The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism posted the proposed ban on its website and invited public comment on the move, its latest attempt to clamp down on illegal behaviour at the popular singing clubs.
“The function of karaoke bars is for singing, not for dancing. The ban for dancing in karaoke bar is to limit the use of ecstasy pills,” Thanh Nien newspaper quoted Le Anh Tuyen, head of the ministry’s legal department, as saying.
Ecstasy is a drug that became popular internationally at “rave” dance parties.
Tuyen said that any dance in a karaoke bar would violate the proposed ban but “behaviour with less danger to society,” such as simply moving to the beat of a song without using ecstasy, would not be fined.
Residents quoted by the VNExpress news website reacted critically to the proposal.
“Who can monitor, and who can define what is called dancing,” VNExpress quoted one resident, Nhu Dan, as saying.
Another, Thu Hong, said visiting karaoke bars was a way of releasing stress.
“It will be boring if you enter a karaoke bar, sitting in one place to sing songs,” Hong said.
While it bans dancing, the proposed decree extends the opening hours of discotheques at luxury hotels in the capital Hanoi and southern Ho Chi Minh City. They may now be able to operate until 2:00am instead of midnight, the draft said.
With visitor arrivals in Vietnam dropping during the global economic crisis, the move is designed to attract more tourists, Tuyen said.
In 2006 Vietnam banned alcohol in karaoke bars — but in practice drinking continues — while a year earlier it stopped issuing licences for bars, karaoke parlours and dance halls.
Earlier draft legislation even called for karaoke clubs to be shut down, after Tuyen said many served as brothels.
Karaoke bars are found throughout the socially conservative, communist nation, even in remote mountainous villages.