Individuals caught polluting the environment in Vietnam are to be subject to jail terms, instead of merely cash fines, this year as the Penal Code has been amended to become more stringent to this offense.
From January 1, people found guilty of dumping waste to cause damage to the environment will be fined up to VND3 billion (US$132,159) or jailed for up to seven years, according to the amended Vietnamese 2015 Penal Code.
The previous law, the 2009 Penal Code, did stipulate that owners of manufacturing facilities or businesses could be criminally charged if they cause “severe or particularly serious consequences” to the environment.
However, the 2009 law did not provide any specific parameters to determine the severity of an offense.
“As it was impossible to rule that a business has severely polluted the environment, most of the individuals responsible were able to avoid criminal charges,” Hoang Van Thuc, deputy head of the General Department of Environment, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
For instance, the operator of the Chinese-owned Pacific Crystal textile factory in the northern province of Hai Duong was only subject to an administrative fine of VND672 million ($30,000) even when the facility was caught dumping undertreated wastewater into the environment in February 2017.
The amended 2015 Penal Code, taking effect from this year, includes measureable parameters such as the volume of wastewater or the weight of solid waste being dumped, and the number of violations, which makes it easier to criminally charge violators, Thuc elaborated.
“This means from now on, businesses that pay little attention to technology or waste treatment systems are more likely to face jail terms,” he warned.
The General Department of Environment inspected nearly 1,000 businesses in 2015 and 2016, and found 25 to 30 percent of them breaching the standards on environmental protection.
“These violators may have been able to avoid criminal charges but the new law now has measurable parameters to file criminal charges against them,” he said.