Vietnam's legislators divided over demonstration bill

By Thai Son - Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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A rally against China's deployment of an oil rig in the Vietnamese waters in downtown Ho Chi Minh City on May 11 / PHOTO: DIEP DUC MINH
In the wake of last week's riots, Vietnam's legislature remained divided about whether to expedite, shelve or delay a bill that would regulate public demonstrations.
Many peaceful rallies have been held around the country since China deployed its rig near the Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands early this month.

Several of the protests took violent turns last week when rioters looted, burned and vandalized the factories and offices of hundreds of foreign companies in the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong, and the north-central province of Nghe Tinh.

Vietnamese authorities have so far arrested more than 1,000 people for their roles in the riots.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly on Wednesday, assemblyman Truong Trong Nghia from Ho Chi Minh City said the bill should be discussed at the legislature’s year-end session so that it can pass next May.
He said the government needs to protect the people’s right to express themselves, despite conflicting interests, though it has yet to offer them a legal means to do so.
The government is drafting a bill on public demonstrations following a request from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that was approved by the National Assembly. The legislative body expected to receive the bill between 2016 and 2020, according to plans announced in February.
Nghia pointed out that without the law, Vietnamese agencies had trouble dealing with riots that emerged out of peaceful rallies against China’s illegal placement of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters since May 1.
His opinion was supported by assemblyman Do Van Duong, another legislator from HCMC, who said the law would help ensure public demonstrations remain peaceful and in line with the law.
But on the opposing camp, assemblyman Le Hien Van from Hanoi worried that the law on demonstrations, if passed, will encourage more violent rallies and said the bill should be dropped.
Assemblyman Nguyen Van Thanh, another delegate from the capital city of Hanoi, agreed, saying the law should not be introduced in the current environment.
The law may regulate how a demonstration should be organized, but in reality no one can control how they unfold, he said.
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