Added focus on human rights in revised Vietnam constitution

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The National Assembly session on Thursday morning passed the latest draft amendments to the 1992 Constitution. Photo by Ngoc Thang

The National Assembly, Vietnam's parliament, Thursday morning approved draft amendments to the 1992 Constitution that reaffirmed the Communist Party of Vietnam as the "leading force of the government and society."

Nearly 98 percent of legislators passed the draft amendments that will take effect on January 1, 2014, making it the fifth constitution that the nation has had following those adopted in 1946, 1959, 1980 and 1992. 

The amendments signaled a greater focus on human rights and citizen's rights, with one clause reading: "The Communist Party of Vietnam should have close relations with the people, serve the people, be supervised by the people and be responsible for its decisions before the people."

They say that Vietnamese citizens cannot be expelled from the country or handed over to other states, that no one can be illegally deprived of their life, that everyone has the right not to have their personal and family lives and secrets infringed, as well as the right to protect their own honor and prestige, that information about personal lives and family secrets should be protected by law.

The draft amendments were kept open to collect feedback over a period of 11 months.

The revised Constitution also reaffirmed the "leading role" of the state sector in the economy.

Analysts say there is nothing inherently wrong with the state taking a major role in the economy. The problem is when, as in Vietnam today, state enterprises are allowed to operate in a non-transparent and unaccountable manner, they say. 

"That sort of arrangement is what is hurting Vietnam's economy and its people," Jonathan London, a Vietnam expert with the City University of Hong Kong, told Thanh Nien News.

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung called the passing of the new constitution a "historic moment," adding that "the new charter reflects the Party's will and people's consensus."

He said the National Assembly will take note of disagreements with any part of the amended Constitution and continue to study them during the country's "renovation progress." 

The Fall session of the legislature opened on October 21 and is scheduled to wrap up Friday afternoon.

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