On June 2, 2022, social networks spread a video recording the scene of many people in Ho Chi Minh City rushing to the street to arrest two young men for robbery and hand them over to the police.
The story of people chasing robbers recalls a tragic story that happened in 2018, two people in a group known as “street knights” were attacked and stabbed to death when the “street knights” tried to detain a group of robbers who were stealing people’s motorbikes. Three knights in this group were seriously injured.
Just last year, Colonel Dinh Van Doi, Director of An Giang Provincial Police, presented certificates of merit and unexpected rewards to two policemen and two people who participated in apprehending robbers on the street.
An unstable society?
Lieutenant Colonel Vu Minh Tri, a former officer of General Department 2 (General Department of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense) told RFA his view on the morning of June 2, 2022:
“Actually, in a society where you hold a phone, carry a branded bag, or wear gold, silver, and precious stones and feel so worried that you are afraid of being robbed, that is a very unstable society. It is not good in terms of social order and safety. It means that the security force has not done all its responsibilities.
A few years ago when I was still in office, I read some documents and found that Vietnam’s police force and security forces, in terms of population, were among the highest in the world. I also read data that in one round, the Hanoi City Police awarded the decision to increase wages and promote military ranks to 6,000 people. That means that Hanoi has a police force of up to tens of thousands, which is a very large number.
Why let robbers run rampant? This is a question that has many answers. I found that the force had poor professionalism; its sense of responsibility is poor leading to not completing the task. That’s the first one. The second, the force itself has a part, even a large part, has activities of a criminal nature or is itself connected with robbery or tolerating criminals. So the force is so large, but it is not strong, it does not perform well its functions and tasks to let the people have a very insecure life in terms of social safety.”
In recent years, a series of generals and senior officers who are leaders of agencies and units under the Ministry of Public Security has been disciplined for many violations; Some people have even been put on trial for abetting crimes.
To name a few such as Dong Nai Provincial Police Director – Colonel Huynh Tien Manh – was dismissed in September 2019 for violating the principle of democratic centralism, the Party’s regulations, and the Ministry’s regulations on the criminal investigation; letting many officers and soldiers of the provincial police violate discipline and law; violations in cadre work, adversely affecting the reputation of Party organizations and the public security sector.
Police Lieutenant General Bui Van Thanh was demoted to colonel in July 2018 for his work violations related to the case of former Police officer Phan Van Anh Vu – who is serving a prison sentence in a series of cases related to disclosing State secrets, violating regulations.
Recently, the former head of Tay Ho District Police and former head of the Economic Police Department of Hanoi Police Department Colonel Phung Anh Le was probed for accepting bribes for receiving the money to direct the release of people in custody while having no decision to cancel the detention decision in accordance with the law.
People cannot replace the police
According to statistics at the press conference of the Steering Committee for COVID-19 prevention and control and the economic recovery of Ho Chi Minh City taking place on the afternoon of January 20, 2022, the Ho Chi Minh City Police, the situation of robbery and property theft account for 55% of criminal cases in Vietnam. In terms of social assignment of functions and duties, the capture of robbers has been clearly stated that it is assigned to the public authorities, specifically the police force.
In recent years, in many provinces and cities of Vietnam, there have appeared clubs or groups of “knights” specializing in catching robbers on street. Binh Duong is the first locality in the country to allow the establishment of crime prevention clubs with the core being “street knights.” These “knights” do not receive a salary, but only support a number of large motorbikes, and organize martial arts training to catch robbers, according to information from Binh Duong Provincial Police.
Many people think that it is unreasonable for people to rush to the street to catch robbers because people pay taxes to the state to pay salaries for police and police forces who are trained and protected by law. Journalist Tran Ngoc Tuan expressed his views to RFA:
“The police force and the police have the duty to protect security. If they get paid from the people’s tax, they have to do it. Why not do it but let the people do it?
People may encounter grievances, encounter incidents of assaulting women and children, and with self-defense instincts, they will intervene. But this is none of our business. It should not be encouraged. If encouraged, then I consider it inhumane because the people have no training and no weapons. That’s the job of the security forces, the police force to protect.”
The People’s Public Security Law stipulates that the People’s Public Security Forces are the people’s armed forces acting as the core in performing the task of protecting national security, ensuring social order and safety, and fighting against crime to ensure national security and social order.
Journalist Tran Ngoc Tuan told RFA: “People have no duty to catch robbers because the people are not trained professionally. People don’t have weapons, people are not trained to catch robbers, but robbers in Vietnam are often armed with weapons.”