Authorities in Vietnam have condemned recent protests and threatened massive arrests in Bình Thuận, a province in South Vietnam, home to the country’s second most important Marian shrine, Our Lady of Tapao.

The provincial said that the protests on Sunday “caused grave consequences.”

“The people's act of vandalizing government offices is unbelievable in this peacetime,” said Huỳnh Thái Dương, deputy head of the provincial propaganda department, at a press briefing on Monday afternoon.

He stressed that the protest on Sunday night, resulting in heavy damages of the provincial People's Committee building and the torching down of a dozen vehicles, was “comparable to a riot”. It, therefore, “unacceptable”, and “must be punished,” Dương remarked.

State media announced the arrest of 102 people in connection with the violence on Sunday night.

Right at the time of the press conference, a large number of protesters blocked a section of National Highway No. 1, paralyzing the traffic between North and South Vietnam for hours. Huỳnh Văn Điển, chairman of Tuy Phong District, accused protesters of setting cars stucked on the Highway on fire and throwing rocks, as well as petrol bombs, at the police.

In unbelievable episode, protesters reinforced by local people and bystanders defeated 120 police officials and forced them to withdraw inside the local police headquarters where unimaginably they surrendered the demonstrators, stripped off their uniforms and left all their equipment at the side. The local police headquarters was vandalized, and vehicles were set on fire. This episode makes many people think that police seem not to be willing to fight against their own people who protest China over potential land grabs.

Late at night, hundreds of protesters stormed the office of the provincial People’s Committee the second consecutive night. They clashed fiercely with the police as their petition for the immediate release of 102 people who had been under arrest was rejected.

On Tuesday morning, another group of 99 people have just been arrested in Bình Thuận. The police in neighboring provinces have also arrested dozens of people for leading the “illegal” protests, state-run media report. Among them are those who involve in a strike at Taiwanese textile company Polyene in Saigon.

Bishop Nguyễn Thái Hợp of Vinh Diocese, President of the Justice and Peace Commission, has released a statement that urges the government to refrain from violence against its own people and listen to them.

The Special Zone Draft Bill “may seriously affecting our national security and national sovereignty such as the Special Zone Law- it is necessary to have the participation of all people for feedbacks. Therefore, the draft bill should be widely discussed by people of all levels, especially by specialists through science-based debates and eventually passed by a referendum as set by the law,” the prelate wrote.

“The Committee for Justice and Peace of the Vietnamese Bishop's Conference respectfully suggests that the National Assembly must respect the aspiration of the people,” he urges.