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Traffic disrupted as crowds gather across Vietnam to oppose land policy in new economic zones

Traffic disrupted as crowds gather across Vietnam to oppose land policy in new economic zones

Monday, June 11, 2018, 10:55 GMT+7

Thousands assembled in Vietnamese localities on Sunday to show disagreement as to a draft law on developing new special economic zones that they fear will pose risks to national security, causing road blockage and delaying flights.

Vietnam has plans to open three special administrative and economic zones that offer investors greater incentives and fewer restrictions than available in the country at present, at a total cost of US$69.16 billion.

The special zones – Phu Quoc, Van Don and Bac Van Phong – are located in the southern province of Kien Giang, the northern province of Quang Ninh, and the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, respectively.

A government-drafted law on the special zones, which was submitted to the lawmaking National Assembly last month for approval, has since sparked concerns over an article allowing potential foreign investors to lease land in the zones for up to 99 years under special circumstances.

On Sunday, thousands gathered in different areas in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces and cities across Vietnam to voice their objection to the long-term land lease, which they feared would pose a serious threat to national security, calling for the government and legislature to reconsider the bill.

Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object to land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The gatherings occurred despite a pledgelast week by Vietnamese Prime Minister that the government would listen to feedback from the public and make “suitable reductions” to the land lease period, although he did not say for how long.

The government said on Saturday that it had asked the National Assembly to delay a vote on the draft law, which had been scheduled for this week, to allow for more research on the legislation and stressed that there would be no more circumstances in which a 99-year land lease would be allowable under the revised bill.

Nevertheless, opponents of the draft law took to the streets in order to speak out against the legislation, causing heavy traffic congestion.

Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion in Ho Chi Minh City as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object to land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In Ho Chi Minh City, roads leading to Tan Son Nhat International Airport were occupied by the crowds, causing flight passengers to abandon their vehicles and proceed to the airport on foot.

Some flights were delayed, while others departed with vacant seats belonging to passengers who could not make it out of the traffic jams, airline representatives told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Passengers check in for their flights inside Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Passengers check in for their flights at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In the south-central province of Binh Thuan, a crowd of thousands marched on National Highway 1, blocking passing vehicles.

Rocks were hurled at police officers and authorities’ vehicles as the march lasted well into the evening, causing kilometers-long congestion on the lifeline road.

An angry mob forced their way into the headquarters of the Binh Thuan People’s Committee and caused destruction to public properties, prompting police to use water cannons to disperse the crowd.

Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion on the National Highway 1 in Binh Thuan Province as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vehicles are stuck in traffic congestion on the National Highway 1 in Binh Thuan Province as people take to the streets on June 10, 2018 to object to land policies in Vietnam’s new economic zones. Photo: Tuoi Tre

An angry mob breaks into the headquarters of the People’s Committee of Binh Thuan Province in south-central Vietnam on June 10, 2018. Clip: Tuoi Tre

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Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

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