Top Vietnam legislator calls for calm over SEZ law

By Vo Hoai, Hoai Thu   June 10, 2018 | 11:19 pm PT
Top Vietnam legislator calls for calm over SEZ law
“We call for the people to stay calm and trust the decision of the Party and the State,” said National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Photo by VnExpress
Call comes after public protests in several places over controversial provisions in a law to regulate special economic zones.

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan appealed for calm, saying the patriotism of people had been misused by certain extreme elements.

Ngan’s call on Monday morning followed weekend protests in several cities across the nation, with thousands taking to the street, taking umbrage over a provision in a draft law on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years.

Ngan put a positive spin on the gathering of large crowds, saying it showed that the public is concerned about issues being discussed at the National Assembly.

“But the people didn’t correctly understand the nature of the matter and went extreme, and their love for the country has been taken advantage of. This has affected social safety and order,” Ngan added.

“We call for the people to stay calm and trust the decision of the Party and the State. The NA always listens to the people when discussing draft laws,” the chairwoman said.

423 members of parliament, accounting for 85.63 percent of MPs at the Monday meeting, voted in favor of postponing the SEZ bill as requested by the Vietnamese government last Saturday.

“As the SEZ bill is new, complicated, unprecedented and controversial, the NA Standing Committee agrees with the government in deferring passage of the bill to have more time for researching and perfecting it,” said NA deputy chairman Uong Chu Luu at the meeting.

The NA also agreed to remove a provision in the bill which allows foreign investors to rent land up to 99 years. Vietnam’s current Land Law allows investors to rent land for up to 70 years.

The SEZ draft law is scheduled to be passed through at the next NA session in October this year.

The NA has recommended that the government directs its ministries and other government bodies to control land use at the SEZs to ensure that when the bill is passed, it can be implemented immediately.

It has also asked government bodies to increase communication and clarify matters of public concern that there is a high degree of consensus about such bills.

The NA started discussing last October a draft law on setting up Special Economic Zones in three strategic areas with greater incentives and fewer restrictions. The three areas identified are Van Don in the northern Quang Ninh Province, Bac Van Phong in Khanh Hoa Province in the central coast, and Phu Quoc in the southern Kien Giang Province.

The proposed 99-year land rent duration for foreign investors sparked a public outcry, and thousands of people took to the streets to protest the bill over the weekend in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Thuan and Khanh Hoa provinces.

Some of them were arrested for encouraging people to join the protest and printing flyers with “distorted content,” the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Vietnam has delayed a Law on Demonstration several times thus far, so inciting public protests is deemed illegal.

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