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Viet PM calls for law on demonstrations

HANOI – Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called Friday for a law on demonstrations after a rare series of rallies earlier this year over a territorial spat showed gaps in existing legislation.

For 11 weeks from June, protestors staged demonstrations against Chinese actions in the South China Sea, the scene of long-standing tensions between the neighbouring countries over rival territorial claims.

Protests are rare in authoritarian Vietnam, but analysts said some of the anti-China rallies were tolerated because they helped express Hanoi’s displeasure with Beijing. Other marches were broken up by police.

“We do not have a demonstration law so it’s difficult for the people and for the administration,” Nguyen Tan Dung told the communist country’s National Assembly.

He called for legislation on protests “to ensure people’s rights to freedom and democracy under the constitution and law,” are protected. Vietnam’s constitution allows for the right to demonstrate.

Dung said the law should also focus on “preventing acts and behaviours that undermine social order and security.”

The law is being drafted by the Ministry of Public Security – whose police and internal security agents have detained dozens of peaceful political critics in a crackdown over the last two years – local media reported.

Many critics have later been sentenced to long prison terms, according to Amnesty International.

“(Currently), there is no law and decree to specify the procedure (or explain) how you can organise a demonstration,” Nguyen Quang A, an economic analyst who joined the China rallies, said earlier this year.

He urged the government to pass legislation that will allow demonstrations “in a civilised way.”

Hanoi has seen an increase in demonstrations this year, with 150 Vietnamese Catholics staging a march in November to protest an alleged grab of church land by communist authorities. The protest was peacefully broken up by police.

Small protests are also often staged by aggrieved landowners outside government offices in Hanoi, alleging they have been given inadequate compensation for land taken by the state for development.

People linked to this year’s anti-China rallies issued a call for a protest this Sunday “in support of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s proposal” on demonstrations.

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