Tuesday, August 09, 2022, 07:52 (GMT+7)

Monday, February 18, 2019, 15:36 (GMT+7)
Vietnam Coast Guard Law – A new legal basis for maritime law enforcement

In its 6th meeting, Vietnam Socialist Republic National Assembly (Tenure XIV) passed the Coast Guard Law; this piece of legislation will be officially put into effect on July 1, 2019. This is a crucial legal basis for Vietnam’s maritime law enforcement, greatly contributing to the work of protecting the country’s maritime sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction and maintaining its maritime security and safety.

In recent years, there have been unpredictable and disturbing developments which cause adverse effects on security environment in East Sea (a.k.a. South China Sea) and major powers’ political interests. In fact, neighboring countries’ maritime ambitions, non-traditional security threats, and trans-national criminal activities are the major sources of maritime incidents in the region. Meanwhile, Coast Guard Ordinance 1998 (amended in 2008) by the National Assembly Standing Committee had shown a lot of limitations. For example, the document did not clearly state the role of Vietnam Coast Guard in protecting maritime sovereign, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, as well as in responding to incidents that may threaten national defense and security; it also did not provide guidance for the cooperation between the Coast Guard and other related branches or the Coast Guard’s operational range outside Vietnam’s waters, etc. These limitations resulted in many difficulties for Vietnam Coast Guard in performing its role in protecting the country’s maritime sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

Deputies passing the Vietnam Coast Guard Law on November 19th 2018 (photo: VNA)

In 2015, under the instruction of the Party and the State, the Ministry of National Defense ordered Vietnam Coast Guard Command to conduct review on 17 years of implementing the Coast Guard Ordinance and work with other related branches to introduce Coast Guard Bill via the Central Military Commission Standing Committee. In accordance with National Assembly Resolution 34/2017/QH14 on June 8, 2017 and Prime Minister Decision 1183/QĐ-TTg on August 11, 2017, the Ministry of National Defense closely followed legal protocols and consulted other related ministries and branches and the people to draft Vietnam Coast Guard bill. The Coast Guard Command advised and assisted the Ministry of National Defense in the development of the project, the document later was submitted to the Ministry of Justice for reviewing and amending and proposing it to the Cabinet and the National Assembly for further discussion and ratification.

The introduction of the Vietnam Coast Guard Law is significant progress in the development of legal basis for maritime law enforcement; it also demonstrates the commitment of our Party, our State and our people in the cause of protecting our national interests and our maritime sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction by peaceful means in accordance with international laws. The new law was developed based on the Vietnam Coast Guard Ordinance and contains many new regulations and institutionalizes a lot of our Party’s principles and strategic thoughts on national defense and security in maritime domain. Needless to say, as our country has become more and more engaged in international integration, the legislation is a solid legal basis for our Coast Guard to perform its task and authority assigned by our Party, our State and our People.

Vietnam Coast Guard Law closely follows Vietnam Constitution 2013 in terms of codifying articles which determine human rights and citizen’s rights; it is also synchronized to developments related to Vietnam Coast Guard’s roles and objectives which were defined in our legal system. Clause II, Article XIV, Vietnam Constitution 2013 states: “Human rights and citizens' rights may not be limited unless prescribed by a law solely in case of necessity for reasons of national defense, national security, social order and safety, social morality and community well-being.” That said, the Coast Guard Law ratified by the National Assembly clearly determines Vietnam Coast Guard’s role, objective and authority in conducting activities that limit human rights and citizens’ rights such as: sea patrol, ship inspection, maritime traffic control; or mobilizing its personnel and materials to detain, pursuit or using lethal means, etc. Consequently, Vietnam Coast Guard will continue to enforce its authority in fighting and preventing illegal activities in Vietnam waters such as: illegal fishing; natural resource exploration; smuggling; drug trafficking; or armed pirating. On the other hand, since 2008, there have been many new documents related to maritime management and preservation introduced by the National Assembly, these documents also determined new contents that cover the roles and objectives of Vietnam Coast Guard and other maritime law enforcement forces such as: Customs, Fisheries Resources Surveillance, Port Maritime Administrations, and Environment Inspection, etc. Moreover, Vietnam Coast Guard is a multi-role branch with nation-wide operational range, and is tasked with conducting law enforcement activities in various maritime administrative domains. Therefore, the introduction of Vietnam Coast Guard Law ensures the synchronization of newly-issued legal documents mentioned above; and as a result, it helps to strengthen our country’s ability to manage and protect our maritime interests.

Vietnam Coast Guard Law institutionalizes our Party and our State’s principles in strengthening maritime national defense and security and building a “revolutionary, standardized, elite and modern” Vietnam Coast Guard. That said, the legislation clearly demonstrates major principles of our Party and State in directing national maritime strategy and building Vietnam Coast Guard. To this end, the law expresses our strong commitment to the defense of Vietnam waters based on the preservation of a peaceful and stable regional environment; at the same time, it is a solid legal basis for the work of building and developing a “revolutionary, standardized, elite and modern” Vietnam Coast Guard, capable of performing its tasks as “a people’s armed force, a State’s specialized branch, a core element in conducting law enforcement activities and protecting national security and order in maritime domain,” and an anchor for our maritime economic activities.

Vietnam Coast Guard Law ensures the synchronization with international legislative reality and enhances Vietnam Coast Guard’s international cooperation. It is obvious that Vietnam Coast Guard’s activities are highly international; they directly have impacts on the image of the country in the international community. Currently, most major powers all over the world such as: the U.S., Japan, India, etc, all consider their coast guards as the main element in maritime law enforcement and have legal documents to codify this principle. Vietnam Coast Guard Law is no exception, it complements Vietnam’s legal document system on maritime domain and also appropriate to international treaties and accords in which Vietnam is a member. At the same time, the law provides an enhanced legal basis for Vietnam Coast Guard to perform its role and mission and ensures its synchronization with regional and international legislative reality.

Nowadays, Vietnam is increasingly engaging in international integration, so that our Coast Guard must enhance its cooperation with other countries’ law enforcement organization in fighting and preventing maritime crimes, and other activities such as joint patrol, maritime security drills, or anti-pirating exercises, etc. At the same time, it must expand its cooperation with highly capable and experienced foreign coast guards to develop its own capabilities and elevate its partnership with these organizations. Therefore, it can be said that Vietnam Coast Guard Law not only creates favorable condition for the work of protecting and managing our maritime sovereignty but also facilitates Vietnam Coast Guard’s international cooperation programs, thus providing support for the State’s diplomatic activities and defense relations in resolving international issues related to maritime domain.

Fully grasping the importance of the realization of Vietnam Coast Guard Law, our Coast Guard will continue to conduct studies and advise the Ministry of National Defense on proposing suggestions for the Government to issue documents to enforce this law. In near term, the following decrees should be introduced: Detailed Regulations on Vietnam Coast Guard Law’s Articles and Measures to Enforce; and Regulation on the management and utilization of specialized tools and technical equipment of Vietnam Coast Guard. After that, basing on these documents, the organization should advise the Minister of National Defense on issuing circulars such as: Regulations on Vietnam Coast Guard’ patrol, inspection and monitor protocols; Regulations on recruitment standard for Vietnam Coast Guard, etc. to provide necessary instructions for the implementation of the legislation. At the same time, Vietnam Coast Guard must launch an extensive political education campaign to strengthen its personnel’s understanding and awareness in studying and enforcing the law.

Also, in all regions, especially 28 coastal cities and provinces, propaganda and education activities should be pushed ahead to provide clear understanding about Vietnam Coast Guard Law for local officials, Party members and the people, especially fishermen to raise their awareness and enhance their commitment to supporting the Coast Guard with manpower and materials to fulfill its role and objective if necessary. At the same time, domestic media outlets should increasingly broadcast about this law to attract more support from other countries to enhance their cooperation in maritime law enforcement. As a result, there will be a strong international endorsement which ensures our advantage in preserving our maritime sovereignty, sovereignty rights and jurisdiction, and national security and maintain a peaceful, stable, friendly and cooperative environment in all of our waters.

Major General, Dr Nguyen Van Son, Vietnam Coast Guard Commander

Your Comment (0)