Police seek prosecution of 20 for inciting SEZ law protest in Vietnam

By Phuoc Tuan   July 7, 2018 | 10:07 am GMT+7

The suspects allegedly persuaded protesters to block main streets in Bien Hoa, jamming traffic for hours.

Police in Dong Nai Province in southern Vietnam on Friday urged prosecutors to impose criminal charges on 20 people for provoking protests that heavily disturbed traffic last month.

The police said they have wrapped up investigation, and that the 20 suspects should be prosecuted for "causing public disorder," a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison in Vietnam.

According to investigators, the suspects took advantage of controversies surrounding Vietnam’s proposed draft law on special economic zones (SEZs) to incite hundreds of people to protest on June 10.

Protesters reportedly stormed major streets in the province's capital town Bien Hoa, one hour northeast of Saigon, and resisted local authorities' calls for them to disperse. The protest disrupted public order and resulted in hours-long traffic jams.

A police truck blocks a national highway in Dong Nai Province to keep vehicles away from protests in Bien Hoa on June 10. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan

A police truck blocks a national highway in Dong Nai Province to keep vehicles away from protests in Bien Hoa on June 10. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan

The 20 facing charges are among 52 violent protesters detained by Bien Hoa police. The suspects have admitted to inciting the protest and persuading others to block the roads and cause disorder, officers said.

As Vietnam has delayed passing the Law on Demonstration several times, all acts to incite public protests are now deemed illegal.

The protest in Dong Nai was just one of several that erupted in Vietnam in opposition of the draft law on SEZs, particularly a provision that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years, while the maximum period under the current Land Law is 70 years.

Thousands of people took to the streets on June 10 in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and several provinces, with banners and signs calling for the draft law to be scrapped. The bill which was scheduled to be passed in June has been postponed for further discussions in October.

Following the demonstrations, police detained hundreds of violent protesters and said they uncovered evidence that the protests were anti-state actions incited by organizations based in other countries using false, distorted information on the draft laws.

Prosecutors in the south central province of Binh Thuan have already charged 17 protesters for "causing public disorder" and "resisting persons in the performance of their official duties."

 
 
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