Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 78,705,000
    – under-18s: 31,926,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 484,000
    – reserves: 3,000-4,000,000
    – paramilitary: 40,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 8 September 2000
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as seventeen-year-old trainees in military schools are considered to be part of the armed forces. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is not known.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

The 1992 Constitution (article 44) upholds that: "It is a duty of the entire people to defend the socialist Vietnamese fatherland and firmly maintain national security." Article 77 of the Constitution further provides that: "Defending the fatherland is the citizens' sacred duty and noble right. Citizens are duty-bound to perform their military service and participate in building the all-people national defence."2115 The legal basis of conscription is the 1981 Law on Military Service2116 and revisions to this law in 1990 and 1994.2117

According to information provided by Vietnam to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, "all citizens of 18 years of age or more shall be required to serve in the military."2118 The length of military service is reported to be two years.2119 According to one source, women can register for military service only if they belong to the Ho Chi Minh Youth League. Military service is performed in the Vietnamese People's Liberation Army (PLA).2120 There are exemptions from service on grounds such as health, education and certain types of employment but not conscientious objection.2121 There are reportedly civilian alternatives to military service. Penalties for evasion are contained in the Criminal Code (articles 259, 260, 261, 262).

The Vietnamese armed forces have been reduced significantly since their withdrawal from Cambodia in 1989. Desertion and draft evasion are said to be widespread, primarily because of poor conditions in the armed forces.2122 According to one source, there are no plans to abolish conscription,2123 although in 1997 it was claimed that the professionalisation of the armed forces was already underway.2124 The length of military service has reportedly been cut from three years to two.2125

There are also several local paramilitary forces, such as the People's Self Defence Force (urban units) and the People's Militia (rural units). These forces are believed to be a reserve force for the PLA and conscripts may perform their military service in them. Recruitment policies for these paramilitary forces are not known but they reportedly do not recruit children.2126 Women with special qualifications and skills, while not liable for conscription, must register with the reserve forces and may be called up for training. It is believed that reserve paramilitary forces have become a more important element in Vietnam's defence strategy in recent years.2127

Military Training and Military Schools

Entry into military schools is possible at the age of 17 and students at these schools are considered to be part of the armed forces. The number of such students is not available. Military training also takes place in regular schools for 10 days per year and is conducted by senior secondary school students. In order to better meet conscription targets, the need for better military recruitment programmes was announced in February 2000 by the official Giai Phong newspaper in Saigon. This would reportedly involve the expansion of defence education programs for schoolchildren and students and the launching of junior cadet programmes in military academies.2128


International Standards

Viet Nam signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 8 September 2000.

2115 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

2116 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

2117 Information received by CSC in 2/01 from a confidential source that requests confidentiality.

2118 Initial Report of Vietnam submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.4, 22/10/92, para. 63.

2119 de Goldfiem, J., "Revue des revues", Defense Nationale, 2/98, quoting an article published in the Asian Defence Journal in 11/97.

2120 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

2121 Law on Military Service 1981 – art. 29 and 30, according to information received by CSC in 2/01 from a confidential source that requests confidentiality.

2122 Horeman and Stolwijk, op. cit.

2123 Ibid.

2124 De Goldfiem, J., op. cit.

2125 The Economist, 4/2/95

2126 Horeman and Stolwijk, op. cit.; also according to information received from a reliable source that requests confidentiality.

2127 Ibid.

2128 Reuters, 26/2/00.


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