Police to launch criminal probe into violent protest in central Vietnam

By Phuoc Tuan   June 12, 2018 | 05:19 pm PT
Police to launch criminal probe into violent protest in central Vietnam
Burned cars outside Binh Thuan Province's fire police office. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
107 people have been detained for vandalizing government offices and burning cars in Binh Thuan Province.

Police in Vietnam's south central province of Binh Thuan announced on Tuesday they would be launching a criminal investigation into a protest that broke out in the province last Sunday.

The protest, which quickly turned violent when protesters started vandalizing government offices, burning cars and assaulting law enforcement officers, was likely planned in advance, according to Colonel Dao Trong Nghia, deputy chief of Binh Thuan Police.

"Petrol, rocks and bricks were placed beforehand at places convenient for protesters to use against the functional forces," Nghia said, adding that criminal charges would be brought forward once the police could narrow down the list of suspects.

A total of 28 police officers were injured while attempting to maintain order since the protest started on Sunday, according to the province's authorities. Protesters also damaged the provincial People's Committee building, set fire to 12 cars and smashed another two.

The protest extended to Monday with protesters blocking National Highway 1, vandalizing and looting the headquarters of the local fire police, officials said.

Police said 107 protesters have been detained as of Tuesday afternoon.

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.

Nguyen Van Son, Deputy Minister of Public Security, instructed Binh Thuan authorities on Monday to investigate and strictly punish "the ringleaders that enticed, incited and provoked thousands of people into gathering, vandalizing and opposing the functional forces in performance of their duty."

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.

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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