Authorities in Vietnam Tuesday tried and sentenced a group of 15 protesters who demonstrated against a solid waste treatment plant last year in Quang Ngai province.
The protest erupted in September 2018 after residents of La Van village in the province’s Duc Pho district got wind that the Duc Pho domestic solid waste treatment plant was reopening. A group of up to 200 protesters stood in front of local government offices pleading for help.
They then blocked roads and set up obstacles, which prevented traffic flow in an effort to get their point across, but police disbanded the crowd, arresting some of them on the charge of disrupting public order.
Sentences for the protesters tried Tuesday included a nine-month prison term for Huan Thai, eight months for Cao Minh Thien, four months and 28 days for Tran Thi Kim Lien, and 12 months of non-custodial reform (house arrest) for the other 12 women.
Meanwhile in Binh Thuan Province, two protesters were sentenced for their involvement in a mass demonstration against bills introduced by the government in June 2018.
Dang Ngoc Tan and Pham Thanh, both residents in Phan Ri Cua Town in the province’s Tuy Phong district, were tried for “destruction of state property” under article 178 of Vietnam’s penal code.
During the demonstration last year, protestors reportedly refused to disperse from a section of the National highway in nearby Bac Binh district.
According to the Binh Thuan Procuracy, protesters attacked riot police by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails, then swarmed the headquarters of the local fire department. Dang and Pham allegedly set fire to four vehicles, two of which were government-owned.
At the trial Dang was sentenced to 17 years and Pham to 11, as the jury felt that setting the vehicles ablaze was an extremely dangerous act that not only resulted in the loss of state property, but was also threatening local order and security.
The lengthy sentences are in addition to previous sentences the pair received in September on charges of disrupting social order. In that trial, Dang got four years and Pham four and a half.
The protest the pair were allegedly involved in was in opposition to two bills, one regarding special economic zones (SEZ) and the other about cybersecurity.
Under the proposed SEZ law, entities granted SEZ land will have control over it for a period of 99 years. Protesters are concerned that the long-term concession is overly generous to investor groups in SEZ projects, who are overwhelmingly Chinese in origin. This bill was not passed into law, but shelved until a later session.
The cybersecurity bill, meanwhile, was passed and became law in 2019. Critics say that the law puts too many restrictions on the freedom of expression.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.