Proposals from ethnic minority delegates for Constitution Amendment Draft

On Feb 02, 2013, within the framework of collecting opinions from vulnerable groups for the 1992 Constitution amendments, iSEE together with the Civil Society Inclusion for Food Security and Poverty Elimination Network (CIFPEN) and the Cao Bang Community Development Center (DECEN) organized an event to gather proposals from ethnic minority intellectuals in Hanoi.

The consultation was organized under the principle of openness and fairness, with participation from delegates of different ethnicities, age groups, and occupations, in order to identify the most universal and the most objective recommendations.

The consultation helped delegates representing their respective ethnic groups to voice opinions and viewpoints on the rights and responsibilities of their own communities. The consultation showed clearly the desire to improve government’s responsibility and accountability toward ethnic minorities’ rights, moving it beyond “providing opportunities” policies.

Delegates were keenly interested in the following clauses:

Clauses concerning the rights of language and culture:

Article 5 sub-article 3: The national language is Vietnamese. The various ethnic communities have the right to use their own language and writing, to preserve their ethnic identity and to nurture their fine customs, traditions and cultures.

Delegates proposed to omit the word “fine” because used in this instance, it could become an excuse to condemn certain practices as not “fine”.

Clauses concerning natural resources ownership:

Article 57: The land, forests, rivers and lakes, water sources, underground natural resources, resources in the territorial waters, on the continental shelf and in the air space, capital funds and properties invested by the State and other property defined by law as belonging to the State fall under the ownership of the entire people. The State is their representative for ownership and assumes the unified administration of land in conformity with the law.

Delegates proposed to change “the entire people” to “the State, the community, organizations, and individuals”. This change will ensure property rights of non-state businesses, organizations and individuals, providing assurance and more incentive for investment.

Article 58 sub-article 1: Land is a special resource of the nation, an important capital for development; it is administered according to overall planning and in conformity with the law.

Delegates proposed adding “ensuring participation rights of the people in the planning process”. With citizens’ participation in the planning process, State’s plans will not only bring the desired results in national security and economic development, but also ensure democracy.

Article 58, sub-article 3: The State may – when necessary for reasons of security and national defense, of public or national interest, and of socio-economic development – requisition with compensation the land of individuals or of organizations in conformity with the law.

Delegates proposed changing to “The State may – when necessary for reasons of security and national defense and of national interest – requisition by purchase with compensation the land of individuals or of organizations in conformity with the law.”

Delegates explained that the land in use by individuals and organizations is property that they acquire through their own financial means. Besides, land requisition affects the interest of individuals and organizations since it may also be the living and working space of many. Thus, when the State has the need to use these properties, there must be an appropriate compensation policy for owners.

Besides the above proposals, ethnic minority delegates also applauded newly introduced progressive articles, such as:

Article 45: Citizens have the right to determine their ethnicities, to use their mother tongue, and to choose their language of communication.

After the consultation, ethnic minority delegates will bring the summary of proposals to the Constitution Amendments back to their communities to share and collect opinions. Local consultations are expected to take place in late February and early March, led by intellectual delegates and with technical assistance from staff of civil society organizations working in the field of ethnic minority rights.

Following are some images of the consultation:

Mr. La Khanh Tung, professor of Law, National University of Hanoi, explained the function of the Constitution and the history and development of Vietnam’s Constitution.
Mr. Ma Van Hung, a Tay ethnic delegate from Lang Son.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc of Muong ethnicity, a student at the National University of Education.

The consultation was attended by 31 delegates including lawyers, researchers, government officials, reporters, poets, students and civil society activists of different age groups and ethnic communities: H’mong, Yao, Tay, Thai, Muong, Cao La, and Xo Dang. The consultation’s discussion focused on 25 articles of the Constitution Amendment Draft and proposed changes to 19 articles.

Nam Phạm