Annually, the Police Department for Environmental Crime Prevention and Combat detects 5,000-6,000 cases of violation of the environmental law of which few can be criminally examined and punished due to lack of provisions on penal liability of legal entities and of unspecific relevant regulations.
|Local people excavate expired chemicals and pesticides dumped by Thanh Thai Joint Stock Company in Thanh Hoa Province __Photo: Trinh Duy Hung/VNA
In an interview granted to the Tin Tuc (News) newspaper, Head of the Department Nguyen Xuan Ly said the increasing number of environmental crimes was attributable to low fines imposed on violations in this field.
Lawmakers have detailed and increased fines for 11 environmental crimes prescribed in the 2009 Penal Code. However, these crimes remain difficult to be identified in reality.
For example, Vedan Vietnam in 2012 was fined only VND 216.5 million (USD 13,000) for illegally discharging untreated wastewater into Dong Nai province’s Thi Vai river, causing serious consequences, and neither suspended from production nor criminally charged. Similarly, Hyundai Vinashin Shipyard Company and Miwon Vietnam dumped toxic waste in Khanh Hoa province and into Red River, respectively, but were subject only to administrative sanctions.
To redress this, an expert from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Legal Department suggested the elaboration of documents guiding the Penal Code regarding environmental crimes as well as the addition of criminal liability of legal entities.
In addition, the fine levels should also be raised to be much higher than benefits that environmental polluters may take from their violations, in order to increase the enforceability of laws and prevent further violations.
According to Nguyen Minh Duc from the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Legal Department, though environmental crimes were included in the Penal Code since 1999, to date environmental polluters have been mostly charged with crimes of deforestation and violation on wild fauna protection regulations. Other very serious crimes, including causing air pollution and bringing wastes into the Vietnamese territory, are rarely used to charge environmental violators.- (VLLF)