A Vietnamese woman carried banners protesting China to the front gate of Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City and burned herself to death early Friday morning, a city official has confirmed to Thanh Nien.
Le Truong Hai Hieu, vice chairman of District 1 government, says they believe the suicide was inspired by a combination of serious life problems and anger created by China's placement of a mobile oil rig in Vietnamese waters.
The woman, who has been identified as 67-year-old Le Thi Tuyet Mai, set herself on fire outside the palace's front gate on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street at around 6am, startling many passers-by.
The palace guards put out the fire in three minutes but the woman had already perished. One man’s voice in a now widely-viewed YouTube video of the scene said a small fire extinguisher was used.
The guards said the woman took a taxi to the building gates--which are internationally known as the site where the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975.
They said she acted so quickly that no one had a chance to stop her.
Police collected a gas can, lighter, and a bag containing seven banners emblazoned with hand-written slogans denouncing China's recent actions.
The victim’s son Tran Le Truong, 45, said Mai had no history of mental illness.
Police are investigating the matter further.
China positioned the US$1-billion oil over Vietnam's continental shelf on May 2 and has sent dozens of boats (including military vessels) to protect it.
Protests against the oil rig spiraled into riots at Chinese-backed factories and companies outside Ho Chi Minh City and in the central province of Ha Tinh.
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