Legal System

Vietnam follows the civil law tradition so its sources of law traditionally comprised only written legislation commonly referred to as legal instruments. These are laws and regulations enacted by legislative making bodies which are binding on citizens and enforceable by the State. Until recently, court judgments are normally not officially considered a source of law as judges do not have the power to interpret the law and court judgments are not binding in subsequent cases. However, since 2016, recognizing the benefits and necessity of court precedents, the Supreme People’s Court has been selecting and announcing court precedents for inferior courts to follow. Until early 2023, 63 court precedents in civil, criminal, administrative and commercial areas have been adopted.

The legal system is organized in a hierarchy in which higher-ranking legal instruments set out general rules and lower-ranking legal instruments provide the details. The Constitution stands at the top of this legal hierarchy and forms the foundation of the entire legal system. Under the Constitution are laws, ordinances, decrees, decisions, circulars and other subordinate legal documents dealing with different aspects of social life.

  • Constitution and laws are passed by the National Assembly and are the highest form of legal direction in Vietnam;
  • Ordinances and resolutions are issued by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly when the National Assembly is not in session;
  • Decrees are adopted by the Government for the implementation of laws and ordinances;
  • Decisions are issued by the Prime Minister for the implementation of regulations;
  • Circulars and Joint Circulars are issued by ministries, Supreme People’s Court and Supreme Procuracy Office for the implementation of laws and other superior legal documents (e.g., decrees);
  • Resolutions issued by the People’s Council of all levels (province, district, and ward/commune) for the implementation of superior legal documents (e.g., ordinances or decrees); and
  • Decisions issued by the People’s Committee of all levels (province, district, and ward/commune) for the implementation of the resolutions of the People’s Council of the same level or other superior legal documents.
Related Chapters

A Brief Introduction to Vietnam

Culture and Religion in Vietnam

The National Assembly

The Government

The Judiciary

Regulatory Framework

Banking & Finance

Capital Markets

Land & Housing

Labour Law


Intellectual Property

Selected Sector Regulations

Dispute Resolution

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