Two jailed in Vietnam for burning police cars during last year's SEZ law protests

By Phan Thanh   May 21, 2019 | 06:17 pm PT
Two jailed in Vietnam for burning police cars during last year's SEZ law protests
Dang Ngoc Tan and Pham Thanh stand trial in Binh Thuan Province, May 21, 2019, for burning police cars during a protest in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Thanh
Two men have been sentenced to jail for burning six cars during last year’s protests against the Special Economic Zones bill, causing losses of $200,000.

A court in the south central province of Binh Thuan on Tuesday gave Dang Ngoc Tan, 19, 17 years and Pham Thanh, 31, 11 years for "deliberate destruction of property."

They were the first to be tried for destruction of property during last June's protests in Binh Thuan. They have already received jail sentences of four and four and a half years for disrupting public order at a trial last September.

According to the indictment, on the morning of June 10 hundreds of people gathered on a section of National Highway 1 for the protests, disrupting order and blocking traffic.

Many were found to have incited the crowd to block vehicles and throw objects at police officers sent to disperse the crowd and restore order.

The following afternoon the protesters stormed a fire station where police officers had taken refuge, vandalized the building and destroyed 12 vehicles parked inside. Tan and Thanh were found guilty of burning down six cars with petrol bombs.

At the trial on Tuesday both men admitted to their crimes and asked for leniency.

The protests in Binh Thuan were among several that erupted across Vietnam on June 10 and 11. Thousands of people had also taken to the streets in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, and several provinces with banners and signs calling for the SEZ bill to be scrapped.

Earlier trials held in Binh Thuan, nearby Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan Provinces, Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring Dong Nai Province saw nearly 100 other protesters imprisoned for "disrupting public order."

They were objecting in particular to a provision that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years, saying it would undermine Vietnam’s sovereignty.

All acts to incite public protests remain illegal after the passage of the Law on Demonstrations was deferred several times.

After the demonstrations, the police detained hundreds of protesters and said they had uncovered evidence the protests were anti-state actions incited by organizations based in other countries using false, distorted information about the bill.

But passage of the bill has been put off for further discussions in the National Assembly.

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