Vietnam expands draft to net smarter soldiers

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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Young men from the central province of Binh Dinh during conscription. Photo: Hoang Trong Young men from the central province of Binh Dinh during conscription. Photo: Hoang Trong

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The central government has proposed increasing Vietnam's compulsory ground force military service from 18 months to two years to improve the training and education levels of the nation's soldiers.
The proposal would also extend the eligible age for conscripts to 18-27 to enlist more of those who defer serving to pursue higher education, according to the draft amended Military Service Law that was sent to lawmakers on Monday.
The move aims to “satisfy demand for building the military and protecting the nation under today's circumstances,” according to Minister of Defense Phung Quang Thanh.
Under current law, Vietnamese men between 18 and 25 are all eligible for conscription into the army; women may volunteer for active duty military service.
Conscription typically takes place twice a year and entails either an 18-month stint in the army or the ground force anti-aircraft corps.
Those who volunteer or are conscripted into the navy or air force must serve for two years and the new law would not change that.
It will, however, make males eligible to enroll in military schools at the age of 17.
Thanh said the government's proposed amendments are designed to ensure enough time for training in politics, weapons use and combat tactics.
He said servicemen must also participate in various trainings like search and rescue, natural disaster response, clearing mines, etc.
Vietnam's biannual conscription program is costly and unnecessary, he said.
“Extending the duration of service also aims to reduce losses of human life, weapons and equipment and reducing the cost of refresher training for reservists,” he said.
After completing their military service, all men remain reservists until the age of 45.
The bill also proposed to increase the maximum conscription ages from 25 to 27, to enlist more of those who defer to study at colleges and universities.
It also proposed limiting deferral rights to students who attend state-owned colleges and universities.
“The current law, which limits conscription to men aged between 18 and 25, has resulted in a lower proportion of college and university-educated members of the military,” Thanh said.
Drafters also proposed exempting a single son from families whose parents' working ability has been significantly diminished by dioxin-related diseases from military duty.
According to Nguyen Kim Khoa, chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee under the National Assembly – Vietnam’s parliament, said most members of his committee agree with the proposals.

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