Police crack down on protest instigators in Vietnam

By Vy Tuong   June 15, 2018 | 03:03 am PT
Police crack down on protest instigators in Vietnam
People gather for a rally to protest against provisions of a draft law on Vietnam's three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
25 face criminal charges, 175 fined for violating laws in protest against provisions of the Special Economic Zones law.

Vietnamese authorities have detained at least 25 individuals and punished hundreds in a crackdown against people accused of instigating protests with false information, engaging in vandalism and destroying property.

Thousands took the streets last weekend to protest controversial provisions of a draft law on three Special Economic Zones (SEZs). In some places, the protestors vandalized buildings, burnt vehicles and clashed with the police.

Police in Binh Thuan Province on Friday arrested 17 people for vandalizing the local government’s office on Sunday. These people are facing charges of disruption of public order, property destruction and resisting the police.

A day earlier, Ho Chi Minh City police took 45-year-old Truong Huu Loc into custody for disrupting security and violating the country’s criminal code.

He is alleged to have triggered, encouraged and supported many people in a rally against the state.

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

On Tuesday, police in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa detained Nguyen Van Quang, 31, for spreading disinformation against the state.

They said Quang will face criminal charges for feeding others false content about several draft laws and instigating others to take to the streets last weekend.

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.

Hundreds of protestors had stormed the office of the People’s Committee in Binh Thuan on Sunday, burnt vehicles, destroyed other property and clashed with the police.

'Illegal protests'

Apart from Binh Thuan, large crowds of protesters also gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi, Nha Trang and other places to protest the draft law on SEZs.

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

The Sunday protests came after the Vietnamese government requested the National Assembly (NA) to postpone the bill on SEZs a day earlier, 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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