Libmonster ID: VN-1206
Author(s) of the publication: P. Y. TSVETOV


Candidate of Historical Sciences

Keywords: Vietnam, constitution, Parliament, human and civil rights

Citizens of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) celebrated the new year 2014 with a new Constitution. More precisely, with the new text of the Constitution of 1992, amended and supplemented at the session of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in November 2013. But since 90% of the articles of the basic law have been altered, it should be recognized that this event is of particular importance for the development of the Vietnamese state and society.

The work to change the Constitution has been going on for more than two years, and millions of Vietnamese have participated in it. However, it should not be assumed that the adoption of the amendments was fully approved by the deputies of the parliament, although the draft passed with 97% in favor. Serious discussions were held on many articles of the Constitution, and some proposals could have resulted in changes in principle.

Thus, a proposal to change the official name of the state was discussed. Some considered it necessary to go back to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam proposed by Ho Chi Minh in 1945; others wanted to go even deeper into history and suggested naming the country as it was called by the emperors - Daivet. There were other proposals that hid, but poorly, the desire of their authors to deny Vietnam a socialist perspective.

However, members of the Vietnamese parliament voted to keep the current name of the country - the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.


To evaluate the current text, it is useful to present the process of Vietnam's constitutional development in historical retrospect.

The first Constitution of Vietnam was adopted on November 8, 1946. By that time, a little over a year had passed since the declaration of independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and therefore it is clear how important the provisions on the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country enshrined in the text of the Constitution were. However, this was more of a declaration, since at that time no state in the world recognized Vietnam's independence, and the French colonialists continued to consider Cochin - the southern part of the country they occupied-as a separate political and administrative entity.

In general, the 1946 Constitution was bourgeois-democratic in nature. It recognized basic human rights for Vietnamese citizens, equality regardless of gender, nationality, or religious affiliation, and guaranteed the inviolability of private property. Article 1 defined Vietnam as a democratic republic. Parliamentary elections were to be held every three years.

The head of an independent state was considered to be the President (in Vietnamese - "chu tich", literally translated-chairman) of the DRV. He was also the head of government 1.

It is difficult to talk about the implementation of the articles of the Constitution of 1946. After all, until 1954, a significant part of the territory of Vietnam was under the strict control of the French colonialists. And the text of the new Constitution of Vietnam was ready by the end of 1959.

Vietnam's second Constitution, promulgated on January 1, 1960, was described by President Ho Chi Minh as socialist. Probably, the leader of the Vietnamese revolution meant that the new basic law of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam establishes the socialist choice of the country. Article 9 stated that Vietnam "is making a gradual transition from the people's democratic system to socialism by developing and transforming the national economy into a socialist one." The guarantee of such development was supposed to be article 10, which stated that the state manages economic activity according to a single plan. The Constitution recognized the legality of the existence of various forms of ownership, including the ownership of the national bourgeoisie2.

Elections to the National Assembly of the DRV were to be held every four years.

An essential point of the "Constitution of 1959" (this is its official name) were

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articles that reflect the multinational composition of the country. The Basic Law not only gave each nation and nationality the right to use their native language and develop national culture, but also allowed the formation of autonomous regions in places where small peoples were densely settled.3 Two such districts were created in North Vietnam and lasted until the mid-70s of the XX century.

The third Constitution of Vietnam was adopted in December 1980. It even more consistently affirmed the socialist choice of the country, which reflected the political situation of that time.

It is worth recalling that after the overthrow of the pro - American Saigon regime, the reunification of Vietnam and the proclamation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July 1976, Vietnam's ties with the vanguard of the socialist system, the Soviet Union, were further strengthened. The Vietnamese leadership, led by the General Secretary of the CPV Central Committee, Le Zuan, began to copy the Soviet model of socialism in many ways. Soviet legal consultants headed by Academician V. N. Kudryavtsev were invited to work on the text of the new Constitution. Hence the very" Soviet " text of the new constitution.

Following the example of the USSR constitutions, for the first time the article on the Communist Party as the sole governing force of the state and society was included in the Vietnamese basic law (Article 4).4 Article 38 gave Marxist-Leninist theory a place that determines the worldview of citizens. Transformations in the economy and society should be carried out in the direction of reducing all forms of ownership to two - state (national) and collective 5.

The state system of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was defined as a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, whose historical mission is to build socialism, to come to communism (Article 2).6

The Constitution of 1980 very clearly defined the foreign policy priorities of the Vietnamese state: fraternal friendship, military solidarity and comprehensive cooperation with the USSR, Cambodia and Laos, and other countries of the socialist community, as well as the struggle against American imperialism and Chinese hegemonism.

Significant changes were made to the structure of the highest state authorities. Instead of the president of the country, a collective body appeared - the State Council. The Defense Council was created as a body of mobilization for the defense of the country, and the Council of Nationalities for the development and implementation of national policies. All these bodies were elected by the National Assembly. The term of office of the National Assembly was set at five years.

In the early 1990s, Vietnam, like the rest of the world, experienced profound but dramatic changes. The country's leadership has adopted a policy of market-based reforms in the economy, openness to the outside world, while maintaining the leadership role of the only political party in the country - the Communist Party. The State, which had embarked on a comprehensive renewal, needed a new Constitution. It was adopted by the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on April 15, 1992.

Article 2 of the new basic Law defined the state system not as a dictatorship of the proletariat, but as a "state of the people, founded by the people and for the people"7. Article 4, which established the leading role of the Communist Party in the State and society, was retained, but there was no separate article on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.

Article 14 was radically changed, which defined the goals and objectives of the foreign policy of the Vietnamese state as follows: "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam pursues a policy of peace, friendship, expansion of exchanges and cooperation with all countries of the world, regardless of the differences in their socio-political structure, on the basis of mutual respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of each other, equality and mutual benefit; strengthens friendly solidarity and cooperative relations with all socialist countries and neighboring states; actively supports and contributes to the common struggle of the peoples of the earth for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress. " 8

Vietnam sought to normalize relations with China and the United States, and the text of the basic law no longer contains attacks on hegemonism and imperialism.

Changes have taken place in the structure of the highest authorities. The State Council was abolished and the post of President was restored.

The most important changes were made to the sections dealing with socio-economic issues. Article 15 pointed out that the country was developing a "multi-structured, commodity-based economy of a socialist orientation with a state-regulated market mechanism"9. By enumerating the existing ways of life in the country, the Constitution gave them the right to exist.

Article 16 identifies the following five structures, the development of which should have been the goal of economic policy: state, collective, individual, private capitalist and state-capitalist. Land was still recognized as exclusively public property, but article 18 stated that "the State transfers land to organizations and citizens for long-term stable use" .10

A separate article (25) defined the position of foreign capital in the Vietnamese economy. It stated that the state encourages foreign organizations and citizens to invest capital and import technology into Vietnam, and that "business structures with foreign investments cannot be nationalized." 11

10 years later, the Vietnamese leadership considered it necessary to amend the 1992 Constitution. The corresponding decision was taken by the National Assembly session in late December 2001. There were not many amendments - 24, and they were mostly editorial and stylistic in nature.

We will note those that are of fundamental importance.

The re-edited article 16 of the Constitution stated that " the purpose of economic policy is to:-

page 21

the goal of the state is to implement the slogan "a rich people is a strong country", to meet the material and spiritual needs of the people more and more fully on the basis of the development of all production capabilities, potentials of all economic structures: state, collective, individual, small-scale, private capitalist, state-capitalist, with the participation of foreign capital in various forms " 12. Thus, two more ways were added: small-scale ownership and with the participation of foreign capital.

Another significant amendment of 2001 was the recognition (in article 75)of Vietnamese living abroad as "part of the Vietnamese national community" .13


The additions and amendments made in 2013 to the text of the 1992 Constitution were more fundamental. Of the 120 articles in the new text, 101 were reworked versions of the old ones. Many articles seem to have shrunk, without losing their content.

The changes even affected the structure of the basic law. One new chapter was added on the State Election Commission and the State Accounting Chamber.

The second chapter deals with "human rights, basic rights and duties of citizens". In detail, three dozen articles provide guarantees of basic civil rights: equal rights of citizens, protection of life and property, freedom of religion, speech, movement, including travel abroad, etc. It is also essential that the State has an obligation to guarantee these rights. The Chairman of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Sinh Hung, in an article devoted to the adoption of the new text of the Constitution, noted that the section on human and civil rights is aimed "at increasing the responsibility of the state for the observance of human and civil rights"14.

All Vietnamese constitutions, starting with the first one, provided guarantees of basic human and civil rights, as is customary in democratic states, but for the first time this issue was brought to the fore. First of all, this can be explained by the logic of implementing reforms in the country, which in the last decade have increasingly concerned the political sphere, while previously the emphasis was on the economy. It seems quite reasonable that this was done with a certain regard for Western countries, with which Vietnam has more and more contacts. While the West is generally satisfied with the conditions created by Vietnamese lawmakers in terms of the investment climate and trade and economic relations, liberal democratic observers have quite a lot of complaints about the "humanitarian basket".

The new text of the Constitution responds to these comments. According to the Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, Wong Thu Luu, this is a confirmation that "the State is obliged to protect, respect and strictly observe human and civil rights in accordance with the international conventions to which Vietnam has acceded." 15 By 2013, when the amendments were adopted, Vietnam had already become a party to all major international treaties on the topic of human rights.

This is also the point of view of article 6 of the first chapter, which states that the Vietnamese people exercise their rights through "direct democracy" through the National Assembly, People's Councils and other bodies.16 The new text also strengthens the control function on the part of citizens. Everything suggests that the authors of the new basic law sought to give the existing system a more democratic character.

Foreigners residing in Vietnam should pay attention to article 48, which requires them to follow the Constitution and laws of Vietnam.17

The new text of article 12, devoted to foreign policy, meets the new realities - the multilateral, multi - vector diplomacy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the second decade of the XXI century. It reads in part: "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam... develops multi-vector and versatile relations; dynamically and actively engages in international integration and cooperation based on respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit... Vietnam is a friend, reliable partner and responsible participant in the international community, contributing to the cause of peace, national independence, democracy and social progress in the world in the interests of the nation and the State".18 It is enough to compare this text with article 14 of the 1992 Constitution to understand how Vietnam's role on the world stage has changed.

It is of fundamental importance to preserve the article on the leading role of the party (Article 4).19 The amended Constitution of Vietnam includes new provisions that emphasize that the party must be closely associated with the people, serve them, be under their control and be responsible to the people for their decisions.

The third chapter of the Constitution deals with the spheres of economy, society, culture, education, science and environmental protection.

The reduction in the volume of text devoted to the economic sphere can be explained by the reluctance to introduce strict standards for the market economy. The text no longer lists the existing (or rather permitted) customs in the country. All that is said is that all modes of life are equal, and all of them are an integral part of the national economy. Property of any form of ownership acquired legally, the state promises to protect and not nationalize. The main thing is that the definition of the essence of the Vietnamese economy has not changed - it is a " market economy of a socialist orientation "(Article 51)20. Just as in the old text, it is stated that the public sector of the economy should play a decisive role.

When preparing the new version of the economic articles, emphasis was also placed on the protection of citizens ' rights. As many Vietnamese experts have pointed out, the right to engage in entrepreneurship was very important in this chapter.-

page 22

own private property and pass it on by inheritance.

Land, minerals, and mineral resources are still considered public property owned and managed by the State.

But it is obvious that the new text pays more attention to the issues of land ownership and land use. This is due to the fact that in the 25 years that have passed since the beginning of market reforms in the Vietnamese countryside, during which cooperatives were replaced by family farms - to which the state handed over land for free use - many new acute problems have emerged. The stratification of the peasantry puts on the agenda the question of allowing free purchase and sale of land. State measures for the development of industry and communications led in some places to the removal of peasants from their land plots.

Article 54 proclaims land as a special state resource that is important for the development of the entire country21. The State transfers land plots for use to organizations and individuals. And those within the framework of the law have the right to transfer them to other individuals and legal entities, including by inheritance.

The right of the state to seize land plots is stipulated separately. This may be done in the interests of defense and national security, social and economic development, and is subject to compensation in accordance with the procedure established by law.

The amended and amended Constitution preserved the social orientation of the Vietnamese state. The duty of the state to protect the working person, take care of his health, the development of the health insurance system, and housing construction is fixed. The state is also responsible for the development of culture, science, education, and environmental protection.

Only primary education is recognized as compulsory and free (Article 61) 22. In this connection, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the "socialist" constitutions of 1959 and 1980 imposed on State bodies the task of developing universal education, not limited to the first stage. It also reflects the realities of modern Vietnam, where educational and medical services are now mostly paid for.

The revised text of the 1992 Constitution preserved the basic idea of organizing a modern Vietnamese state: The National Assembly-Parliament is the highest body of State power in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It is his prerogative to adopt and amend the Constitution and other laws, to resolve the most important issues of domestic and foreign policy, to elect the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Prime Minister from among the deputies of the National Assembly, who report on their activities to the Parliament. Taking into account the changes that have taken place in the management of the national economy of Vietnam, the National Assembly will no longer approve plans for the socio-economic development of the republic, but determine the main indicators and goals of the work of economic entities.

In the chapter on the President of the Republic, his possible actions as Supreme Commander-in-Chief are more clearly spelled out.23

As in the previous texts of the basic law, starting from 1946, the corresponding section concerns local authorities. It is now called "Local authorities", in contrast to the previous document, which contained the chapter "People's Councils and People's Committees". The main aspects of the formation and operation of these elected authorities remained unchanged. However, administrative delineation has been made more flexible and given more opportunities to take into account local conditions.

* * *

Thus, the new text of the basic law of Vietnam, despite significant changes, retained the main ideas and principles formulated by Vietnamese legislators in the early 1990s, when the strategic course of the Communist Party of Vietnam, called "comprehensive renewal" ("doi moi"), was finally formed.

Before us is the constitution of a country that seeks to present itself to the whole world as a democratic parliamentary republic, a socialist State governed by the rule of law, where the communist party plays a leading role, and the socialist formation is the benchmark for socio-economic development, the path to which passes through a multi-layered market economy. According to Vietnamese experts, the amendments made to the text, primarily in the field of human rights, have reduced the differences between the basic law of Vietnam and the constitutions of most other countries of the world.

Vietnamese legislators continue to work on new laws after the adoption of the amended and amended Constitution of 1992. There is an understanding that in order to implement the new ideas of the basic law, it is necessary to develop and adopt a whole series of new legal acts, including on humanitarian issues.

1 Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The Constitution. Legislative acts. Dokumenty [Documents], Moscow, 1955, pp. 17-32.

2 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Hanoi, 1960, p. 19.

3 Ibid., p. 14.

4 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Moscow, 1982, p. 21.

5 Ibid., pp. 28-29.

6 Ibid., p. 20.

7 The Constitution of Vietnam (from 1946 to 1992) and legislative acts concerning the organization of the State apparatus (in Vietnamese). Hanoi, 2002, p. 112.

8 Ibid., p. 116.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., p. 117.

11 Ibid., p. 119.

12 Ibid., pp. 181-182.

13 Ibid., p. 198.

14 Nyan zan, 8.12.2013.


16 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 2013 (in Vietnamese). Hanoi, 2014, pp. 22-23.

17 Ibid., p. 34.

18 Ibid., p. 25.

19 Ibid., pp. 21-22. 20 Ibid., pp. 35.

21 Ibid., p. 36.

22 Ibid., p. 39.

23 Ibid., p. 54.


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