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Vietnamese Activists Inspired by Myanmar Vote


FILE - Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, in a VOA interview, said that Vietnam and Myanmar "are both in Southeast Asia, so why is the dignity of Vietnamese lower than the people of Myanmar? Why don’t Vietnamese have democratic rights?"

FILE - Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, in a VOA interview, said that Vietnam and Myanmar "are both in Southeast Asia, so why is the dignity of Vietnamese lower than the people of Myanmar? Why don’t Vietnamese have democratic rights?"

Vietnamese activists said the historic vote in Myanmar has inspired them to continue their fight for political change in Vietnam, but they admit that it is a long road ahead.

Just hours after dissident lawyer Nguyen Van Dai posted a statement on Facebook, pondering whether Vietnam would ever hold a free election similar to the one conducted in Myanmar, thousands of people had "liked" it.

“Many people have challenged the party to carry out democratic reforms like Myanmar did. It is not difficult, and does not take lots of time,” he wrote, illustrating the post with a photo in which exuberant supporters hold a photo of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi aloft.

Speaking Tuesday with VOA, he questioned why the citizens of Myanmar should have more rights than those in Vietnam.

“We, Vietnamese and Burmese, are both in Southeast Asia, so why is the dignity of Vietnamese lower than the people of Myanmar?" he asked. "Why don’t Vietnamese have democratic rights? In terms of economics and achievement, Myanmar is not as good as Vietnam, but why don’t the Vietnamese gain such freedom and democracy? That interests the Vietnamese community inside the country."

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to win a parliamentary majority, even though the official results have not been announced. Many Vietnamese social network users have taken to the Internet to praise the Nobel laureate for upholding nonviolent principles in her long struggle.

Nguyen Quang A, former director of the Institute of Development Studies, a now-closed Vietnamese think tank, said Vietnamese interest in Myanmar’s election reflects a "hunger for change in the current social and economic situation.”

“Vietnamese obviously want to learn from the democratization of Myanmar," he said. "When Vietnam was the chair of ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations], Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung traveled to Myanmar and reportedly asked President Thein Sein to carry out democratic reforms. I hope Dung as well as other Vietnamese leaders would implement the things they advised Myanmar to do. There are valuable lessons for them.”

A said he witnessed some young women who showed resilience in their fight for freedom in Vietnam, dismissing some comments that Vietnam does not have anyone like Aung San Suu Kyi.

Last year, some Vietnamese citizens living in Hong Kong expressed support for local protesters who wanted China to give the former British colony a fully democratic vote for its leader.

The milestone election in Myanmar took place just a few months before the 12th congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, in which the country's next top leaders will be selected.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

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