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Vietnam Jails Six for Economic Zone Protest Clashes

FILE - This June 10, 2018, picture shows protesters burning motorcycles in front of a provincial office in Vietnam's south central coast Binh Thuan province in response to legislation on three special economic zones that would grant 99-year leases to comp

A court in central Vietnam on Thursday jailed six Vietnamese for clashing with police during last month's nationwide protests over new economic zones and feared dominance of Chinese investors.

The court in Binh Thuan province handed down prison sentences of between two and two and a half years for "disturbing public order," the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on its website.

The six hurled bottles, bricks and petrol bombs at police during the protests on June 11, according to the statement.

Their lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

The protests, by thousands of people in several cities, were fueled by concerns that a draft law to develop economic zones offering land leases of up to 99 years would be dominated by investors from China, a neighbor with which Vietnam has a rocky history.

Police have detained dozens of people following the protests, including in the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City and the capital, Hanoi.

Last month, police in Ho Chi Minh City issued a prosecution order for an American man of Vietnamese descent for his alleged involvement in the protests.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Will Nguyen during his meetings with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi this week, encouraging a speedy resolution.

The police statement said the convicted six had admitted guilt during the one-day trial.