Vietnamese American faces trial for inciting violence during SEZ law protest

By Ky Hoa   July 13, 2018 | 04:32 am PT
Vietnamese American faces trial for inciting violence during SEZ law protest
People gather for a rally to protest against provisions of a draft law on Vietnam's three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
An American citizen accused of instigating violent acts during last month’s protest in Ho Chi Minh City faces up to seven years in jail.

The trial of William Anh Nguyen, 33, will begin at Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on July 20.

According to the indictment, the American responded to social media posts calling for a protest rally against a draft law on special economic zones (SEZ), and joined thousands of people storming the streets from the area near the Tan Son Nhat Airport on June 10.

Nguyen, a Houston resident pursuing a Masters degree in Singapore, had arrived in Vietnam for a two-week vacation. When the protests broke out, he 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 says.

He has been charged with "disturbing public order" which is punishable by up to seven years in jail under Vietnam's Penal Code.

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 other 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 were sent to up to three years in prison on Thursday for violations committed during the protests in the central province of Binh Thuan.

With Vietnam yet to pass the 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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