The official made the statement in an interview with Tuoi Tre on the subject. “It is time to change the social viewpoint on the age so that people from the ages of 16-18 can decide on their own issues and can have social responsibility in the capacity of adults,” Ngu said.

“As I have told the National Assembly, after the case of Le Van Luyen a minor who brutally murdered a cou..., I feel our conscience and responsibility were defied, since we have felt helpless against cruel crimes. Many people have felt upset to see underage people with half-smiles when they are handcuffed since they know for sure that they cannot be given the death sentence, which is only used for people over 18 years of age.”

Regarding the Government’s report that crimes committed by minors are on the rise, Ngu said such a situation is very serious. In the past 5 years, more than 49,000 criminal cases, including robberies and murders, committed by about 76,000 underage people have occurred.

Recently, young people using weapons in criminal cases has become common, Ngu said.

He pointed out six causes which could be responsible for the increase in crimes committed by underage people.

Firstly, minors’ civil capacity has yet to be assessed properly. Many people consider them as immature, lacking understandings and having little life experience, while in fact young people are living in a world where fast integration with multifaceted information has matured them more quickly than before.

Despite their early maturity, many adults, including parents and teachers, still regard under-18-year-olds as what they were 50 years ago. Meanwhile, many minors are ready to commit felonies since they know that they cannot be given the death sentence.

Secondly, there have been cases in which adults lured minors into committing crimes as cannon folder for investigators.

Third, there is a conflict of values involving minors. A law now stipulates that people who are 15 years old are allowed to sign a labor contract, meanwhile in another law, those minors are seen as children. As a result, there is a conflict between the minors’ desire to assert themselves and the society’s view that they are still children. Therefore, minors often trend to satisfy their demand for self-assertion by doing something big, including illegal acts like theft, robbery, drug trafficking, etc.

Fourth, some underage people tend to have a high opinion of themselves. They often claim to have more knowledge than adults, especially in today’s technocracy, and thereby look down on adults.

Fifth, thanks to their grasp of high scientific and technological levels, many people from15-18 years old have carried out offenses that are complicated and not easy detectable.

Lastly, younger people have more information than older people. With their foreign language and IT skills, many minors find it easier to find access to coded information or secret information and then use them, sometimes for illegal purposes.

Ngu said, “When we reset the majority age, we will not only be able resolve issues related to our criminal policy, but we will also empower young people and at the same time force them to be responsible for their acts.”

More consideration needed : lawyer

The current regulation on the majority age under the Criminal Code is appropriate with many other laws governing the age of marriage, voting, elections, civil deals, etc., said lawyer Trinh Thanh, head of Nguoi Ngheo (Poor People) Law Office.

Therefore, lowering the majority age must be considered carefully by concerned agencies and a regulation on the lowered majority age must agree with other laws, Thanh said.

Currently, the majority age in many other countries in the world is lower than in Vietnam. That is because there is a difference in terms of physical development and physiological psychology between young people in Vietnam and foreign countries, Thanh said.

“It is unreasonable to lower the majority age only based on the fact that a number of minors have committed serious crimes. In order to prevent crimes among minors, it is advisable to strengthen education at schools, in family and in society. In addition, heavier penalties should be given to those who lure minors into committing crimes.”

Judge Vuong Van Nghia, from the criminal court under the HCMC People’s Court, said, “In my opinion, the lowering of the majority age from 18 to 16 is groundless. Generally teenagers at 16 are grade-10 students, meaning that they have yet to complete their secondary education, and therefore, they should not be considered as adults.”

Tuoi Tre News - November 6, 2012