Central Vietnam protest 'unbelievable, unacceptable': provincial leader

By Phuoc Tuan   June 11, 2018 | 07:23 am PT
Central Vietnam protest 'unbelievable, unacceptable': provincial leader
Protesters burn vehicles outside a government office in Binh Thuan Province on Sunday night. Photo by VnExpress
Protest against SEZ law provisions in Binh Thuan turned violent with government offices vandalized and cars burned.

Authorities in Vietnam's south central province of Binh Thuan have strongly condemned a protest that broke out in the province on Sunday as “causing very serious consequences.”

"The people's act of vandalizing government offices is unbelievable in this peacetime…, " Huynh Thai Duong, deputy head of the provincial propaganda department, said at a press briefing on Monday afternoon.

He also stressed that the protest, which resulted in the main gate of the provincial People's Committee building being pulled down and over 10 vehicles being torched, was comparable to a riot and therefore "unacceptable."

On Sunday, many protesters also blocked a section of National Highway 1, set cars on fire and threw rocks, as well as petrol bombs, at the police, according to Huynh Van Dien, chairman of Tuy Phong District.

He said many of the protesters have been identified as young, unemployed drug addicts with criminal records.

The protest in Binh Thuan Province was the most intense among a series of street demonstrations against Vietnam's draft law on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) last weekend.

Hundreds of protestors had stormed the office of the provincial People’s Committee on Sunday evening, burnt vehicles, destroyed other property and clashed with the police, authorities said. The protest resulted in dozens of police officers being injured but there was no casualty.

By Monday morning, local authorities had detained 102 people for vandalizing. Apart from Binh Thuan, large crowds of protesters also gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi and other places to protest the draft law on SEZs.

The police in HCMC and neighboring Binh Duong Province have arrested several people for leading the “illegal” protests, media reports said.

Ho Chi Minh City police said Monday that workers of Taiwanese textile company Pouyuen had been instigated into striking work and protesting the bill on SEZs. Bui Van Cuong, chairman of Vietnamese Trade Unions, called on all workers to “stay alert and not to listen to the bad people.”

It is believed 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.

The bill was deferred by the National Assembly on Monday at the government’s behest. Originally scheduled to be passed this week, the parliament will take the bill up for discussion at its next session in October.

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