American man faces charge of inciting violence during SEZ law protest

By Vy Tuong   June 15, 2018 | 10:33 pm PT
Police say 33-year-old man was on vacation when he participated in protests against the SEZ law provisions.

A 33-year-old American arrested in a crackdown on people who protested provisions of the draft law on special economic zones (SEZ) last weekend is likely to receive charges of instigating violent acts.

Ho Chi Minh City police said Friday that William Anh Nguyen, pursuing a Masters degree in Singapore, was on a two-week visit to Vietnam when he responded to social media posts calling for a protest rally.

Nguyen joined thousands of people storming many streets from the area near the Tan Son Nhat Airport and marching to the city center.

Screenshot from an online video shows Nguyen William Anh (in sleeveless T-shirt) at a protest in Saigon on June 10.

Screenshot from an online video shows Nguyen William Anh (in sleeveless T-shirt) at a protest in Saigon on June 10.

He allegedly encouraged and supported many protestors who threw rocks and damaged police cars at the intersection of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Ly Chinh Thang streets.

He and other “aggressive protestors” were taken into custody pending further investigation.

On Thursday, HCMC police had arrested 45-year-old Truong Huu Loc also on charges of disrupting order and violating the country’s criminal code.

They also detained seven other people, fined another 175 and made 38 others pledge not to violate the rules again.

It has been reported that a particular provision in the draft law on SEZs that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years was the primary triggering factor for the protests.

Vietnam’s current Land Law allows investors to rent land for up to 70 years.

Last weekend saw huge crowds of protesters gather in many places, from Vietnam’s largest city, Binh Thuan, Da Nang to Hanoi.

Hundreds of protestors had stormed the office of the People’s Committee in Binh Thuan on Sunday, burnt vehicles, destroyed other property and collided with the police. Binh Thuan police are holding 17 people pending charges of disruption of public order, property destruction and resisting the police.

Vietnam has delayed the Law on Demonstration several times, so acts to incite public protests are deemed illegal.

The Sunday protests even as Vietnamese government requested the National Assembly (NA) to postpone the bill on SEZs, saying it needed more time to ensure that it meets the aspirations of both legislators and the public.

The NA started discussions on the SEZs last November. The zones are planned in Van Don in the northern Quang Ninh Province, Bac Van Phong in the central Khanh Hoa Province, and Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang Province in the south.

The bill has received a lot public scrutiny and experts who disagree with it have expressed uncertainty about the efficiency of the SEZs.

Many people have also said they are worried about the potential undermining of national security and violation of sovereignty if foreign investors, especially Chinese, are allowed to rent land for up to 99 years in these areas.

The SEZ bill, which was initially planned to be passed this month, is scheduled to be discussed again at the National Assembly’s next session in October.

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