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AFP : Religious dissident in Vietnam launches call for democracy

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HANOI, Feb 11, 2005 (AFP) – A prominent religious dissident has called on Vietnamese authorities and intellectuals to build up democracy and pluralism in the communist country, an exiled group said.

The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), the communication arm of the main dissident buddhist church in Vietnam, said the church’s deputy head, Thich Quang Do, had launched an “appeal to Vietnamese from all different political and religious currents.”

Do, 76, number two of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), called on people “to rally together in a common effort for democracy in Vietnam” in an open letter to “Vietnamese personalities, intellectuals, writers, artists and all compatriots at home and abroad”.

The patriarch, who has spent most of his time in jail or under house arrest since 1981 –and constantly since October 2003– asked all political forces in the one-party country to follow “a path of democracy and pluralism that will bring true stability, development and well-being to the Vietnamese people.”

Do’s letter, IBIB said, “is addressed to dissidents from all walks of life, including Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and military veterans, academics close to the VCP, human rights defenders, cyber-dissidents and all those who have called for political and democratic reforms in Vietnam.”

It is time for Vietnamese intellectuals to “advocate and initiate a democratic process in Vietnam… We must not wait any longer,” Do is also quoted as writing.

Vietnam has been repeatedly criticised by the international community for its suppression of religious freedoms and its constant harrassment of political dissidents.

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