Police in the south-central Vietnamese province of Binh Thuan said on Monday they have detained 102 people for disturbing public order after they broke into a state building and destroyed public properties while joining a march to oppose a controversial land policy on Sunday.
Thousands took to the streets across Vietnam on Sunday to speak out against a draft law that would allow land to be leased for up to 99 years to potential foreign investors in the country’s three special administrative and economic zones.
The ambitious project, costing a whopping US$69.16 billion with the aim of attracting foreign investment through greater incentives and fewer restrictions, will see the special zones – Phu Quoc, Van Don, and Bac Van Phong – established in the southern province of Kien Giang, the northern province of Quang Ninh, and the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, respectively.
Participants in Sunday’s marches, which were reported in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other areas in Vietnam, objected to the 99-year land lease, which they feared would pose a serious threat to national security.
However, things began to get out of hand in Binh Thuan as thousands occupied a part of National Highway 1, blocking traffic and causing kilometers-long congestion on the lifeline road.
Violence erupted in the evening when an angry mob forced their way into the headquarters of the Binh Thuan People’s Committee and the provincial Department of Planning and Investment located in the capital city of Phan Thiet.
They set fire to the buildings and threw rocks at law enforcement officers when confronted, causing substantial property damage, according to Nguyen Van Nhieu, chief of office of the Binh Thuan police department.
|Plant pots are smashed to pieces at the headquarters of Binh Thuan Province’s Department of Planning and Investment. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Officers had to resort to using water cannons to disperse the crowd, but the situation was not put under control until late in the evening, after 102 people had been detained.
No human casualties were reported, though some police officers were hurt trying to contain the vandals.
Huynh Thai Duong, deputy head of the provincial propaganda and education committee, said at a press conference on Monday that activities in Binh Thuan on Sunday were unprecedented and different from the crowd-gatherings in other parts of the country that same day.
“The scene was unimaginable,” he said. “To some extent, it was like a riot. Those actions [by the rioters] were unacceptable.”
According to the official, it was not until reinforcement units were called into action that local authorities were able to control the situation.
“Illegal actions will definitely be subject to investigation and a due process in accordance with the law,” Duong stressed.