International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Vietnam

The constitution of Vietnam contains various provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 43 states “Every one has the right to live in fresh environment and has the duty to protect the environment.”

Article 50, on the other hand, reads: “ The Socialist Republic of Vietnam constructs an independent and sovereign economy which shall promote its internal resources, internationally cooperate, and closely connect with cultural development; practices social progressiveness and equality; protects the environment; and exercises industrialization and modernization of the country.”

Finally, according to Article 63:

1.The State has a policy to protect the environment; manages, and effectively and stably uses natural resources; protects the nature and biodiversity; takes initiative in prevention and resistance against natural calamities and response to climate change.

2.The State encourages all acts of protection of the environment, development and use of new energy and recycled energy.

3. Organizations and individuals who cause environmental pollution, debilitate natural resources and weaken biodiversity shall be strictly dealt with and must be responsible for remedy and compensation for damage.

Featured Legislation

1989: The Ordinance on the Conservation and Management of Living Aquatic Resources was passed. This Ordinance provides for the conservation and management of living resources in inland waters, internal waters, territorial seas, the contiguous zones, the exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf of Vietnam.

1991: The Forest Resources Protection and Development Act was enacted. This Act establishes the general principles of forest policy and management in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

2003: Decree No. 109/2003/ND-CP on the conservation and sustainable development of submerged areas was introduced. The Decree comprises 6 Chapters: I, General Provisions; II, Surveys and formulation of plannings on conservation and sustainable development of submerged areas; III, Conservation of submerged land; IV, Sustainable development of submerged areas; V, Commendation, reward and handling of violations; VI, Implementation Provisions. The Decree provides for the management, conservation and sustainable development of wetlands presenting characteristics of biodiversity and ecological features of high importance for the protection of water sources, ecological balance and national and international relevance. Zoning is the main aspect of the wetlands management, together with the preservation of ecosystems and habitats by means of survey, monitoring, planning,preventing waste pollution, conducting inventories and properly exploiting natural and touristic resources of the wetlands. The wetlands are defined as Ramsar Zones, according to the Ramsar Convention on Submerged areas of international importance, signed in Ramsar, Republic Of Iran, in 1971 to which Vietnam became a member as per the 20th of January 1989.

2011: The National Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, vision to 2030 was approved. The National Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, vision to 2030 is a national cross-sectoral strategy of Vietnam for the period 2011-2020. Its main objective is to preserve and sustainably use naturally important ecosystems, endangered, rare, and precious species, and genetic resources; contribute to the development of the green economy; and actively respond to climate change.

2013: Law No. 41/2013/QH13 on Plant Protection and Quarantine was tabled. This Law, consisting of 77 articles divided into five Chapters, provides for plant protection and quarantine activities, state management over plant protection and quarantine. This Law applies to state agencies, organizations, family households, domestic individuals, Vietnamese residing overseas and foreign organizations, individuals relating to plant protection and quarantine activities in Vietnam. Plant protection and quarantine ensures the early detection, prompt and accurate conclusion in respect to harmful organisms; thorough treatment and promptly prevention of the entry and spread of harmful organisms; ensure the trade facilitation and satisfaction of the international integration requirements. Article 15 establishes rights and obligations for plant owners. Article 65 regulates import and export of pesticides. The Law is divided as follows: General Provisions (Chap. I); Preventing and Fighting Organism Harmful to Plant (Chap. II); Plant Quarantine (Chap. III); Pesticides (Chap. IV); and Implementing Provisions (Chap. V).

2014: Law on Environmental Protection No. 55/2014/QH1 was created. This Law, consisting of 170 articles divided into 20 Chapters, provides statutory provisions on environmental protection activities; measures and resources used for the purpose of environmental protection; rights, powers, duties and obligations of regulatory bodies, agencies, organizations, households and individuals who are tasked with the environmental protection task. It applies to regulatory bodies, public agencies, organizations, family households and individuals within the territory of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, including mainland, islands, territorial waters and airspace.

2017: The Law on Fisheries was implemented.This Law contains revised provisions for the fisheries sector in Vietnam consisting of 105 articles, divided into 9 Chapters. The Law applies to Vietnamese organizations and individuals, foreign individuals engaged in fishery in land, islands, archipelago and sea of Vietnam; Vietnamese individuals engaged in commercial fishing activities outside Vietnam's maritime boundary. Its provisions concern, among other things, co-management in fishery resources protection, planning on protection and exploitation of aquatic resources, establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) and protection of MPAs and habitats from fishing activities, fisheries resources assessment; freshwater and marine aquaculture; import and export of aquatic breeds; breeding, raising, artificial propagation, import and export of aquatic species prescribed in Appendices of CITES; land allocation, lease and expropriation for aquaculture; capture and management of fishing vessels; combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, fisheries resources surveillance, purchase, sale, preliminary processing and processing of aquatic products. The Law promotes policies to create favorable conditions for enterprises to invest in the infrastructure of aquaculture and fish seed production areas, to support fishermen and offshore fishing activities long-term and to encourage investment in the construction, trading and management of aquatic product markets. It introduces strict sanctions against acts of IUU fishing. Fisheries legislation of Vietnam is amended in accordance with the principles of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures, the United Nations Agreement on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, the FAO guidelines for responsible fisheries, the FAO International Plan of Action for IUU Exploitation, the FAO Guidelines for Flag State Performance. The Law also creates the legal basis for the State to grant management rights to community organizations in the protection of aquatic resources. A community will be recognized and assigned to management in aquatic resource protection if it satisfies the specified conditions. Provision is also made for Community funds.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Recent revisions to Vietnam’s penal code have signaled the country’s strong commitment to protecting its environment. Strengthening provisions specifically targeting environmental crime, the code now stipulates that legal entities, as well as individuals, can be prosecuted for a range of environmental crimes including intentionally causing pollution, non-compliance with environmental remediation and protection regulations, and breaching hazardous waste management regulations. According to the new legislation, companies can also be found liable for illegal logging and wildlife trade, damage to aquatic resources, causing harm to endangered species, and importing or dispersing foreign species harmful to the environment. A landmark case, the Vedan Case illustrated the disastrous environmental effects of large-scale industrial operations when the food additive producer discharged untreated wastewater and sewage into the Thi Vai River. The case created precedence for holding those most culpable of environmental violations to a higher legal standard. Criminal enforcement agencies, including the courts, now have the legislative framework to impose a range of penalties against legal entities for environmental crimes. These are in addition to the usual monetary fines and can include temporary or permanent shutdowns of the company’s operations, restrictions on its access to funds, and court-ordered remediation measures. Vietnamese officials are co-hosting workshops with the Ministry of Justice for the purpose of building understanding of the implications of the new code across environmental ministries, enforcement officials and those tasked with drafting guiding regulations as well as legislative refinements. Participants at the workshops, including prosecutors, court officials, police officers, NGOs, ministerial officials and international environmental criminal law experts, focused on topics such as criminal sentencing of legal entities (specifically, effective remedies for environmental crime), and commencing criminal proceedings against legal entities, including investigative processes and the role of special rules of procedure or prosecution guidelines. These are ongoing topics of discussion in jurisdictions where more established environmental enforcement regimes are in operation, as well as in countries where there remain significant challenges to the environmental rule of law.

References and Further Reading


Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE):;