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Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide: The Constitution

Finding the Vietnamese Constitution in English

'The Constitution is the fundamental law of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and has the highest legal effect' (Article 119(1) of the 2013 Constitution)

Vietnam’s supreme legislative body, the National Assembly, has the power to make and amend the Constitution (Article 70(1) of the 2013 Constitution).  Making and amending constitutions does not require referenda or referral to regional or local governments. However, Article 6(1) of the 2015 Law on Referendum (Law No 96/2015/QH13) permits the National Assembly hold a referendum on the whole or important parts of the Constitution.

There have been 5 Constitutions since Vietnam declared its independence from France in 1945 and established a Socialist Republic, first in the north and since 1975 in the whole of Vietnam: in 1946, 1959, 1980,1992 and 2013.

CURRENT CONSTITUTION (2013)

The current 2013 Constitution is not available in English on the official Normative Legal Documents website. An unofficial translation by International IDEA: The Constitution of the Social Republic of Vietnam (2013), is available on Constitutionet.  

EARLIER CONSTITUTIONS

The texts of all earlier Constitutions are available in English on World Constitutions Illustrated: Vietnam on HEINOnline (UniMelb staff & student access).

Commentary on and History of the Constitution

See the following for historical and current commentary (warning: much of the commentary listed below was written before the 2013 Constitution came into effect, so may be of only of historical significance):

SSRN Articles (open access)

HEIN Online World Constitutions Illustrated: Vietnam (UniMelb staff & student access). This database includes:

  • Commentaries;
  • Scholarly Articles; and 
  • A Bibliography of Selected Works

Oxford Constitutions of the World (UniMelb staff & student access). The section on Vietnam includes the following chapters:

  • Rainer Grote, 'The Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Introductory Note'. This provides succinct but scholarly sections on 'Constitutional History' and 'Basic Features of the 2013 Constitution' (including protection of human rights). 
  • Rainer Grote, 'The Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Select Bibliography' - this bibliography consists of books, chapters and articles on the Constitution (most pre-dating the current 2013 Constitution).

Commentary on the 2013 Constitution

SUMMARIES

  • Rainer Grote, 'The Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Introductory Note' in Oxford Constitutions of the World (UniMelb staff & student access). This provides a brief but scholarly section on 'Basic Features of the 2013 Constitution' (including protection of human rights). 
  • For a succinct summary of the new Constitution and differences between it and the 1992 Constitution, see Salient Provisions of the New Constitution on Vietnam Law & Legal Forum (open access article).

CRITIQUES

(Zuc) Tang Duc Dao, A Short Bi-lingual Critique of the 2013 Vietnamese Constitution (The People's Force to Save Vietnam, 2014) (open access)

  • You need to have a flash player to view this book.
  • Despite its title, this is a detailed 84 page critique.

There is much criticism of rights protection in the 2013 Constitution. See for example:

COMMENTARY

See Bui Ngoc Son, 'Constitutional Dualism: Socialism and Constitutionalism in Contemporary Vietnam' in the folowing book for a discussion of the 2013 Constitution:

Constitutional Review & Protection

There is no judicial review of the Constitution. 

There is no separation of powers in the Vietnam legal system. All constituent, legislative, and supervisory powers are concentrated in one institution - the National Assembly. The judiciary has no part to play in interpreting the Constitution or reviewing the constitutionality of legal documents or political actions. Unlike the constitutional review systems in Western liberal democracies, constitutional protection in Vietnam is not aimed at preventing violations of rights by arbitrary powers, but in unifying the practice of state powers.

The National Assembly exercises supreme control over conformity to the Constitution all central institutions (Article 70(2) of the 2013 Constitution).  Legislation promulgated by the National Assembly is not subject to any external review (Article 70(2)). The National Assembly Standing Committee is allowed to interpret the Constitution (Article 74). The Prime Minister is authorised to constitutionally supervise administrative legal documents by ministries and local governors of district level (Article 98).

Source: Bui, Son Ngoc, 'The Discourse of Constitutional Review in Vietnam' (2014) 9(2) Journal of Comparative Law 191. See this article for a detailed discussion of Vietnamese constitutional protection and review.

See also the following book chapter: