Vietnam jails 15 people for inciting SEZ law protest

By Phuoc Tuan   July 30, 2018 | 09:10 pm GMT+7
Vietnam jails 15 people for inciting SEZ law protest
Twenty people stand trial in Binh Thuan Province for inciting SEZ law protest on Monday. Photo by Phuoc Tuan
A court in the southern province of Dong Nai sentenced 15 people to jail and ordered probations on five others on Monday for blocking streets during last June's anti-SEZ protest.

Tran Nguyen Duy Quang, 35, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for "disturbing public order" during protest against the country's draft law on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) on June 10.

Fourteen of Quang's accomplices got 8-16 months in prison on the same charges, while another five, got 12-14 months probation as minors.

The defendants were among hundreds of protesters that stormed major streets in the provincial capital town of Bien Hoa, one hour northeast of Saigon, to voice opposition to the draft law, the indictment said.

From noon until 4 p.m., Quang and 19 accomplices shouted and urged locals to bring out banners, signs and block the roads, causing traffic jams on many streets including Pham Van Thuan, Duong Tu Giang and National Highway 1A.

The protesters also resisted authorities' calls for them to disperse, forcing police to detain 52 of them. Quang and his accomplices were charged following further investigations.

Their actions caused several long traffic jams, with one lasting four hours, prosecutors said. 

At the trial, the defendants admitted to their crimes and claimed they were unaware that their actions, which they had been encouraged to take by "bad people," were illegal.

The protest in Dong Nai was 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.

Earlier this month, 16 protesters in the south central province of Binh Thuan were sentenced to up to three and a half years in prison for engaging in SEZ law protests which were deemed violent.

Ho Chi Minh City put an American protester on trial earlier this month but decided to deport him, saying it was his first-time offense and he was repentant about what he’d done.

Vietnam has delayed the passing of the law on demonstrations several times, and thus any act of inciting public protests is deemed illegal.

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