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Vietnamese Dissidents Make Public Plea for Reforms


FILE - Three young Vietnamese girls use a laptop and smart phones to go online at a cafe in Ha Noi, Vietnam, May 14, 2013.

FILE - Three young Vietnamese girls use a laptop and smart phones to go online at a cafe in Ha Noi, Vietnam, May 14, 2013.

More than 130 Vietnamese intellectuals have signed a public statement calling on the government in Hanoi to allow for dramatic political reforms.

The petition, which was released Monday, takes the unusual step of publicly advocating for a constitutional amendment dissolving the Communist party's monopoly on power, allowing for the establishment of civil society groups and an increase in freedom of speech.

The statement on political and civil rights, written by teachers, was sent to Vietnam's leadership, media outlets and shared on social networks such as Facebook.

Journalist and political essayist Pham Chi Dung, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City and was one of the initial signers, told VOA's Vietnamese service that civil society is critical to Vietnam's future.

"A nation cannot exist without civil society and rule of law governance. When signing on to this statement, I and many others were hoping for a more developed and democratic Vietnam to avoid chaos and internal conflicts. We need a civil society in Vietnam to counter-balance the government," said Dung.

Dung and the others inside Vietnam could risk being detained by authorities for signing the statement. Dung recently was detained for writing about politically sensitive issues.

The overwhelming majority of those signing the statement live inside Vietnam. Historically, calls for vast political reforms in Vietnam have come from individuals inside the country or groups living overseas and beyond the reach of the government in Hanoi.

The Vietnamese government has not commented on the petition.

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