Bill on demonstration sparks controversy among Vietnamese lawmakers

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A bill on demonstration has sparked controversy at the Vietnam National Assembly's sitting on Thursday, as some lawmakers find the law unnecessary, while others disagree.

Hoang Huu Phuoc, a member of the legislature from Ho Chi Minh City, proposed the National Assembly not introduce the Law on Demonstration into its list of draft laws during its office term from now until 2015. He said most people won't be in favor of it.

Phuoc, the CEO of Ho Chi Minh City-based MYA Business Corporation, said in many countries around the world demonstrations are for people to protest their governments or to protest some government policy.

"Does Vietnam need anti-government demonstrations, or demonstrations to protest Vietnamese government's policies? If not, why do we have to introduce the bill on demonstration?" he asked.

Citing what he witnessed at recent gatherings in HCMC to protest China's U-shape claim of most of the East Sea, Phuoc asked if the bill drafter, the Ministry of Public Security, had consulted citizens who are old, war veterans and others, or if it had just consulted tens or hundreds of students who do not have an income and jobs.

"Most citizens won't support the Law on Demonstration, because its nature is vulnerable and easily manipulated to cause turmoil," the lawmaker said.

Phuoc's opinion gained agreement from several other lawmakers.

However, Duong Trung Quoc, a well-known historian who has served as a legislator for three terms, disagreed, saying that such statements offend people.

It is also "dangerous" to raise opinions at the National Assembly's meeting by mistakenly citing historical evidence, he said.

Quoc cited a decree issued by Vietnam's first President Ho Chi Minh as saying that it is necessary to consider demonstrations from both sides.

The decree was issued just 11 days after Ho Chi Minh founded the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in September 2, 1945.

"It is the basic right of citizens, and also an executive and legislative tool. If we only look at one side of it, we will see its chaotic side only," he stressed.

According to Quoc, global integration is taking place, so "it is necessary for people to express their opinions." Without laws, demonstrations will be chaotic.

"The Prime Minister didn't initiate the proposal for introducing the law on demonstration without reasons ["¦] Of course, the law is very sensitive, so we have to plan it suitably and carefully," the historian stressed.

Truong Trong Nghia, another lawmaker from HCMC, echoed Quoc's opinion in an interview published in Tuoi Tre on Friday.

He said Phuoc offended Vietnam's intellectual standard when he said the law on demonstration should be implemented only when Vietnamese have better intellectual standards and a more stable economy.

In response to Phuoc's concern that the law will be manipulated by enemies, Nghia said all laws are aimed to set up a framework and to be used as tools by law enforcers to regulate people who act outside the framework

"The law on demonstration is new in Vietnam, but we don't lack international experiences to consult to build it," Nghia said.

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