01/25/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM

Vietnamese intellectuals and Catholics sign a petition for the end to single party rule

At least 800 Vietnamese personalities call for constitutional reform, with the separation of state powers. Appeal joined by Bishop of Vinh and vicar general of Saigon. Bishop Nguyen Thai Hop calls for "full respect for religious freedom." A few sites that have re-published the petition censored by the government.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of intellectuals, religious leaders and political leaders in Vietnam have signed an online petition, which call for a revision of the national Constitution and a multi-party system, separating the executive, legislative and judicial powers. Among the points for reform, is also the reform of land ownership (now in the hands of the State) and the demand for full religious freedom still subject - in the practice of worship - to state control. Among the more than 800 signatories are also prominent Catholic Church figures: among them the Bishop of Vinh Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, Fr. Mary Joseph Le Quoc Thang of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace and Fr. Huynh Cong Minh John Baptist, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.

Published recently by a popular Vietnamese site, the petition stems from an appeal made by the same communist authorities in Hanoi, for "public suggestions" to amend the Constitution. Among those who signed the document is the former Minister of Justice Nguyen Dinh Loc who states "it is obvious that changes must be made," and it is "only to understand to what extent."

The current basic charter of the State was enacted in 1992, but there have been no changes of any kind in at least 10 years, despite the events and changes that have marked the recent history of Vietnam. "Now - said the former state official in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) - it is time for radical changes" among which he includes also the name of the country, the current Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the previous "Democratic Republic of the Vietnam".

The authorities report that there is time until March 31 to submit comments on the constitutional review process, which should be promulgated - the new form - in the month of May. However, some "sensitive" points such as multi-party elections, improvements in land ownership rights - with a return to the Charter of 1946 - and other elements of tension are "excluded" from debate. Local sources also add that "many websites [critical of the Communist leadership] that published the petition were censored."

At the forefront in the promotion of the on-line petition were faithful and figures of the Vietnamese Catholic Church, including the Bishop of Vinh in central Vietnam. Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop emphasizes that "it is the right of the people, not only of a political party" to address the Constitution, which must then be "submitted to a popular referendum" before the entry into force. The prelate hopes that the new formula provides "more religious freedom in the country" and that it will follow UN guidelines, Vietnam being "party to the International Covenant on Human Rights." "The Constitution - said the bishop - should be modified for Vietnam to integrate better internationally, as well as to comply with the conventions it has signed."

 

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