Vietnam deports American citizen for disturbing order during SEZ law protest

By Lan Ngoc   July 19, 2018 | 10:08 pm PT
An American citizen accused of inciting violent acts during last month’s protest in Ho Chi Minh City will be deported.

William Anh Nguyen, 33, was charged with "disturbing public order," an offense punishable by up to seven years in jail under Vietnam's Penal Code.

Ho Chi Minh City People's Court said it gave him a commuted sentence because it was the first time the foreigner was committing a crime and he was repentant about what he’d done.

Nguyen will have to leave the country right after the trial wrapped up on Friday.

Nguyen, a Houston resident pursuing a Masters degree in Singapore, had arrived in Vietnam for a two-week vacation.

According to the indictment, he got information about a protest rally against a draft law on special economic zones (SEZ) on June 10 through social media posts and contacted other Facebook account holders to discuss ways to instigate violence during the protest.

Their initial plan was to not carry personal identification papers, resist police forces and flee the scene as the protest broke up.

On June 9, Nguyen entered Vietnam from Singapore and rented a room on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in District 3.

A day later, he participated in the demonstration, encouraged and supported many protestors who threw rocks and damaged police cars at the intersection of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Ly Chinh Thang streets, the indictment said.

The court claimed his act seriously infringed public order and obstructed traffic for hours from the airport to the city center.

William Anh Nguyen is escorted to a car after the trial. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Anh

William Anh Nguyen is escorted to a car after the trial. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Anh

The protest in HCMC was among several that erupted in Vietnam on June 10 and 11. Thousands of people had taken to the streets, also in Hanoi, Da Nang, and several provinces, with banners and signs calling for the SEZ draft law to be scrapped.

They particularly reportedly objected a provision that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years, saying that such a law would allow foreign countries to undermine Vietnam’s sovereignty. The bill which was scheduled to be passed in June has been postponed for further discussions in October.

Six Vietnamese defendants were sentenced to up to three years in prison on Thursday last week for violations committed during the protests in the central province of Binh Thuan.

With Vietnam yet to pass its Law on Demonstration, all acts to incite public protests are deemed illegal.

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

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