THREE KINDS OF LAWS
To defend against worldwide criticism on Hanoi records of human rights violations, the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) always says "Vietnam's legal system has been unceasingly improved and adjusted to lay firm foundation for the exercise of human rights. A number of important laws and legal documents, including the Civil Code, the Enterprise Law, the Labor Code, the Litigation Code, and the Criminal Code, have been adopted in a process of 'legalizing' human rights and basic human freedom for the country's implementation of international conventions to which Vietnam is a signatory."
That is the statement of Hanoi's spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh responding to the accusation by the Vietnamese Committee for Defense of Human Rights in Geneva on July 8. Hanoi's 11-member delegation to the committee conference failed to convince the committee with its arguments. The chief of the delegation, Hanoi's Under Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong was unable to answer many questions by the Committee members.
As usual, he was boasting about how his party and its government have achieved best records in human rights and religious freedom. The delegation kept silent to many of the nearly 100 questions and arguments relating to the oppressive measures that went against the very Constitution and laws that Hanoi has promulgated.
The common opinion of the Committee was that Hanoi has all laws that are necessary to spray a layer of democracy and liberty paint on the VCP regime, but realities proved otherwise. But on its return home, the delegation claimed that it has achieved great success.
The following stories may show the darker side of the matter of justice under the Communist regime. According to Hanoi state-controlled newspaper Lao Dong (Labor) in its issue 69 on March 21, 2002, a young man was fined 1/3-month pay because he lost his wife to an old man from Taiwan.
The woman, Hong Nam Mui, got married to San Con Dong in 1985 and they have 2 children. Their marriage was recognized and the certificate was issued by the local officials of Phu Hoa village, Dinh Quan district, Dong Nai province. Since 1997, with her husband's assent, Mui has temporarily moved to Saigon for better works to earn her living and to help her family.
In the two years that followed, Mui often returned to visit her husband and their two children. But her visits have stopped since 2000. He went to Saigon to look for her and later learned that his wife had been legally married to an old Chinese and was living in Taiwan with the old but rich new husband.
Dong, the poor husband filed a complaint at the local authorities' offices. He has every reason to blame the related government agencies for assisting his wife's illegal marriage to the Chinese man while she was still Dong's legitimate spouse.
In Vietnam under Communist rule, every household is under strict control of the Public Security office. All paperwork for job application, school admission, marriage registration, certification of single status, must be approved and certified by the village or ward Public Security Office. Permission for moving out or into another household is the most important matter that must be decided by Public Security \department at district and provincial or city levels or higher.
In case of leaving Vietnam for a trip abroad, issuance of passport and exit visa can be completed only after administrative and political background checking process. Without conspiracy to help in exchange for bribes, Mui could not officially get married to any other Vietnamese, let alone a foreigner, and immigrate to Taiwan.
After the husband complained, Public Security departments of Dinh Quan district and Dong Nai province have conducted joint investigations but they have failed to discover any evidence against the undeniable wrongdoing. Since the last complaint in December 2001, responsible authorities just continue to be silent and take no action.
The husband is one of the numerous victims of the ill-managed administrative system in Vietnam. But the story of 39-year-old Dong and 35-year-old Mui has an unexpected consequence. While awaiting for the case to be resolved, Phu Hoa village Public Security office fined the miserable husband San Cong Dong VN$ 100,00;0 (6 dollars, or equal to 1/3-monthly minimum wage). He was fined for failing to register for his wife's temporary absence from her legal residence, as he is the household chief.
Official report from Hanoi government acknowledged last week that in recent years, there have been more than 60,000 Vietnamese women, mostly poor peasant girls getting married to Taiwanese to leave the extreme poverty in rural life though most of them don't speak Chinese or a Taiwanese dialect.
In another report of the same Lao Dong issue, is a story of an old man who had been a member of the Hanoi City Party Committee cadre. He was living in a low rent apartment on the second floor of a state-owned residential building in Hanoi.
Recently, a family living on the first floor illegally built a two-story house close to the front of his apartment, which obstructs his view of the street. So he lodged a complaint with the city authorities. There are 7 state-owned newspapers including the Lao Dong along with people in the neighborhood, strongly support him. At his seventies, he still has to go see many offices, high and low. But nothing has been done, and he just wastes his time and breath.
His daughter tries to cool him down, saying that the support given to him by the seven newspapers is his great victory in public opinion. "Public opinion victory" sounds reasonable, but it does not settle the case. An old comrade advises him that he should never clash with those who only abide by "laws of the jungle" as he could only invite more troubles.
The Communist veteran concludes with a sigh: "I'm living at this age to know that there are three co-existing laws: law of the jungle, law of the money and law of the government..."
He is speaking for millions of poor Vietnamese.