Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Viet Nam’s Ordinance on the Militia and Defence Force (2004) states that no person under the age of 18 years shall be liable for military service in the militia or self-defence force.
In 2001, upon ratification of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Viet Nam made the following declaration:
To defend the Homeland is the sacred duty and right of all citizens. Citizens have the obligation to fulfil military service and participate in building the all-people national defense.
Under the law of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, only male citizens at the age of 18 and over shall be recruited in the military service. Those who are under the age of 18 shall not be directly involved in military battles unless there is an urgent need for safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.
Male citizens up to the age of 17 who wish to make a long-term service in the army may be admitted to military schools. Voluntary recruitment to military schools shall be ensured by measures which, inter alia, include:
- The Law on Military Duty and other regulations on the recruitment to military schools are widely disseminated through mass media;
- Those who wish to study at a military school shall, on the voluntary basis, file their application, participate in and pass competitive examinations; they shall submit their birth certificates provided by the local authority, their education records, secondary education diploma; they shall also undergo [a] health check in order to ensure that they are physically qualified to study and serve [in] the military.
In 2005, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Viet Nam referred to certain relevant provisions in its Law on Military Service (1981):
Article 12: “Male citizens having reached the age of eighteen can enlist in the armed forces; the recruitment age ranges from eighteen to twenty-seven years old.”
Article 13: “Male citizens turning seventeen and having the desire to serve long-term in the military, who have obtained the qualifications offered by the Minister of National Defense, may be accepted into military schools and be recognized as servicemen on active service.”
Article 20: “Every year, male citizens turning seventeen enlisted by the Military Commander in Chief of the district, small town or city under the authority of the province have to register for military service at the military office.”
Viet Nam further stated: “The right of children under eighteen not to join the armed forces or be … recruited as mercenaries is strictly enforced.”
In 2009, in its combined third and fourth periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam stated: “The Law on Military Service [of] 2005 continues to regulate conscription of male citizens of full 18 years of age, as well as regulate measures to ensure no participation below 18 years of age [of] people in the armed forces.”
Viet Nam also stated:
2. Children in armed conflicts …
2.1 Legal provisions
241. The Law on Amending and Supplementing a Number of Articles of the Law on Military Service [of] 2005 sets forth specific regulations on calling upon men aged between 18 and 25 for military service (art. 12). The revised Ordinance on Civil Defence [of] 2004 stipulates the obligations to participate in civil defence forces by men and women aged between 18 and 45 and aged between 18 and 40, respectively. …
242. Viet Nam only calls for male citizens who have reached full 18 years of age to perform military service. The age for military service is calculated according to year with full 12 months in order to avoid using individuals with adequate years but without adequate number of months. Besides the requirement of age, male citizens should satisfy health requirements in order to be qualified for military service. Conscription is carried out annually. Before enlisting in the army, male citizens who have attained full 17 years of age must register with local recruiting commands for military service and have health checks when they reach full 18 years of age. The documents for military service examination include a personal résumé certified by the local authority, a birth certificate to ensure their identity and age, and a health certificate is for the clarification of their health status before joining up. The consideration of military service requirements are conducted by councils on military service from districts to provincial levels.
243. … Vietnamese children enjoy a peaceful life and they have not been enlisted in any armed forces.
In 2015, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the permanent representative of Viet Nam stated:
We appreciate the work done by UN bodies and concerned agencies in armed conflict, particularly in monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children, incorporating child protection policies in peacekeeping operations, and promoting the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs.
And we welcome the progress made by the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, which was launched last year with an aim [of] ending and prevent[ing] the recruitment and use of children by the national security forces by 2016.
ASEAN, however, remains deeply concerned about the fact that growing number[s] of children continue to be affected by grave violations in armed conflicts, including killing and sexual violence. … It is all the more alarming as we are witnessing the rise of complex and well-organised non-state armed groups that have total disregard for international law, especially in certain regions in the Middle East and Africa.
We urge States, United Nations entities with their respective mandates, relevant international and regional organizations and other stakeholders to redouble their efforts to address, with added vigour, these new challenges posed by violent non-state armed groups.