Vietnam jails 15 more for last year’s SEZ protest

By Phan Thanh, Phuoc Tuan   March 7, 2019 | 05:58 pm PT
Vietnam jails 15 more for last year’s SEZ protest
15 people stand trial for involving in SEZ protests in Binh Thuan Province, March 7, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Phan Thanh
Another 15 people will go to jail for instigating and/or engaging in violence during last June’s protests against the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) bill.

They were sentenced Thursday to between two years and three and a half years in jail by the People’s Court of Tuy Phong District in the central province of Binh Thuan on the charges of "disrupting public order."

Prosecutors said the defendants had incited violence, thrown hard objects at the police and damaged vehicles on the National Highway 1 segment running through Phan Ri Cua Town and Hoa Minh Village in Binh Thuan on June 10 last year, blocking traffic for 15 hours and wounding several police officers.

All the defendants admitted their crimes and asked for leniency from the judges.

An unspecified number of protesters are still being investigated for "resisting law enforcement officers performing official duties" and "deliberate destruction of property."

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, the nearby Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan Provinces, as well as Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbor Dong Nai have seen nearly 100 other protestors imprisoned under charges of "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.

With the passage of the Law on Demonstrations deferred several times, all acts to incite public protests are deemed illegal.

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

The bill has since been postponed for further discussions in the National Assembly.

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