are the basic points in the future law on demonstrations?
On the part of the citizens, rights must go hand in hand with obligations. For example, if you want to take apart in a demonstration, you must inform the government 10 days in advance about what you will demonstrate, which streets you would take, the number of demonstrators, the banners, slogans…
Then, there is the responsibility of state organs. In general, we must ensure legal corridor for both sides to work, and avoid extreme actions. All civilized countries do the same.
According to the current decree No 38 on public order, people wanting to hold mass gatherings must register with the local People’s Committee. And the committees have the right to reject such gatherings. So we need specific rules on rejections…
We need to state clearly that local state organs in charge of handling demonstration requests must response within a certain time and there must be transparency in this issue.
If the people want to express their opinions in line with the law, the state organs must agree to their requests
Demonstrations are demonstrations, not ‘mass gatherings’
General Cuong told Tuoi Tre that “we are accustomed to marches, gatherings to support a cause… but not accustomed to demonstrations to protest something. We must get used to that notion in a civilized society. A state is not born to perfection but must need practical activities to gradually improve itself”
“As society develops, it’s normal to have certain obstacles but state organs are not aware fully of them. It is the stagnation of mindsets, not catching up with life” “When the people demonstrate, it should not be called “mass gatherings”. Gatherings indicate the low level of demonstrations”.