Vietnam jails 6 of dozens arrested for economic law protests

HANOI, Vietnam — A court in south central Vietnam sentenced six people to up to two-and-a-half years in prison Thursday after finding them guilty of throwing rocks, bricks and gas bombs at police in protests against a proposed law on special economic zones.

Protests against the proposed law took place around the country last month, and dozens of protesters were arrested and are awaiting trial.

The six convicted of disturbing public disorder at a one-day trial Thursday in Binh Thuan province were sentenced to between two years and two-and-a-half years in prison, state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. An underage protester was given an 18-month suspended sentence on the same charge.

The protesters in Binh Thuan province burned a dozen vehicles, damaged property at several government buildings and threw rocks, bricks and gas bombs at police who used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Protests and arrests also took place in Binh Duong province and in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. One of those arrested is an American citizen of Vietnamese descent.

The protesters fear the three proposed special economic zones where land could be rented for up to 99 years would be dominated by Chinese investors. Lawmakers postponed passage of the law until the next session in October to allow more research.

Vietnamese people have generally had long-running mistrust of China. Vietnam is among the most outspoken critics of Chinese construction and militarization of artificial islands in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea's disputed waters.

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