Vietnam Ranked Among Top Nations for Capital Punishment: A Capital of Capital Execution

Across the country, at least 189 individuals have been sentenced to death this year.

Vietnam Ranked Among Top Nations for Capital Punishment: A Capital of Capital Execution
Graphic: Shiv/The Vietnamese Magazine.

Tran Phuong wrote this article in Vietnamese, which was published in Luat Khoa Magazine on October 10, 2023. Lee Nguyen translated the article into English.

Approximately three-fourths of all countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty. In Southeast Asia, Cambodia and the Philippines no longer use capital punishment, while Indonesia is moving towards granting clemency to death row inmates. Malaysia is also progressing towards the abolition of the death penalty. In contrast to its neighboring countries, Vietnam seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

From January to early October 2023, at least 189 people have been sentenced to death in Vietnam. This information is based on the data collected by The Vietnamese Magazine from state media reports. [1]

The speed of death sentences handed down by the courts has also outpaced actual executions. As of 2021, Vietnam had 1644 death row inmates [2] but only 1200 available prison spaces to accommodate them. [3]

The Vietnamese government confirms that the number of people sentenced to capital punishment each year has increased by about 30% compared to the previous year. [4] From 2016 to 2021, a total of  2,339 individuals were sentenced to death. [5]

Vietnam's Death Penalty Rankings

At present, Ho Chi Minh City holds the top position in the country for the highest number of individuals sentenced to death, with 34 people executed. Among this number, six were found guilty of murder, while the rest were involved in the illegal trade or transport of narcotic substances. 

For other areas in Vietnam, Hanoi is ranked second with 20 death sentences in 2023. Despite being the fourth most populous province in the country, Nghe An has sentenced at least 14 people to death, while Thanh Hoa province has imposed at least five instances of capital punishment.

The number of death sentences in Vietnam’s provinces and cities in 2023. The Vietnamese Magazine collected the data from state media reports.

Out of the 189 people sentenced to death, 44 were convicted of murder (23%), while the remaining 145 (77%) were involved in illegally trading or transporting narcotic substances. No other offenses resulted in the death penalty.

Hai Duong, Thanh Hoa, and Ha Tinh Province Sentenced Three Youngest People to Death

The People's Court of Hai Duong Province issued the death sentence to Do Ngoc Khanh, a 12th-grade student who committed murder and robbery to pay off a 5 million dong debt to his classmates. [6]

In Thanh Hoa, a 19-year-old man named Le Van Hoang was given the death penalty. Hoang is alleged to have killed his friend, who could not repay a debt of 5 million dong and threw his body in a local river. [7]

The People's Court of Ha Tinh Province sentenced 20-year-old Pham Quang Huy to death for illegally transporting narcotic substances in exchange for 40 million dong. [8]

Capital Punishment Issuance in Nghe An Province Increased More Than Tenfold

In 2016, Nghe An Province sentenced 23 individuals to death. [9] In 2018, this locality had 47 death row inmates. In 2022, this number rose to 161. As of June 2023, the province has 172 death row inmates sitting on death row. [10]

The provincial police of Nghe An reported that the number of people sentenced to death from 2014 to 2023 has increased by 10.5 times. [11]

In 2023, the People's Court of Nghe An Province handed down at least 13 death sentences for drug-related offenses, as well as one death penalty for murder. The murder took place within a family where a father pursued and fatally stabbed his daughter and her boyfriend. [12]

Son La Province Issues 10 Death Sentences in a Single Trial

In 2023, the People's Court of Son La Province conducted only one trial, resulting in a death sentence. In the trial, 10 out of 11 individuals were given death sentences for their involvement in the illegal transportation of narcotic substances. The province currently holds the distinction of issuing the highest number of death sentences yearly. [13]

Other locations that have set records for the highest number of death sentences in a single trial include Nghe An Province, with six individuals; Hung Yen Province, with five; and Quang Ninh Province, with four.

31 Death Sentences in One Month

In June 2023, Vietnam’s judicial system handed down at least 31 death sentences. This is currently the highest number of death sentences issued in a single month. Among these 31 sentences, six were for murder, while the rest were related to illegally dealing and transporting narcotic substances.

Other months in 2023 with high numbers of death sentences include September with 28 penalties, February with 25, and both March and May with 23 sentences each.

The number of death sentences issued each month from January 2023 to the beginning of October 2023. The Vietnamese Magazine collected the data from state media reports.

19 Ethnic Minority Individuals Sentenced to Death

In 2023, at least 19 ethnic minority individuals were given the death penalty. One is from the Central Highlands, while the others are from the northern region.

Among these 19 sentences, only two were for the crime of murder, while the rest were related to the illegal trade and transport of narcotic substances. The youngest ethnic minority individual sentenced to death is Lu Xuan Minh, 23, who was convicted of killing a motorbike taxi driver during a robbery.

At present, Dien Bien Province has issued the highest number of death sentences for ethnic minorities, with nine penalties.

Ethnic minorities make up 14.7% of the total population in the country. However, around 10% of those given capital punishment are from ethnic minority groups.

9 Foreign Nationals Sentenced to Death

At least nine foreign nationals were sentenced to death in Vietnam in 2023. Among them, one South Korean was convicted of murdering a compatriot over a debt dispute [14]. Three were from Taiwan, another three were from Laos, and two were from Cambodia; they were all given the death penalty for illegally trading and transporting narcotic substances into Vietnam.

Currently, Malaysia is detaining one Vietnamese death row inmate, while Vietnam is also holding one Malaysian condemned prisoner. Both are women and were convicted of illegally transporting narcotic substances. [15]

45% of Death Row Convicts Murdered Their Lovers or Family Members

In the 44 murder cases resulting in the death penalty in 2023, 20 (45%) stemmed from conflicts related to romantic partners or family members.

Among these cases, there were 12 instances of individuals taking the lives of their romantic partners, two cases involving rivals in love, one incident of murdering a lover's relative, and five cases of killing family members.

The youngest offender was a 30-year-old woman who set a boarding house complex on fire during a conflict with her romantic partner, resulting in multiple deaths. She is also the only woman convicted of murder who was sentenced to death in 2023.

The remaining 24 cases were related to societal violence, including personal conflicts, murder, and robbery.

Vietnam: The Number One Executioner in Southeast Asia

From October 2018 to the end of July 2019, the Vietnamese government executed 68 people. Annual data on executions is severely limited and rarely disclosed. We could only hand-count the death sentences reported daily by state media and compiled our own database. [16]

Every year, Vietnam executes more citizens than any other country in Southeast Asia; it also houses the highest number of death row inmates in the region. In 2021, Vietnam held 1,644 death row inmates. [17]

Indonesia, with a population nearly three times that of Vietnam, holds 450 death row inmates. The last execution in Indonesia took place in July 2016. [19]

Since 2018, Malaysia has ceased carrying out executions. [20] In 2022, Singapore executed only 11 death row inmates. [21] In 2023, the government of Laos revealed that the country has sentenced about 500 people to death over the past 10 years. [22]

Between 2009 and 2018, Thailand has not executed any death row inmates. The most recent execution in Thailand occurred in June 2018. [23]

It was only in July 2022 that Myanmar resumed the execution of death row prisoners after over a decade of suspension. The resumption was mainly for political reasons following the military coup that ousted the civilian government in 2021. [24]

Brunei has not executed any death row inmates since 1957 [25], while Cambodia (in 1989) and the Philippines (in 1987) have abolished the death penalty.

Vietnam remains the top executioner in Southeast Asia, with its citizens facing more government-imposed executions than any other country in the region.


1. Án tử hình tại Việt Nam - 2023 - Airtable. (n.d.). Airtable. Luật Khoa Tạp chí.

2. Ngọc Lê - Phan Thương. (2021, July 18). Vì sao thi hành án tử hình kéo dài nhiều năm?

3. Tiengchuong.Chinhphu.Vn. (2021, November 8). Nhiều khó khăn trong thi hành án tử hình.

4. See [3]

5. See [2]

6. Sơn N. (2023, September 19). Hải Dương: Tòa tuyên tử hình nam sinh lớp 12 giết người cướp tài sản.

7. Hoàng L. (2023, March 15). Tử hình kẻ phi tang xác người nợ 5 triệu đồng xuống sông Mã.

8. TAND tỉnh Hà Tĩnh tuyên án tử hình đối tượng vận chuyển ma tuý. (n.d.). Cổng TTĐT Tỉnh Hà Tĩnh.

9. Thi hành án tử hình bằng thuốc độc 10 đối tượng. (2016). Dân Trí.

10. Nghệ An thực hiện nghiêm các quy định Luật Thi hành tạm giữ, tạm giam. (2023, June 8). Cổng Thông Tin Điện Tử Nghệ An.

11. Công an Nghệ An đảm bảo an toàn tuyệt đối công tác tạm giam, tạm giữ. (2023, March 14). Báo Công an Nhân Dân.

12. Người cha lĩnh án tử hình vì sát hại con gái và bạn trai của con. (2023, March 29). Báo Tiền Phong.

13. Tuyên phạt tử hình 10 bị cáo trong vụ án mua bán, tàng trữ trái phép chất ma túy. (2023, June 12). Cục Thông Tin Đối Ngoại - Bộ Thông Tin Và Truyền Thông.

14. Thọ H. (2023, May 19). Giám đốc người Hàn Quốc sát hại đồng hương, bỏ xác trong vali lãnh án tử hình. Báo Điện Tử VTC News.

15. Malaysia cho phép tử tù được nộp đơn xin giảm án. (2023, September 19). Luật Khoa (Facebook).

16. Vũ H. (2019, September 3). Giam giữ trên 10 năm vẫn chưa thi hành được án tử hình. Nhịp Sống Kinh Tế Việt Nam & Thế Giới.

17. See [2].

18. Executions worldwide rose dramatically in 2022, Amnesty International reports. (2023, May 16). PBS NewsHour.

19. Death penalty reforms bring hope amid resumption of executions across Southeast Asia • Amnesty International Indonesia. (2023, May 16).

20. Cue. (2023, February 9). 11 judicial executions in 2022; none in previous two years. The Straits Times.

21. Lao, B. R. (2023, July 7). Weak laws in Laos mean death-row inmates won’t face execution anytime soon. Radio Free Asia.

22. Amnesty International. (2021). Thailand: Country’s first execution since 2009, a deplorable move. Amnesty International.

23. The Associated Press. (2022, July 25). Myanmar carries out its first executions in decades, including democracy activists. NPR.

24. Amnesty International UK. (2019, May 6). Brunei: “Heinous” death penalty law must now be repealed. Amnesty International UK.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to The Vietnamese Magazine.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.