Using excessive force against citizens, are Vietnam’s traffic police also wrong?

Traffic police kick people in the face in the clip

The image of a traffic policeman “stepping” on the face of a citizen in the video has been circulating on social media for the past few days, making many people angry. Many people question how the actions of the above traffic policeman will be punished and what is the truth?

Whose fault though?

On the afternoon of April 26, 2022, a clip was posted on social networks recording the scene of a traffic policeman in Ho Chi Minh City hugging and knocking down a man operating a motorbike on the road. The traffic police then kicked the man in the face with his foot.

While the public was talking about the “violent, uncontrollable” action of the traffic policeman, a day later, the leader of the Ho Chi Minh City Road and Railway Traffic Police Department (PC08) informed the state-run media that the traffic policeman in the clip is Captain Tran Xuan Chinh.

The PC08 representative did not comment on this captain’s actions but said that the man in the clip was at fault and had admitted his fault, offered his apology to Captain Chinh and the patrol team, asking the police force to let him continue moving to deal with family matters.

The story seems to be resolved quite “quietly” after PC08’s justification, but what is recorded in the clip posted on social networks is causing public opinion to question the attitude and behavior of “using the excessive force of the law enforcement force” and should that traffic police also “learn from” or be punished for his “unkind” actions. However, any newspaper in the country reported it.

Some people commented under the article published in Tuoi Tre newspaper titled “Verifying the clip of the traffic police ‘moving hands and feet’ with people in the middle of the intersection” that: “Although the traffic policeman handled it correctly, the use of forcefully stepping on violators is not allowed and too ugly” or “there are laws punishing people who have committed traffic regulations.” As for the traffic police, who violate the law of hitting people in traffic, how will they be handled according to the law?” or “It is not acceptable that police officers beat traffic violators.”

Violent behavior needs to be dealt with

Talking to RFA on the morning of April 28, lawyer Dang Dinh Manh commented:

After the city police verified it, they said that the citizen admitted it was his fault and he apologized to the police agency. But even if it’s at fault, it’s easy to see that the act of knocking people to the ground and then stepping on their faces is unacceptable. This behavior needs to be punished.

Besides the citizens apologizing, the violent act of the traffic policeman is almost ignored. The public is not informed about this matter. That is very flawed in handling.

It is clear that the behavior of this traffic policeman is a lack of restraint. This is an obvious fault, not exemplary, should not be with a policeman.”

According to public opinion, it is natural for people to admit their fault and say sorry every time they meet the police if they want to be left alone because in any case, people are always wrong. This has been proven over and over again. A specific example can be given: On the first day of the last Lunar New Year, on social networking sites, a video clip spread on social media showing a policeman wearing a uniform having a dispute with people, leading to conflicts and endings. As a result, the people were taken away by the police. On the fifth day of the Lunar New Year, the state media reported that the citizen was being prosecuted for the act of “resisting on-duty state officials.”

Since Circular 67/2019 of the Ministry of Public Security on implementing democracy in the work of ensuring security and order took effect, people have the right to monitor traffic police through audio and video recording equipment or direct observation. Since then, many offensive images of traffic police officers while on duty have been spread on social media. According to some people, the images people take back and post online are only a minority compared to what happens every day and every hour in Vietnam.

Former Director of Defend the Defenders, Mr. Vu Quoc Ngu, expressed his opinion to RFA about the clip of traffic police kicking people in the face on April 26:

The incident described in the video clip is just one of many stories about Vietnamese police and traffic police attacking people, using violence against people. This is an act of violating the dignity and civil rights of the Vietnamese police force.

I don’t know if that citizen violated anything, but the image of the policeman attacked as if he was chasing a dangerous criminal. This action is dangerous for both the policeman and the citizen. The act of kicking people in the face is very critical and needs to be punished. I think, if the Vietnamese people’s police force, as its name suggests, serves social security, it should immediately fire or even prosecute this traffic policeman for assaulting people.

I think, to protect the regime, the Communist Party of Vietnam has used the police force, besides the army. They give the police force too much power and no control mechanism leading to abuse of power. Moreover, the punishment of police officers who violated in similar cases in the past is not enough of a deterrent, so the police force still has acts of contempt, insulting the people and not respecting civil rights and human rights.”

Traffic police are one of the professional forces in the organizational system of the Public Security force. The function of this force according to regulations is to ensure traffic order and safety, actively prevent and fight against traffic violations, criminal activities, and other law violations on the public transport routes and areas according to the provisions of law, prevent and reduce traffic accidents, contributing to maintaining social order and safety.

Although the main task is to ensure traffic order and safety, according to Circular 65 of the Ministry of Public Security, effective from August 5, 2020, the traffic police force is equipped with a number of additional weapons and support tools such as Shotguns, rifles, submachine guns, catapults, tear gas guns, electric batons, armor, and handcuffs.

Although Circular 65 concretizes the regulations on arming the traffic police force in accordance with the 2017 Law on Management and Use of Weapons, Explosives, and Supporting Tools, this regulation still encounters a number of conflicting opinions. Perhaps, what many people worry about is the abuse of weapons in the process of patrolling, controlling, and handling violations of the traffic police force.

Is it possible that once the traffic police have more weapons, the people are more afraid of the uncontrolled actions of the traffic police, always accepting losses, leading to the traffic police becoming more and more abusive? (Translated)