30 sentenced to jail for rioting during SEZ law protest

By Tu Huynh   November 1, 2018 | 09:38 am GMT+7
30 sentenced to jail for rioting during SEZ law protest
SEZ bill protesters are escorted outside a trial in Binh Thuan Province Wednesday. Photo by VnExpress/Tu Huynh

A court in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Thuan Wednesday imprisoned 30 people to up to 3.5 years for “disrupting public order.”

They had been arrested June 10 for vandalizing the provincial People's Committee building during a protest that broke out against the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Bill.

According to prosecutors, a large group of people had gathered in front of the major Phan Thiet Market and marched toward the People's Committee building shouting slogans and disrupting order on the pretext of protesting.

Upon reaching the building, some knocked down the front gate, damaged the watchtower and pelted police officers with bricks and rocks despite attempts to disperse the crowd by spraying water from a fire truck, the indictment said.

The protesters then stormed the building, vandalized offices and torched employees’ motorbikes. The office of the Department of Planning and Investment was also vandalized, and many cars were set on fire.

People protest outside a government office in Binh Thuan on June 10. Photo by VnExpress/Tu Huynh

People protest outside a government office in Binh Thuan on June 10. Photo by VnExpress/Tu Huynh

The police eventually managed to disperse the crowd the following morning and arrested hundreds.

At the trial Wednesday, the court concluded that the defendants' actions were extremely dangerous, caused public chaos and affected the province’s investment image. 

All 30 defendants admitted to their crimes and expressed remorse for their actions.

A number of other arrested protesters have been charged with "deliberate destruction of property" and "resisting law enforcement officers during the performance of their official duties," and will be tried later.

Earlier courts in Binh Thuan had sentenced 31 protesters at three separate trials in July and September to up to four and a half years in prison and given a minor an 18-month suspended sentence for disrupting public order.

The protests in Binh Thuan were among several that erupted across Vietnam on June 10 and 11. Thousands of people had also taken to the streets in Hanoi, Da Nang, HCMC and elsewhere with banners and signs calling for the SEZ bill to be scrapped.

They were objecting in particular to a provision allowing foreign investors to lease land for 99 years, saying it would allow foreign countries to undermine Vietnam’s sovereignty.

The bill, scheduled to be passed in June, has been postponed for further discussions.

With the passage of the Law on Demonstration delayed several times, all acts to incite public protests remain illegal.

Following the demonstrations, police detained hundreds of protesters and said they had uncovered evidence the protests had been anti-state actions incited by organizations based in other countries using false and distorted information about the bill.

 
 
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