Vietnamese lawmakers have argued that a draft law must not exempt anyone from conscription in order to ensure fairness.
Representatives from the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, discussed the draft amended Military Service Law in groups on Wednesday.
Colonel Nguyen Van Hung, a representative from Ho Chi Minh City, said a clause that would exempt college and vocational school graduates from compulsory military service is obviously unfair.
“Most of those who enter military service are the children of farmers and laborers in rural areas. Statistics show that only five percent of military enlistees hold university diplomas.
“That's obviously unfair. The law should not draw only poor, needy people into the army.”
Duong Trung Quoc, who represents the southern province of Dong Nai, said there are signs of corruption in the enlistment process, since many wealthy families have paid bribes to get their children out of service.
Poor young men from rural areas struggling to make ends meet make up the bulk of the nation's enlistees, he said.
Ngo Ngoc Binh, another HCMC deputy, said the draft law stops short of Vietnamese students studying abroad, while in many countries, overseas students must pay a fee to defer their duty.
When they finish studying and return home, they can enlist and have that money refunded.
Since Vietnam’s defense budget is not large, the government could opt to accept such payments as an alternative to service, he said.
But several legislators objected to that idea on principle.
“A man must execute his sacred duty for the country. Military service is a very good opportunity for him to develop his skills and discipline,” said Dao Trong Thi, chairman of the parliamentary culture and education committee.