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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Group of military offences in ancient laws of Vietnam

Updated: 10:04’ - 28/02/2011

>>Position-related crimes in Vietnam's ancient laws

Pham Diem      
State and Law Research Institute

The ancient codes of Vietnam, including Hong Duc Code of the 15th century and Gia Long Code of the 19th century, devoted many articles to the provisions on army organization and military offenses.

The then law-makers classified with full consciousness the military offenses according to each domain: offenses against the recruitment regime, offenses against military disciplines, offenses against battlefield disciplines. As they often directly or indirectly infringed upon the national security and kings, the military offenses were usually subject to heaviest penalties.

1. Offenses against the recruitment regimes

Under the monarchical regimes in Vietnam, the army was organized into two different categories: “quan cam ve” or “ngu lam quan” (the imperial guards) and “quan dia phuong” (local guards). The imperial guards stationed in the imperial capital to defend the forbidden city while the local guards were tasked to defend key regions, particularly the frontier areas. What was the original feature of the army recruitment regime in ancient Vietnam was that during peace time soldiers took turn to return home for farming and in case of war, all of them had to return to their units.

To ensure accurate recruitment, the State stipulated that men aged 18 upward had to register their names in the local civic status registers and were classified into the following grades:

- “Trang hang” included strong men who had to be immediately enlisted into the army.

- “Quan hang” also included strong men who, however, were permitted to stay home to toil their fields until they were summoned for the army in case of need. In fact, these were reserve armymen.

- “Dan hang” comprised all men in normal health, who shall not have to do the military work.

- “Lao hang” included old and weak people.

A family with 3 or 4 men would have 1 of them recruited into “trang hang”, 1 into “quan hang” and 1 or 2 into “dan hang.” A family with 5 or more men would have 2 of them recruited into “trang hang” and 1 into “quan hang”.

With such an army recruitment regime, the ancient laws spelt out heavy penalties for acts of false civic status and household registration declaration to dodge military conscription or public labor duties.

Article 285 of Hong Duc Code stipulated that any village mandarin who missed to register from 1 to 5 “dan dinh” (the male) in the household registration books would be demoted, from 6 to 14 males would be subject to corvee labor, and from 15 or more “dan dinh” would be exiled to remote regions. Meanwhile, the missed persons were compelled to serve the local army.

According Article 286 of the same Code, any men who changed their names and fled from their native places in order to dodge the conscription would be sentenced to corvee labor. If mandarins in other localities tolerated their hidings, they would also be penalized.

In order to prevent and penalize the evasion of military conscription, Gia Long Code also set out many similar provisions thereon. Its Article 72 stipulated if a village chief failed to declare 1 young man in his locality, he would be penalized with 60 canings. If the number was greater, he would be subject to more severe punishment.

2. Offenses against the army disciplines during peace time

For acts of desertion, Hong Duc Code, in its Article 263, stipulated: Any active soldiers who desert their military duties would be sentenced to corvee labor. The recidivists would be sentenced to exile. Those who conceal conscription dodgers would also be subject to corvee labor.

Under Article 265 of the same Code, soldiers stationing in frontier regions and deserting their posts would be sentenced to corvee labor or even to death, depending on the seriousness of their offenses; and local mandarins who failed to arrest army deserters would also be subject to corvee labor.

Gia Long Code also contained provisions on army desertion. Its Article 198 stipulated: Any soldiers who station in the capital city and desert their posts shall be penalized with 90 canings and any soldiers who station in localities and desert their posts shall be penalized with 80 canings. The recidivists shall all be subject to 100 canings and frontier postings. If they again desert while stationing in the frontier regions they would be subject to hanging.

For general-rank officers who neglected their military duties including the training of army men under their command, Article 241 of Hong Duc Code stipulated: Any generals who failed to attend to the training of soldiers, letting them not correctly in line and not well-trained, who leave weaponry in damage which need repair with public money or who appropriate public funds shall be dismissed from office, subject to corvee labor or exile, depending on the seriousness of their offenses.

Meanwhile, Article 257 of the same Code specified: Generals who are not assiduous in training their men or order soldiers to work for their own families shall be sentenced to corvee labor or exile.

Gia Long Code contained similar provisions. Article 191 provided: Generals who fail to maintain the army disciplines, to train soldiers under their command, fail to consolidate fortresses and/or to ready shield jackets and weapons shall be penalized with 80 canings for their first-time offenses and with 100 canings for their relapse into such offenses.

Under the monarchical regimes, the army commanding officers had no right to array troops without the orders of the kings or their superiors in a bid to prevent mutinies and to protect the royal courts.

According to Article 254 of Hong Duc Code, any commanding officers who arbitrarily arrayed between 30 and under 100 men would be demoted, between 100 and under 300 men would be sentenced to corvee labor, between 300 and under 500 men would be sentenced to exile, and 500 or more men, to hanging. Those who arbitrarily supply soldiers to others would be penalized with one grade lighter than the above-prescribed penalties for the same offenses.

Article 190 of Gia Long Code stipulated that if general officers ordered their men to loot people, such general officers would be penalized with 100 canings, dismissed from office and demoted in rank and file while the offending soldiers would be penalized with 80 canings.

Particularly, the ancient laws contained many provisions on the management and preservation of weapons and military gears. According to Article 262 of Hong Duc Code, those who have received military weapons and supplies but delayed delivery thereof to designated places would be penalized with 80 canings for 10 days of late delivery or charged with robbery for 100 days of late delivery. Those who damage or lose military weapons and/or equipment would also be charged with robbery.

Article 268 provided: Any ware-house keepers who realized that the military weapons and equipment therein had been in deficit but failed to propose the additional manufacture would be dismissed from office, who arbitrarily supply military weapons without the superiors’ orders would be more severely punished, subject to 60 canings.

According to Article 280, any officers or men who use military weapons for personal purposes would be dismissed and have to pay compensation doubling the value of the military weapons.

Meanwhile, Article 193 of Gia Long Code provided that any soldiers who sell the military equipment and/or weapons assigned to them would be penalized with 100 canings and posted in border regions. According to Article 194 of the same Code, those who damage military weapons would be penalized with between 60 and 100 canings, depending on the seriousness of their offenses; those who conceal banned weapons would be subject to 80 or 100 canings or sentenced to exile to remote regions.

3. Offenses against the army disciplines during the war time

Offenses of this category include first of all the refusal to go to the front for fighting the enemy. For this, Hong Duc Code, in its Article 242, prescribed: Any one who refuses to immediately go to the front fighting the enemy when receiving the order therefor shall be sentenced to beheading. According to Article 249, when in military marches, if the troops marching in front encountered the enemy troops while the troops marching behind falsely reported that the roads were full of obstacles and did not come to the front-marching troops’ rescue, the troops marching behind would be subject to beheading. Or under Article 256, commanding officers who led their army to war and learnt upon the defeat suffered by another army corps but failed to come to the latter’s rescue would also be sentenced to beheading. According to Article 258, those who employed tricks to avoid military duties when they were sent to fight the army would also be sentenced to beheading. Both people who asked others to carry their names and go fighting the enemy in their place and people who acted so for others would be sentenced to death.

Gia Long Code also contained similar provisions on penalities against deserters of battles (Article 198), against commanding officers for failure to set up last-ditch defense work against the enemy troops (Article 189).

Besides, the ancient laws also spelt out severe penalties for other serious offenses such as disclosure of military secrets, duty negligence leading to sudden attacks by the enemy, disobedience of commanders’ orders, arbitrary release of prisoners of war, appropriation of war trophies, etc.

Article 243 of Hong Duc Code provided that officers and men who were charged with the duty to defend the national frontiers but failed to set up good defense and to gather true espionage information, thus leading to enemy surprise attacks would all be sentenced to beheading.

According to Article 244, commanding officers who went to war but failed to maintain their army which was, therefore, defeated, losing their men would be dismissed from office, if 10 of their men got killed; subject to corvee labor if 20 or more men were killed; to exile if 30 or more men were killed; have their feet cut if 70 or more men were decimated; or subject to beheading and confiscation of property if 500 or more men got killed.

Article 245 of the same Code provided that any soldiers, when going to battle fields, marched or retreated at variance with the commanders’ orders would all be beheaded. According to Article 246, those who, after breaking the enemy defense, failed to pursue them but vied with one another for war trophies or captured war trophies but refused to remit them into the public fund, would all be sentenced to beheading.

Under Article 247, when leading their army to war, if commanding officers showed discords among themselves or disclosed military secrets, thus making their troops to be in confusion and puzzlement, they would all be sentenced to beheading. Meanwhile, Article 251 stipulated that if a commanding officer was let captured by the enemy, all his men would be sentenced to beheading, except those with merits and exploits.

All these offenses and similar penalties therefor could also be found in Gia Long Code, particularly Articles 184, 186, 187, etc.-


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