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Vietnam Table of Contents


Development of the Internal Security System

During the First Indochina War, police and internal-security functions were regarded as a single activity. Security cadres and personnel had three duties: guarding Viet Minh facilities, highlevel personnel, lines of communication, and troop movements; insuring public safety in the Viet Minh-controlled areas; and conducting counterintelligence and antisabotage work.

At the time of the DRV's formation in 1945, all of this activity was vested in the Ministry of Interior. Within the ministry was a large sub-element called the Directorate General for Security, concerned with counterrevolution. This arrangement was abolished in 1954, when the police and internal-security functions were separated and the Ministry of Public Security was created. After the takeover of the South in 1975, which imposed new internal security tasks, the two functions were again combined, this time into the Ministry of Interior, which was then vastly enlarged.

By the mid-1980s, the ministry was composed of seven major departments: the People's Police Department, responsible for general law enforcement; the Traffic Police Department, responsible for traffic control; the Public Security Department, responsible for general internal security; the Social Order Department, responsible for detention, the family registration system, immigration-emigration, border control, and port-of-entry security; the Public Security Forces, responsible for both law enforcement and internal security in the rural areas; the Counterespionage Department, chiefly responsible for investigative work and dossier compilation; and the Counterreactionary Department, chiefly responsible for investigation of religious organizations in the South.

Also in the ministry were smaller, more specialized offices under vice ministers, including those concerned with counterintelligence, foreign intelligence coordination (shared with PAVN intelligence agencies and primarily concerned with Cambodia and Laos), official communication systems operations (including mail censorship), political indoctrination of ministry personnel, and ethnic minorities' activities.

The Ministry of Interior was again enlarged and restructured in 1979, when, according to Hanoi, China launched its "multifaceted war of sabotage." This brought increased and more systematic coordination with PAVN, especially in the China border region. The restructuring moved the ministry closer to the Soviet model of internal security organizations, a development undoubtedly encouraged by Soviet Komitet Gosudavstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB, Committee of State Security) advisers. It is possible that in these shifts the ministry gained a certain degree of autonomy from the VCP.

Tran Quoc Hoan created Hanoi's state security system in the 1940s and ran it until he stepped down or was forced out in 1982. He then served as a director of the Central Committee's Proselytizing and Front Department. Hoan continued to publish extensively on security problems, and he remained an influential figure in the field until his death in late 1986. Pham Hung replaced Hoan as Minister of Interior in 1982 and served until December 1986, when he relinquished the post to Mai Chi Tho. Before his elevation to the ministry and the Political Bureau, Tho was in charge of security in southern Vietnam as the mayor of Ho Chi Minh City.

Data as of December 1987