Vietnam jails nine more for violent SEZ law protests

By Tu Huynh   November 29, 2018 | 05:41 pm PT
Vietnam jails nine more for violent SEZ law protests
Nine defendants stand trial in Binh Thuan Province on Thursday for disturbing public order. Photo by VnExpress/Tu Huynh
Nine more people have been sentenced to jail for inciting violence during a protest against the Special Economic Zones bill last June.

A court in Bac Binh District in the south central province of Binh Thuan Thursday sentenced Duong Van Ngoan to five years and eight others to between three and three and a half years for "disturbing public order."

On June 11 hundreds of protestors had gathered on a section of National Highway 1 in Phan Ri Thanh Commune in Bac Binh, blocking traffic.

Nearly 300 police officers were dispatched to the scene and local authorities used loudspeakers to call on the protesters to disperse. But some protesters turned violent and attacked the officers with sticks, bricks, rocks, and petrol bombs.

When they took shelter at the Phan Ri fire station, Ngoan and his accomplices urged the crowd to storm the building. In the ensuing chaos, the mob burned cars and damaged or destroyed other properties inside the building.

Twenty five officers were injured, 12 cars were burned, 18 motorbikes and other properties were severely damaged. The losses were estimated at VND12 billion ($517,000), the indictment said.

Traffic on National Highway 1 was paralyzed for six hours, it said.

At the trial Thursday the accused admitted to their crimes and asked for lesser sentences, and the court obliged since they had no criminal backgrounds.

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

In September 15 protesters had been jailed for two to 4.5 years for the same charges. Earlier another 60 protesters were imprisoned in four separate cases.

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.

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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