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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume III
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume III, Vietnam, January-August 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian

156. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 7, 1963, 9 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 US-S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1128. CINCPAC for POLAD. For Hilsman from Trueheart./2/ In my view the political context in which requested $15 million NOA has to be considered, apart from broad question of US support, has two main elements: (1) recent negotiations on counterinsurgency funding, and (2) Vietnamese understanding of Staley-Thuc report./3/ With regard to (1), results up to now exceed fondest expectations of anyone here and have totally confounded those who confidently predicted new system would spell end of CI program. GVN is holding up its end of bargain, has established special bank account and put money in it, and has issued Presidential decree defining procedures for use of these funds which accords with our understanding. What is more, in the provinces our Rural Affairs Advisers report that coordination with Vietnamese counterparts and readiness to accept and even seek US advice is greater than ever it was when we were signing the checks. This is no doubt too good to last, but I am certainly not keen to do anything which would rock the boat--as this would almost certainly do.

/2/Trueheart was responding to telegram 1188 to Saigon, June 6, in which Hilsman informed him that AID had recommended a $10 million new obligational authority to meet the shortfall in anticipated USOM requirements in Vietnam, rather than the $15 million authorization which the Embassy felt was necessary. Hilsman noted that "even this amount presents problem in view depleted condition contingency fund and we must explore how harmful delay until soon after July first would be. Request your estimate GVN reaction, especially in light of pressures you have exercised on GVN during past few days, if you let it be known at working levels that money would be soon forthcoming but because of bureaucratic delays not until after July first." (Ibid., AID (US) S VIET)

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Documents 72 ff.

As for Staley-Thuc agreement, position is well understood in Washington. Suffice it to say that, in light of that report, Vietnamese consider that, at minimum, we have no right use against them rises in foreign exchange reserves below $200 million. As maximum, they feel we have positive obligation to help them bring reserve up to that level. (I am not arguing that we should or can ignore GVN foreign exchange level, simply reporting the way they look at it.) Moreover, at least since I came here in October 1961, Vietnamese have been led to believe that US would support CIP up to whatever level required for war effort, provided only that Staley-Thuc and limited worldwide procurement criteria respected. Their need, in budgetary terms, has never been greater, notwithstanding their acceptance of deficit financing and prospect of deficit this year on order of VN$4 to 5 billion (or 5 to 6 percent of GNP).

In this situation any backing off from CIP of about $100 million is bound to be interpreted by GVN as failure on our part to live up to a bargain. Perhaps we can read the fine print differently but this is certainly the way they feel.

It is on above grounds that I would urge that AID Administrator allot full $15 million from contingency fund. Recent events are, I think, probably not relevant in GVN eyes. Pressures have, it is true, been strong but actions GVN has taken have not been thought of, I believe, as a concession to US but as necessary, though belated, moves to retrieve a very dangerous situation.

Re your last paragraph,/4/ fully agree. We are becoming more and more convinced also that level of imports will continue to rise and that delay in payments may only increase problem next year.

/4/The final paragraph of telegram 1188 reads as follows:

"One worry, on which also appreciate your estimate, is that S.A. needs next year may be as great or greater than this fiscal year and delay in payment may only increase problems next year."

Am surprised at reference to tightness [garble] contingency fund in view AID Administrator's memorandum to Secretary of May 7,/5/ forecasting that substantial part of FY 63 contingency fund would be turned back.

/5/Not found.

Trueheart

 

157. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 8, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 7:20 a.m.

1134. CINCPAC for POLAD. Saw Thuan immediately after reading Women's Solidarity Movement Resolution on Buddhist question (telegraphed separately)./2/ Thuan stated he had not previously seen resolution. Agreed that it could easily upset agreement reached with Buddhist leaders and was in general deeply discouraged. As Thuan is admittedly powerless to do anything about the declaration, I am with encouragement seeking immediate appointment with President Diem. I shall ask him to repudiate resolution publicly and promptly. Odds against his doing so are very heavy, but I see no other way of retrieving situation.

/2/Telegram 1133 from Saigon, June 8, transmitted the text of a motion adopted by the Central Committee of the Women's Solidarity Movement on June 7. The motion, which was released to the press on June 8, opened with an expression of respect for the Buddhist philosophy and veneration for Buddha, but castigated those Buddhists involved in demonstrations against the government as anti-nationalists "exploited and controlled by communism and oriented to sowing of disorder and neutralism." The motion called upon the government to cease allowing itself to be deafened by idle clamor of political inspiration and immediately expel all foreign agitators whether they wear monks' robes or not; that it keep vigilance on all others, particularly those inclined to take Viet Nam for satellite of foreign power or organization; that it treat as deserved, those who seek to disrupt public order." (Ibid.)

I have also problem of dealing with local press who are now waiting outside my office. I plan to make no statement for the moment but, depending on outcome of meeting with Diem, I am considering saying for attribution that I consider unfortunate that, at a time when fruitful discussions were apparently going on between GVN and Buddhists, anyone should impugn the motives of one of the parties. I will also indicate indignation at reference to involvement foreign powers.

Any guidance Dept may have would be welcome.

Fuller report follows later. I am now leaving for Presidency./3/

/3/Trueheart reported on his meeting with Diem as follows:

"Two hour meeting with Diem, just concluded, produced no visible result. Full report follows. Meanwhile, wish Department to know that I have decided against making any statement here, at least for time being." (Telegram 1135 from Saigon, June 8, 8 p.m.; ibid.)

Trueheart

 

158. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 8, 1963, 12:55 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1194. Embtel 1135./2/ Agree your decision not make public statement at this time. Unable judge here but if occasion arises you think public statement would deter repetition this sort of thing by Madame Nhu, Dept would highly approve.

/2/See footnote 3, Document 157.

You are requested inform Thuan or Diem under instructions that to counteract regrettable effect Madam Nhu's statement some immediate and concrete move by GVN is essential. U.S. urgently suggests for example that Diem, under emergency powers available to him repeal French Decree Law 10 which discriminates against Buddhists. You are also instructed inquire officially whether Madam Nhu's statement, which has at least semi-official character, was cleared in advance by GVN.

You should inform GVN orally or by note that in official U.S. view Madame Nhu's intolerant statement has seriously weakened GVN's position as defender of freedom against Communist tyranny and has greatly increased difficulty of U.S. role as supporter of GVN. Her statement will damage American public and Congressional support for GVN. U.S. Government cannot be expected continue aid and assist GVN at heavy cost in men and material unless this policy fully

supported by American citizens. Any more statements by her of this nature may irreparably damage US-GVN cooperative effort at very time when this cooperation is showing successful results in defending Viet-Nam against communist aggression.

FYI--Above sent without awaiting full report your talk with Diem. Should nevertheless be transmitted to GVN as official U.S. position unless you have very good reasons for not doing so of which Dept unaware.

Rusk

 

159. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 8, 1963, 5:37 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Heavner and Wood and cleared by Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1196. As result preliminary study Buddhist problem here, following suggestions submitted for your consideration:

A. Immediate Actions

(1) Since Decree Law 10 apparently one of chief Buddhist grievances, suggest GVN be urged repeal it immediately by decree without waiting for action by National Assembly, which we understand will not meet until September. Believe under his emergency powers Diem could thus demonstrate GVN good faith, move toward prompt solution this issue.

(2) You or Nuncio suggest GVN avoid giving mourning for Pope John/2/ any official cast.

/2/Pope John XXIII died on June 3.

(3) Believe might be well urge GVN at least temporarily play down Personalism in public pronouncements and GVN propaganda because of popular identification Personalism with Catholicism.

(4) Believe it would be helpful if RVNAF now appointed Buddhist chaplains. Understand Buddhists may later demand this move and see no reason why GVN should not forestall them. In urging such action you might point out even US army has few Buddhist chaplains. Perhaps this matter could be raised on strictly military level, between MACV and ARVN, without going to GVN.

B. Institutional Channels for Buddhist-GVN Communication

(1) At local level as we have previously suggested (Deptel 1170)/3/ believe recognition by GVN of village cult committees (Hoi Hung) would be most useful step. Probably GVN should not attempt create such committees where they don't exist as they would then be patently creatures of GVN. Rather local GVN officials should be ordered to meet with them regularly, even if meetings non-productive, and meetings should be publicized.

/3/In telegram 1170 to Saigon, June 3, the Department asked whether the Hoi Hung could be "officially reconstituted to include reps all local religions as well as village cult, officially recognized, and given advisory role to village and hamlet councils? Such step could be billed as GVN effort provide full religious freedom and representation within context strategic hamlet program." (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

(2) At national level we earlier suggested creation of Dept Religious Affairs under direction respected lay Buddhist. After further consideration realize it would be difficult find person who could represent and be respected by all citizens of Viet-Nam with their wide variety of religious beliefs. Further, position of such a person in GVN would soon be made impossible by members President Diem's family.

Alternatively suggest for Embassy's consideration that GVN might be encouraged to create a National Religious Council (under whatever name seemed best) to which leaders all Buddhist and Christian denominations and sects would be invited to send representatives. Such an organization could be somewhat on model National Economic Council which has been favorably regarded by the GVN and would deal with Vice President Tho's Commission.

(3) DRV has two monks in National Assembly (point which was emphasized last meeting World Federation Buddhists). Might be very effective gesture for GVN to permit several monks or lay Buddhist leaders run for and win seats in August National Assembly elections.

C. In addition your consideration and comments on above suggestions, also request your estimate of whether or not specific political groups are behind Buddhist unrest, degree of political motivation Buddhist leaders and demonstrators, any evidence political groups gaining control of Buddhist organizations. Is there evidence Buddhist leaders are trying to organize rural population to support their demands? Also believe it important that we know whether Diem regards Buddhist "revolt" as primarily political or religious in motivation and would like your view./4/

/4/On June 9, the Embassy replied, in telegram 1138 from Saigon: "Appreciate Department's suggestions reference telegram. First two suggestions under immediate actions have already been discussed informally with Thuan (National Assembly in session until end June; would not propose insist on presidential action if GVN can produce prompt Assembly action on decree 10)." (Ibid.)

Department is preparing on crash basis draft study on Buddhism in Viet-Nam based on consultation with Gard and other knowledgeable persons here and on quick review available documentation. Recommendations this telegram based on this study./5/

/5/The results of the draft study on the Buddhist problem were summarized in a June 8 memorandum from Wood to Hilsman. (Ibid., Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, POL 25 Demos Protests Riots) A more comprehensive study of the Buddhist problem was submitted to Hilsman on July 2 in a memorandum by Richard A. Gard entitled "U.S. Policy and Program Considerations Regarding Buddhism in Asia." (Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/IAF/VN Files: FRC 68 A 4933, POL 13-6 Political Affairs and Relations, Buddhists 1964 & 1965)

Dept will pouch study next week and suggests Embassy use it as starting point for more thorough study in Viet-Nam. This might be responsibility qualified Embassy officer who would be given authority work with and call on all parts Saigon Task Force. If Embassy desires, Dept will try arrange send Heavner who was in charge study here, to Saigon for about 10 days to help out with understanding final study would be Embassy responsibility./6/ It would be difficult spare Heavner now and funds always a problem, but Dept prepared make every effort if requested by Embassy.

/6/A June 20 letter from Trueheart to Wood indicates that Wood had enclosed the draft study on Buddhism in a letter to Trueheart on June 10. Trueheart wrote that the background provided by the study was "most helpful", but that "events have gone beyond the stage where a study of Buddhism in Vietnam in greater depth by the Task Force here would be worth the considerable effort it would entail." Consequently, Trueheart did not feel that it would be necessary for Heavner to come to Saigon. (Ibid., RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files, FRC 67 A 677, 570.3 Religion, Church, Buddhist Affairs (May-June 1963)

Rusk

 

160. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 9, 1963, 1 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 2:47 p.m., June 8.

1136. CINCPAC for POLAD. For Hilsman from Trueheart. Embtel 1135./2/ President received me at 5 PM this afternoon (June 8) within minutes after my request. He was throughout two hour interview entirely relaxed and friendly, and he permitted frequent interruptions in a way that is rare for him. Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that anything I said to him moved him. Opened by giving him French text of Women's Solidarity Movement (WSM) resolution. He read it line by line as if he had never seen it before. (Nothing he said subsequently indicated prior knowledge.) I went on to explain that I had been profoundly disappointed to see this resolution. I had understood that GVN commission under Vice President had achieved large measure of agreement with Buddhist leaders on their demands (late in conversation he himself summarized terms of agreement very much as Thuan had given them to me), and that among other things it had been understood that there would be a truce (detente) on propaganda from both sides pending final settlement. WSM resolution seemed to me a violation of this. I wanted therefore to ask if he would disavow it, would dissociate GVN from it. I feared that otherwise we might see renewal of agitation and demonstrations bringing on government repressive measures and in effect loss of all that had been achieved in past week. I pointed out also that if this came to pass my government would very likely consider that GVN was at fault and would have to dissociate itself from GVN actions--as it had already done in denying that USAF planes had been used in lifting troops to Hue (Diem confirmed that he had read Department's statement)./3/

/2/See footnote 3. Document 157.

/3/On June 6, Department of State Spokesman Lincoln White stated at a press conference that "no US planes or personnel have been involved in any way in the transport of troops or police to Hue." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Transcripts of Department of State News Briefings)

Diem said at once that he could not disavow WSM resolution. In light of his later remarks, I fear that the general sentiments of resolution are close to his own. However, he limited himself to saying that it was necessary to warn people against extremists who were misusing affair to further their own interests. (He rarely referred to VC in frequent repetitions of this theme.)

I then turned to report I had from Helble that Buddhists still in pagoda at Hue were not being allowed to receive food or medical attention from outside. Diem said he was sure this could not be true and he promptly telephoned Minister of Interior and asked for report. It had not been received by time I left. (Helble subsequently reported that some food was brought into pagoda late this morning but no doctors had entered permitted or not.)/4/

/4/The reports from Helble cited here and below apparently were made by telephone.

I also said I had heard reports that GVN planes had dropped leaflets over Hue yesterday which had agitated populace. I was not sure of facts but wondered if he knew of it. Diem said he did not and was sure report was incorrect. Helble subsequently informed me that leaflets were in fact dropped and that one of them consisted of strong attack on bonze Tri Quang--generally considered leader of Hue demonstrations-followed by passage demanding [arrest?] of bonze Khiet--octogenarian nominal leader--who is really in charge. This sounds rather more inflammatory than WSM resolution and I shall follow up.

Remainder of conversation consisted largely of Diem's exposition of GVN position. Main points of this are outlined below. In general, it was a hard line and, although he said he was ready to continue talks with Buddhists, neither his attitude nor his words suggested that he saw this as solution. at least until Buddhists "found themselves isolated".

Diem considers that Buddhists have themselves violated propaganda truce. Many bonzes, he said, are continuing to distribute tracts and to pass out tendentious information to foreign press. He brushed aside my argument that there has not been time for word to filter down on Buddhists' side and charged that Bonze Thich Minh (principal negotiator from Hue) was passing out line that government has capitulated.

At one point in long conversation, Diem charged in terms [sic] that Buddhists had been negotiating in bad faith.

Diem also believes that troubles in Hue stem primarily from ineptitude of local GVN officials. But fault is not their actions on May 8 but rather that prior to that date they had given too much encouragement to "certain" Buddhist elements. Thereafter their delinquencies consisted in not carrying out effective security measures and in not filing prompt reports on what had happened. It was not until May 24, for example, that chief medical official completed report showing that May 8 deaths resulted from concussion rather than fragmentation grenades.

I asked Diem if he was saying that, if disturbances resumed, stronger measures should be used. He replied "the necessary measures". Public order had of course to be maintained. He went on to say things which suggested to me that he believes that improved situation in last few days is result of more effective security measures. He may of course be right but, in any event, he is clearly giving higher priority to security measures than to negotiations for immediate future.

In course of discussion I used every argument I could muster to persuade him that only satisfactory solution, at least from US point of view, was peaceful one, through negotiations. I also said quite flatly that, in my opinion, author of resolution (well known to both of us to be Madame Nhu) was seeking to undermine agreement already reached. Finally, I expressed resentment at reference in resolution to "those inclined to take Vietnam for a satellite of a foreign power". This phraseology, I said, we had learned to translate as "USA". All this he received with equanimity.

At end of meeting I repeated arguments used at beginning and asked him to reconsider question of disavowing resolution. He did not reply-and this is only possibly bright spot I have to report.

For the moment, I would recommend that Department make no statement and that we watch events for a day or so. It may be that Diem will react belatedly to my arguments today--he sometimes does. Or it may be that WSM resolution will not have effect on negotiations that I anticipate. In any event, there seems to be no advantage in precipitate action. I will of course be doing what I can with Thuan to try to keep negotiations on the track.

Trueheart

 

161. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 9, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 9:16 a.m.

1137. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 1194./2/ I had full discussion with Thuan on Buddhist problem and its ramifications at his home this afternoon. Following are major points:

/2/Document 158.

1. I opened by telling him that I had come to discuss with him new instructions from Washington. I would wish later to carry out these instructions formally with Diem or, possibly, with him.

2. I then reviewed with him in detail conversation with President yesterday (Embtel 1136),/3/ explaining concerns which conversation raised in my mind.

/3/Document 160.

3. I next gave him a very detailed run-down of my instructions (Deptel 1194), reminding him again that this was a simple preview.

4. Turning to related questions, I summarized for him CAS report/4/ of plans for GVN organized, ostensibly Buddhist counter-demonstrations scheduled to take place in Saigon June 10 or 11. Reportedly these demonstrations would use "false-bonzes" from southern provinces brought to Saigon by GVN, Republican Youths some disguised as Bonzes and some in regular uniform, and hoodlum elements from Cholon--the whole organized by Ngo Trong Hieu. I told Thuan that I could not vouch for this report but that if anything of this sort was being planned for Saigon or elsewhere, I wanted to ask that it be stopped instantly. This was not a preview but a request on which I wanted him to act this afternoon.

/4/Not further identified.

5. Similarly, I told him that I had intelligence reports that a Catholic ceremony in memory of Pope John was planned for Danang June 10. At this ceremony reportedly a resolution was to be passed calling for removal of Quang Nam Province Chief Major Thiet, on the ground that he had been too lenient with the Buddhists. I asked that this action; if in fact it was planned, be also stopped immediately.

6. I told Thuan I would like for him to get word to the President that I now had confirmed information that GVN aircraft had dropped leaflets in Hue on June 7 and that these leaflets contained attacks on principal Buddhist leaders in Hue.

7. I related to Thuan report I had that four newsmen (Michaud AFP, Sheehan UPI, Browne AP and Perry Times,) had been detained for one hour at third arondissement police station where they had gone to check on report that certain Bonzes had been arrested. Police questioned and photographed them and sought unsuccessfully have them sign long statement in Vietnamese which they were told was certification that they had come to police station solely to gather news. I told Thuan that this struck me as foolish and counterproductive action. (Browne subsequently told me that he had actually ridden to police station with Bonze called in for questioning, so I dare say police had reason to raise their eyebrows. Correspondents have also told me that some Bonzes are openly stating that they seeking to involve foreign press in their cause. Correspondents are consequently in a quandary, not wanting to miss any news but on other hand not wanting to be "used". I told them they would have to use their own judgment.)

8. Reviewed with Thuan situation at Tu Dam Pagoda, on which neither he nor I had any new information (telephone circuits to Hue are out today). I stated that I was concerned with reports that people inside pagoda could not get food and medical care. It would be most regrettable and vastly damaging development if any one should die for lack of care. Thuan said President had asked him to tell me that a Dr. Buu Du, a Buddhist, was entering pagoda and caring for people inside. He was told also to say that President understood people did not want to leave pagoda. I said I had other reports that they were afraid to come out for fear of arrest and that police were also asking their friends and relatives to make written request for their release but many of these were also afraid do so.

9. I reminded Thuan of another earlier conversation of about a week ago (not reported) in which before Pope John's death I had expressed concern over possible GVN-sponsored ceremony. Thuan said he knew of nothing planned except requiem mass June 11 organized by Papal Nuncio (I have accepted invitation by Nuncio to attend this mass and plan to do so). Thuan added President had also told him to tell me that he talked last night with Archbishop Thuc in Hue and that no Catholic demonstrations were being planned there (this is not a subject which I raised with the President, or which I wish to raise with him directly).

10. Finally Thuan told me, unofficially and strictly confidentially, that President had informed him that after our conversation yesterday he had directed that Madame Nhu's statement (resolution) not be run on radio or in Vietnamese newspapers. Unfortunately, it is lead story under banner headline in today's English-language Times of Viet-Nam, which probably went to press well before our meeting.

I concluded meeting by telling Thuan that my concerns about this whole affair went far beyond religious issue involved. I thought that as a result of handling of this matter, GVN was in real and imminent danger of losing broad mass of its support in the country and that such a thing would more than offset all the progress which had been made here in the last year. Thuan indicated agreement with this. He also expressed dismay that he and GVN were unable to prevent the appearance of something like the WSM resolution.

We left it that Thuan would convey the above-numbered points to Diem and arrange for me to see him.

Trueheart

 

162. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 10, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution: Repeated to CINCPAC.

1141. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 1137./2/ Thuan reported at 9 am that he had made some progress in talks with Diem and Nhu following our meeting yesterday (reftel):

/2/Document 161.

1. Re Decree Law 10, Diem said he could not repeal it by Presidential action because National Assembly in session. (This is probably correct reading of Constitution; it is perhaps debatable whether he could act under emergency powers but that the latter apply only to matters of "security and manpower mobilization".) I asked about possibility of quick action by Assembly. Thuan said that this would take time because law long and complicated. I said that if, for example, prominent Deputy announced intention to introduce legislation and government let it be known that it would support it, this might be all that was necessary. Thuan said that he would try for this.

2. Answer to our inquiry was that WSM resolution had not been cleared in advance by GVN. Diem had objected to characterization of resolution as "Madame Nhu's statement," pointing out that it was product bf popular organization. Latter remark was made (and received) with a smile.

3. Regarding reports of planned demonstrations in Saigon organized by Ngo Trong Hieu, Thuan said that President had telephoned Hieu in his presence and latter had denied report. In any case, Thuan said he had talked to Nhu as well about this and could assure me no such demonstrations would take place. Similarly for the reported action in Danang.

4. Re pagoda at Hue, Thuan said he was still working on this but r hoped to arrange for assurances to be given people inside that they could leave without fear of arrests or other reprisals. This might not apply to certain government functionaries who were in pagoda.

5. No GVN-sponsored ceremonies will be held for Pope John.

6. Thuan confirmed that WSM resolution banned on radio and will not appear in the Vietnamese newspapers. In fact, we have not found it in any papers and VTVN informed USIS this morning that resolution had been broadcast two or three times before presidential order received to ban it.

7. Regarding my statement to Thuan that I judged President was not interested in negotiations with Buddhist leaders until they were isolated, Thuan said President thought I had misunderstood; he wanted to isolate the extremists. I said I thought this was a distinction without a difference.

8. Thuan reported that Vice President Tho's commission was meeting at 10 o'clock to consider new letter received from Saigon Buddhist leader./3/ This letter was moderate in tone, acknowledged that GVN had taken certain steps in Hue, such as removing troops and traffic blocks, but asked for further action on cordoning off of pagoda. Thuan was hopeful that talks with Buddhists, including representatives from Hue, could continue.

/3/The substance of an exchange of letters between Vice President Tho and the Buddhist Executive Committee, including the June 9 letter under reference, was transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 1144 from Saigon, June 10. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

9. Finally Thuan said that my remarks about air-dropping of leaflets in Hue and detaining of newsmen in Saigon had been passed to President, as had everything else I had told him.

Thuan asked when I would want to see the President to carry out my instructions officially. I replied that I had no particular interest in making demarches for their own sake, that I was primarily interested in seeing problem of Buddhists resolved. As Thuan seemed to be making some progress, I thought it might be a good idea to wait until after lunch before deciding about seeing the President. Thuan agreed but asked me to give him until tomorrow morning when we could have breakfast together and decide where to go from here. I said I would hold off until then, subject to any new instructions from Dept. I also said that what I would want to get across to President, apart from what was in my instructions, was that President should take this whole affair into his own hands and ensure that those negotiating with Buddhists were not undercut from any quarter.

In response to his query, I told Thuan that I had no plan to make any public statement at this time. He knows from our talk yesterday that I have authority to make one and I gathered from Thuan's manner that this rather worries GVN.

Comment: Department will appreciate that I am handling instructions in such a way as in effect to be able to use them twice. Whether or not it will be desirable to repeat directly to Diem what Thuan has already told him is debatable. Unless the Department has objection, I propose to decide this in the light of progress Thuan is able to report tomorrow morning./4/

/4/In telegram 1199 to Saigon, June 10, 5:30 p.m., the Department agreed with this procedure and added:

"Suggest you particularly press GVN on removing cordon from around Pagoda in Hue and on most rapid possible repeal law no. 10. Due rapidity developments you are authorized decide on your own the timing of these and other demarches." (Ibid.)

Since dictating above have received word Thuan wants to see me at 6 pm./5/

/5/See footnote 2, Document 165.

Trueheart

 

163. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 11, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Unclassified; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC. The time of transmission is not given on the source text. The telegram was received at 12:08 a.m.

1146. CINCPAC for POLAD. At about 1000 hours this morning Buddhist bonze burned himself to death/2/ at corner Phan Dinh Phung and Le Van Duyet Streets in Saigon. Preliminary information indicates Bonze (name unknown) was surrounded by massed ranks of from 200 to 300 Bonzes, applied gasoline to robe, and ignited it. Police tried vainly break through ranks of Bonzes. Embassy officer has viewed body. Burning viewed by crowd of 400-500 spectators.

/2/ according to a report by COMUSMACV on June 12, the incident took place shortly after 11 a.m. The MACV report identified the bonze who died as Quang Duc, estimated the supporting group of bonzes and nuns at 400-500, and noted that the Buddhists used loudspeakers to proclaim that Quang Duc had died to emphasize the five demands made upon the South Vietnamese Government after the May 8 incident in Hue. (Telegram 121015Z from Admino COMUSMACV to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 12; ibid.)

Quang Duc's suicide was photographed by Malcolm Browne of Associated Press. Several American newsmen had been informed in advance that something important might happen that morning near Xa Loi Pagoda, but only Browne responded. His photograph, taken an instant after the flames erupted, was published around the world. In John Mecklin's view, the photograph "had a shock effect of incalculable value to the Buddhist cause, becoming a symbol of the state of things in Vietnam." (Mecklin, Mission in Torment, p. 157)

Crowd orderly but growing. Police maintaining Bonzes in places and refusing permit procession to continue. Reportedly another Bonze prepared disembowel himself in protest today.

Trueheart

 

164. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 11,1963, noon.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Confidential; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 2:21 a.m.

1147. CINCPAC for POLAD. Procession of approximately 400 bonzes carried body of dead bonze to Xa Loi Pagoda near USOM. At about 0130 an estimated 800-1000 bonzes now inside pagoda. Large group of pro-Buddhist students have now formed cordon around pagoda and refusing admission to anyone. Students have raised crude banner in English stating "This Buddhist priest cremated himself for five items demanded of the government." Meeting at pagoda broke up at 1200 and bonzes quickly dispersed, leaving approximately 100 bonzes inside.

Very few spectators in evidence; however large group of bonzes and lay persons estimated at 2000 now gathering at site of cremation. Crowd orderly. Large number of police (estimated at 1000) in area. Police have allowed bonzes to proceed at will within area which is cordoned off and have attempted keep bonzes and spectators separate./2/

/2/The Embassy reported later in the day that at 6 p.m. the police arrested some 30 nuns and 5 bonzes after they refused to move a prayer meeting into nearby Xa Loi Pagoda. Access to the area cordoned-off around the pagoda was then limited to residents of the immediate area. While disturbances mounted in Saigon, the Embassy noted that the situation in Hue seemed to have returned to normal. (Telegram 1158 from Saigon, June 11; ibid.)

Banners in English and Vietnamese carried by bonzes read as follows: "A Buddhist priest burns himself for our five requests," and "Do not deceive us and the people in any way."

Dead bonze identified as Thich Quang Duc, a middle level bonze from provinces (reportedly from Nha Trang but unconfirmed). He arrived on scene of his death in a vehicle with central Viet Nam license plates and carrying his own can of gasoline. Burning took place in front of Cambodian representation residence, apparently for purpose obtaining Cambodian attention./3/

/3/On June 13, Charles C. Flowerree of the Embassy sent a memorandum to Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Melvin L. Manfull in which he assessed the impact of the Buddhist problem on relations between South Vietnam and Cambodia. Flowerree pointed to a May 22 speech by Prince Sihanouk, in which Sihanouk charged that President Diem was mistreating both Vietnamese and Khmer Buddhists. Flowerree noted that on June 9 the Times of Viet Nam, which often spoke for the Diem government, published an article underlining the prominent role of Cambodian, or Hinayana bonzes in the Buddhist difficulties in South Vietnam, in line with what the paper charged was the Cambodian policy of attempting to impose neutralism on Vietnam through diplomatic and propaganda efforts. Noting that "the GVN is ready and eager to see a fine Cambodian hand in all the organized Buddhist actions," Flowerree concluded that the self-immolation of the bonze Quang Duc in front of the Cambodian Embassy tended to feed the suspicions of the Diem government. (Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 67 A 677, 320 GVN-Cambodia Jan-June 63)

Colonel Tung, Commander Vietnamese Special Forces, has ordered two Ranger companies of Special Forces moved in from Long Thanh Camp (between Saigon and Vung Tau). Ranger companies will be disposed in the camp near Tan Son Nhut Airport. Colonel Tung stated that he expects further trouble today. Seventh Airborne Battalion also alerted according to MACV.

Reports persist that other bonzes may sacrifice themselves in front of public buildings.

Trueheart

 

165. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 11, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 7:37 a.m.

1151. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 1148./2/ Saw Thuan at his house at lunch time. He had talked with President and Nhu this morning. Contrary reftel, he said there had been no Cabinet meeting. President had talked with individual ministers, however, and might assemble Cabinet this afternoon. He was urging conciliatory action on President and thought he was making some headway. His mood was quite different from last night, and I would guess that events of this morning have considerably strengthened his personal position.

/2/In telegram 1148 from Saigon, June 11, Trueheart reported that his conversations the previous evening with Thuan and Ngo Trong Hieu indicated that "as of that time Diem had decided situation fully under control and was preparing in a day or so to issue communique stating final government position." Trueheart noted, however, that the situation had been "drastically changed by self-cremation of bonze in Central Saigon." He stated that an emergency Cabinet session began sitting at 11:30 a.m. to consider the situation. Trueheart planned to see President Diem and "ask for dramatic conciliatory gesture." (Ibid.)

I told Thuan that, in my judgment, GVN position abroad and probably in the country was very precarious. I doubted that position could be restored without an immediate, dramatic and conciliatory move by President Diem personally. Concessions which should be made would, I thought, have to go beyond things Thuan had privately told me last week Diem was prepared to do, and he would have to make his move in a manner which I knew went against his grain. I told Thuan, again as a personal opinion, that I thought if President did not do something of this sort this afternoon he might well be faced with a public US Government disassociation of itself from whole affair, with quite possibly a strong overtone of disapproval of GVN handling Buddhist problem since May 8. (This is, in fact, what I now recommend to Department unless we have action or the promise of it before the day is out.) Thuan took more or less verbatim notes of this and said he would bring it to the attention of the President at once./3/

/3/In a radio address to the nation at 7 p.m., President Diem appealed for calm and noted that discussions with Buddhist leaders were continuing. He stated that extremists had distorted the facts of the situation, but he assured Buddhists that they "can count on the Constitution, in other words, on me." (Telegram 1156 from Saigon, June 11, received at 8:59 a.m., ibid.)

I also told Thuan that since Buddhist action this morning so obviously planned in advance, it seemed reasonable to suppose that there would be other incidents today. I said I was aware of movement of certain troop units to Saigon today and alerting of others. Possibility of clashes was therefore very real.

I also called to Thuan's attention that Women's Solidarity Movement had today published long letter of protest to UPI management on reporting of Neil Sheehan./4/ On past form, I expected move to expel Sheehan. I said this was a "stupid" action. (Thuan asked if he could quote me and I said yes.) I said that I was also incensed, and knew Washington would be, that two days after the strongest warnings against Madame Nhu's sounding off, she had done it again. I also pointed out that notwithstanding earlier statement that previous outburst would not appear in Vietnamese press, we had found that it was printed in two papers yesterday afternoon.

/4/This letter, which was published in the Times of Viet-Nam on June 11, was summarized in telegram 1153 from Saigon, June 11. (Ibid.)

Thuan said he would let me know later this afternoon what progress he is making./5/

/5/Trueheart saw Thuan at 6 p.m. and found him in a "relatively optimistic mood." Thuan hoped that President Diem's radio address would serve to maintain calm until the meeting scheduled for the following day with Buddhist leaders. Thuan would not say what concessions government negotiators would be prepared to make, but Trueheart noted that the Vice President's Commission was "very much back in business today." (Telegram 1157 from Saigon, June 11; received at 9:06 a.m; ibid.)

Late item: As of noon, usually reliable CAS source indicated all VNAF personnel restricted to base effective 1230 hours. Air Force personnel additionally informed that they would receive instructions from JGS in early afternoon. VNAF Chief of Staff (Lt. Col. Do Khac Mai is a Buddhist) reportedly remarked to source that he and other senior officers were fed up with situation and that he could not understand why Americans stood by and lost golden opportunity to rectify situation in Vietnam, by which he clearly meant overthrow of government.

American employees and dependents have been notified to avoid crowds and demonstrations. USOM employees dismissed for afternoon, as USOM building very close to Xa Loi Pagoda. I have also asked principal to close American community school this afternoon. All above without public announcement.

At present situation quiet at Xa Loi Pagoda and at National Assembly.

Trueheart

 

166. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 11, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1155. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 1196; Embtel 1138./2/

/2/Telegram 1196 is printed as Document 159; regarding telegram 1138, see footnote 4 thereto.

A. following are factors in current Buddhist situation as we currently see it:

Buddhists

1. Buddhist demonstrations and opposition to GVN began as reaction to specific GVN limitations on religious expression (i.e., flying of Buddhist flags outside pagoda premises). Whether Buddhist reaction was spontaneous or premeditated is not clear; however, those actions in fact articulated long-standing Buddhist sense of grievance at religious discrimination. By now Buddhist actions have taken on political significance, partly because of GVN's slowness to react politically to Buddhist demands, speed with which it has exercised repressive measures, transparent attempts of GVN to draw up "spontaneous" expression of Buddhist support, and opportunity issue provided to other dissatisfied elements to express opposition to GVN. While Buddhists still seeking largely religious ends, fact is that Buddhist leaders question GVN's intentions and sincerity to such degree that some of them beginning question whether GVN as presently constituted will ever bring them satisfaction.

2. Buddhist actions have not all been above reproach. Although to Embassy's knowledge, they are still seeking satisfaction only on their five demands, sufficient momentum may have developed behind their protest movement so that five demands will themselves be given liberal interpretation or be overtaken by larger and more extensive demands. Some Buddhists are reportedly talking about bringing about overthrow of GVN. In addition Buddhists have not respected propaganda truce but have been distributing tracts, encouraging further demonstrations, and sought to enlist foreign press in their cause.

3. There is no evidence that any specific political group is behind Buddhist unrest. On contrary, there is evidence that Buddhists have resisted temptation enlist aid political opposition groups and that in fact have repelled effort by such groups to jump on bandwagon overtly. Similarly, there is no evidence that VC are exerting any direct influence on Buddhists at this juncture; there is, however, some evidence that VC are waiting expectantly in wings for propitious moment to exploit situation politically and/or militarily.

4. Opposition to GVN's position has tended to unify Buddhist groups; moreover, there is evidence that Buddhists are trying at least inform, if not organize, rural population in bid for their support. Their reasonably successful resistance to GVN without serious punishment so far has given them confidence. Thus, it is quite possible that Buddhists will press GVN beyond five demands. What is not so certain, however, is whether Buddhist groups sufficiently organized and cohesive to back any agreement reached by Buddhist leaders negotiating with GVN.

GVN

1. In early stages "Buddhist revolt" GVN undoubtedly misjudged strength Buddhist emotions and determination and thought Buddhists would bow quickly to forceful measures.

2. Constructive steps taken by GVN have come too slowly to have maximum impact on Buddhists, and such steps have been taken only under pressure of events or at strong US urging. GVN has at times given impression of being divided within itself on how to cope with Buddhists.

3. GVN from beginning has regarded Buddhist "revolt" as political problem and politically motivated since potential threat it poses to regime is political. In this regard, GVN finds itself in quandary, which to some extent explains its slow and uncertain actions to placate Buddhists, its tendency to use forceful measures to restore status quo, and even Mme. Nhu's unhelpful statement. GVN realizes that giving satisfaction to Buddhists could (a) lead to further Buddhist demands and (b) temptations on part of other groups to follow Buddhist example.

B. At this moment, we believe there is still some chance that GVN will come to satisfactory terms with Buddhists. This will depend on whether dialogue between two parties can be maintained and whether it succeeds in dispelling suspicion and distrust on both sides. Even assuming that agreement can now be reached--and that Buddhist leaders can rally rank and file support for it--Buddhist revolt and GVN's record of response to it will leave mark in terms further gap in communication between GVN and people, as well as in terms GVN fear that similar trouble will pop up elsewhere.

It is in context possibility that two parties can come to terms that GVN will be most receptive to suggestions under parts A and B of Deptel 1196. Regarding part A, suggestions (1) and (2) have already been raised informally with Thuan, who indicated that GVN exploring what action feasible on Decree 10 and that no official GVN commemoration planned for Pope John. We would be reluctant pass on suggestion (3) which certain to irritate GVN but unlikely have any important benefits, if accepted, since we doubt seriously that public understands Personalism or its background sufficiently for soft-pedalling it to have any impact. Re (4), I will suggest to General Harkins that he explore ways and means to raise this with GVN.

Suggestions under part B are of course for longer term. Their implementation now unlikely aid current situation materially, since any impact would take time. We concerned at suggestion (3) under part B, since it implies "packing the Assembly" with US blessing; also, given nature Assembly, Buddhists likely consider Assembly monks as kept men. Further, we question whether good idea deliberately mix religion and politics. We will explore how handle this one, but inclined believe we should go no further than suggesting that GVN consider feasibility of monks presenting candidacies for Assembly.

Above estimate was prepared prior self-cremation incident and today's talk with Thuan. If dialogue between GVN and Buddhists breaks down or becomes harsher GVN likely be unwilling take actions Buddhist could interpret as weakness. For example, in connection with suggestion regarding monks in National Assembly, believe we cannot rule out possibility that if Buddhist unrest continues, Diem will postpone Assembly elections altogether or carry them out in "safe" areas of country.

Appreciate Department's effort in preparing background study on Buddhism in Vietnam. Would like examine it before deciding to ask for Heavner WG's services./3/

/3/See footnote 6, Document 159.

Trueheart

 

167. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 11, 1963, 11:03 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Wood and Hilsman and cleared in draft by Harriman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1207. In our judgment the Buddhist situation is dangerously near the breaking point. Accordingly, you authorized to tell Diem that in the United States view it is essential for the GVN promptly to take dramatic action to regain confidence of Buddhists and that the GVN must fully and unequivocally meet Buddhist demands as set forth in Embtel 1038./2/ Furthermore, we believe that meeting these demands must be done in a public and dramatic fashion if confidence is to be restored.

/2/Document 129.

You further authorized to tell Diem that unless GVN is willing to take effective action along the above lines within the next few days the US will find it necessary publicly to state that it cannot associate itself with the GVN's unwillingness to meet the reasonable demands of the Vietnamese Buddhist leaders.

There follows various argumentation which you authorized to use in whole or part at your discretion.

The US understands that a public statement may have political repercussions inside South Viet-Nam and would make such a statement most reluctantly since it continues to support President Diem. However, the international repercussions of the Buddhist troubles in South Viet-Nam cannot help but affect US world-wide responsibilities. In addition, US support of Vietnamese Government requires full support of Congress and American people and question as to our attitude towards and our involvement in Buddhist problem must be effectively dealt with if satisfactory solution is not arrived at very quickly. Furthermore, it is also in the interests of the Government of South Viet-Nam to take action to regain confidence of Buddhists. No government in Viet-Nam can survive without their support.

We realize that meeting Buddhist demands as set forth in Embtel 1038 runs risk of engendering further Buddhist demands and that GVN must be prepared to face and very likely accede to such further demands unless they are so substantive as to endanger GVN defense effort. Nevertheless fact is that Buddhist demands so far have been reasonable and/or insubstantial. In fact GVN has already gone most of way to meet them. What is necessary is that GVN so state clearly and that it abide by such decision firmly before it is too late.

Risk of GVN yielding now far less than pursuing continued standoff position when, actually, there is very little of substance separating GVN and responsible Buddhists. At present we believe situation has gone so far that to regain public confidence a joint statement by GVN and Buddhist leaders is needed to restore public confidence.

At same time we recognize risks to public order and safety if public gatherings are permitted at this time and importance to GVN of demonstrating that it is still in control of situation.

We therefore recommend that GVN seek work out joint communique to be issued with General Association making following points:

1. The five points suggested by Buddhists are considered as reasonable and proper rights which they and any other religious group may exercise m Viet-Nam.

2. In order to avoid any further incidents which could endanger innocent persons Buddhist leaders in their capacity as representatives of a religion which is opposed to violence and the GVN as the guardian of public safety ask that all loyal and virtuous citizens of Viet-Nam refrain from any actions in public places which could harm innocent persons. Until the situation is judged to be calmer Association leaders and the GVN join in requesting that there be no further public processions or demonstrations by any religious group in Viet-Nam. The right to worship privately according to one's beliefs in pagodas, temples, or churches, and to own property, fly flags, enjoy freedom from unjustified arrest and to propagate religion will not be interfered with. All discriminatory laws and regulations will be promptly rescinded (the nicety of having this done by National Assembly seems brushed aside by Diem's statement that Buddhists can count on Constitution, i.e. on him.) Finally, as soon as the tensions caused by recent events have relaxed, the privilege of conducting orderly religious processions which do not endanger public safety may be freely exercised. It is recognized that religious processions constitute an outward manifestation of faith which should be permitted so long as they do not endanger the welfare of the community or damage the essential unity of the Vietnamese people which has enabled them to survive throughout history.

3. It has been agreed between the GVN and Association that a permanent National Religious Council will be established which will have the right and duty of consulting with the Government on all matters affecting religious freedom as defined under the Constitution. This Council will have as members representatives of all established sects, churches and denominations which exist in Viet-Nam.

FYI--If Diem does not take prompt and effective steps to reestablish Buddhist confidence in him we will have to reexamine our entire relationship with his regime. End FYI.

Rusk

 

168. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 12, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Confidential; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1161. Embassy telegram 1157./2/ Saw Thuan at 1130 for review of Buddhist situation and found he had two concerns: Behavior of Buddhist leaders from Hue once they reach Saigon and lack of firm negotiating instructions on GVN side.

/2/See footnote 5, Document 165.

Buddhist leaders are due to arrive at 1:15 pm. They include Tri Quang as well as those mentioned reftel./3/ Tri Quang has been real spark plug of activities in Hue and is reputed to have considerable flair as a demagogue. Thuan indicated GVN was worried that Hue delegation would not proceed promptly to conference table but devote themselves first to some agitation in Saigon. GVN concern was heightened when they received word that group wants to walk into Saigon from airport.

/3/In telegram 1157, Trueheart reported that the Buddhist negotiators from Hue "will include Khiet, Minh and Mat Nguyen."

Re negotiating instructions, Thuan continues to believe that commission will get what it needs from President in way of concessions but he admitted that certain unspecified essential points had not as yet been firmly pinned down.

I told Thuan that I thought it essential in terms of US support that GVN be prepared to make meaningful and substantial concessions to the Buddhist demands. It was my assessment that GVN had consistently underestimated force and determination of Buddhists. After first talks with Buddhists last week, situation had quickly calmed down in Hue, whereupon GVN had decided that danger had passed and they could get away with reaffirmation of minor concessions already granted and prevent further outburst by security measures. This was situation as of June 10. Following regrettable incident on morning June 11, GVN had again begun to think of concessions. (Thuan did.not disagree with any of this.) Now situation again appeared relatively calm in Saigon. I hoped that GVN would not again conclude that it can get out of this affair on the cheap. I did not think the Buddhists would stand for this, and if they did not--and possibly even if they did-the US wouldn't, in my opinion. I told him that Department was withholding statement (Deptel 1202)/4/ but that one could be made very quickly if developments warrant.

/4/Dated June 11. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

I told Thuan that I wanted to be very sure that President Diem understood seriousness with which US regarded this matter and asked whether it would not be a good idea for me to see him before decisions taken on negotiating instructions. Thuan at first said he thought it would be best to let him handle it and call for help if he bogged down. On reflection, however, he suggested that I put in request through regular channels to see the President this afternoon or tomorrow morning. This I have done. He recommended that I "talk as tough" to President as I have to him.

No time has been set for commencement negotiations. GVN would like to start this afternoon or at latest tomorrow, in view of their concerns about what Hue leaders are up to. However, latter will need some time to get together with southern representatives (still not named) and I am inclined to doubt that talks will start before tomorrow.

Since dictating above, have received word Hue delegation arrived as scheduled, proceeded from airport to Saigon by car and is now installed at Xa Loi Pagoda.

Trueheart

 

169. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 12, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution.

1168. Deptel 1207./2/ I opened meeting with President Diem by saying that I had sought during recent days, in conversations with him and with Thuan (who was also present), to emphasize gravity with which my government regarded Buddhist situation. I had now received new instructions which went somewhat further than what I had been saying. I then handed him a paper,/3/ unsigned and headed "Memorandum," which contained a paraphrase of most of reftel. In handing paper over I emphasized that I had not discussed it with anyone.

/2/Document 167.

/3/No copy of this paper has been found.

President read paper carefully, and without any comment except to ask for translation of word "reluctantly". When he had finished reading, he handed paper to Thuan and sat in silence until Thuan had finished.

Diem then began an exchange with Thuan in Vietnamese, at the end of which Thuan said that the President wanted to point out that any statement by the United States at this juncture would be disastrous for the negotiations with the Buddhists which he expected would begin this evening or tomorrow morning. I pointed out that this was well understood in Washington and I gave him a copy of yesterday's statement by Department Spokesman,/4/ to effect that US did not want to comment with negotiations in the offing.

/4/Not printed. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Transcripts of Department of State News Briefings)

Referring to point in suggested communique about banning of public processions by any religious group, Diem pointed out that tomorrow, June 13, is the Fete de Dieu (Corpus Christi), that Catholic processions were scheduled and indeed this was only day in religious calendar on which Catholic liturgy prescribes processions. If he banned them tomorrow, resentment of Catholics would be strong. I explained to president that burden of my demarche was in first three paragraphs of memorandum; remainder was argumentation and a suggestion for a communique. I doubted that Washington had considered the Fete de Dieu angle, but in any case the sentence to which he referred was put in, I was sure, to provide a rationale for temporary banning of Buddhist processions and demonstrations. With regard to tomorrow, he would have to decide whether to permit the Catholic processions, taking into account the expected effect on public order and on the negotiations with the Buddhists. I noted that, although Catholics would doubtless resent the banning of their processions, the gesture might be all the more appreciated by the Buddhists.

There was, rather surprisingly, no further discussion of substance of memorandum. Diem said [he] would have to reflect on it and would not, in any case, wish to take a decision until discussion with Buddhists had begun. I said that I had not expected an immediate reply but asked if I could expect that he or Thuan would keep me informed as discussions with Buddhists proceeded. He agreed.

Before leaving, I mentioned three items of information which I said had given me some concern: (1) A report that arrests were continuing June 11 in Danang and Hue. I thought it would be most regrettable if the authorities were retaliating against people involved in recent demonstrations. Diem did not reply but Thuan later told me that he would personally look into report. (2) I understood that some Vietnamese authorities (actually Minister of Interior, as I later told Thuan) were considering prosecuting for murder persons who had assisted bonze to cremate himself yesterday. Diem said he understood other persons had assisted bonze to cover himself with gasoline and had set fire to him. I said that I had talked to two eye witnesses who saw bonze set fire to himself but, whatever the facts, any action against others involved would be a very grave mistake. Thuan later said he would see to it that this idea was killed. (3) I had heard that entry to Saigon from the provinces had been barred to all monks. President and Thuan acknowledged that this was so and said that they considered it dangerous to public safety to permit bonzes to converge on Saigon at this particular time. I said that the public safety was of course his responsibility and I did not press the point.

Meeting with Diem lasted less than an hour.

Later, in Thuan's office, he told me he had had a very serious (he called it climactic) conversation with President at mid-day, in which he had pressed President very hard to face facts and adopt conciliatory posture. He thought he had had some success. He said that he had emphasized to President that many people were afraid to tell him the truth but that he, Thuan, considered that it was his duty to tell the President "everything" and he had proceeded to do so.

Comment: Department's instructions could not have been more timely, coming just before negotiations begin. They are of course very strong medicine and will be very hard for Diem to take./5/ I would not care to predict outcome, but I believe we can be satisfied that we have done everything reasonably possible to get President Diem to save himself.

/5/According to a memorandum for the record prepared in the White House on June 14, President Kennedy was unaware of the memorandum conveyed to Diem by Trueheart on June 12, on instructions from the Department, until it was summarized by the CIA in the President's Intelligence Checklist on June 14. "The President noticed that Diem has been threatened with a formal statement of disassociation. He wants to be absolutely sure that no further threats are made and no formal statement is made without his own personal approval." (Kennedy Library, National Security tales, Chester V. Clifton Series, President's Intelligence Checklist)

It is obviously vital that there be no leaks about this latest move . and I am taking strictest precautions at this end.

Trueheart

 

170. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 13, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14- S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution.

1178. Embtel 1168./2/ Following is situation as of 1500 on GVN-Buddhist negotiations.

/2/Document 169.

1. Immediately after arrival of Buddhist delegation June 12, Vice President Tho sent them letter proposing that delegation meet with GVN commission at 1800 same day. (This and other letters mentioned this message cast in polite and respectful language.) Buddhists replied that head bonze Khiet was very weak and tired as a result of 5-day fast and flight to Saigon and would be "incapable of thinking or acting for 3 or 5 days, the more so since Buddhism is at present observing mourning (grand deuil) throughout the country." Letter proposed meeting take place "on another day which would be more convenient." Tho replied last night that his commission had proposed early meeting because of desire expressed by Buddhists in a June 8 letter "to proceed rapidly to a satisfactory arrangement." Tho went on to propose that meeting take place today, June 13, at an hour to be selected by Khiet. Tho said commission considered that there would be many disadvantages in deferring meeting; as for "grand deuil", Tho said this was a problem which should not be linked with the planned meeting "especially in the present situation."

2. Thuan informed me at lunch time that Buddhists have now replied to Tho letter agreeing to meet tomorrow, June 14, provided GVN accepts in advance their ex parse version of agreement reached at meeting of June 5, terms of which are set out in Buddhists' letter.

3. According to Thuan, Buddhist version differs from what GVN commission understood had been agreed. GVN version exactly as he had given it to me at the time (Embtel 1114)./3/ Moreover, Buddhist version amounts to acceptance of "5 points" in full plus broadening of certain of them. Finally, Buddhists have implied that commission's acceptance June 5 agreement committed GVN, whereas it was ad referendum, as demonstrated by fact Minh had insisted on returning to Hue to put agreement before his principals. When I questioned Thuan as to nature of additional Buddhist demands, he said that there were several and some were complicated but he cited as examples that (a) on flag issue, GVN would agree authorization of local authorities would not be required, (b) pagodas, which for centuries have been community property in hamlets, should be "turned over to administration of Buddhists" (Thuan said he himself was not sure what this meant) and (c) on Law No.10 Buddhists proposed not only that Assembly amend it, as had been agreed, but that in meantime President should amend it by decree.

/3/Document 155.

4. Thuan said GVN commission, which met this morning, was disturbed over Buddhist insistence on getting full satisfaction before coming to meeting. Commission also felt obliged to set record straight about June 5 agreement, particularly as they had described it to President in very different terms. Commission was therefore meeting at 1500 to draft reply, which he thought would first set out GVN version of June 5 agreement and propose that parties meet tomorrow to seek to iron out differences.

5. I told Thuan that I did not think this was nearly good enough. What we were talking about was dramatic, conciliatory move. Reply he described would have appearance of careful preparation for bazaar-type negotiation. Buddhists could use it as an excuse for breaking off talks, if that was what they wanted to do. Moreover, differences between two versions, as he described them, did not seem to me to be of great importance.

6. After some discussion-in the course of which I sought to revive yesterday's mood of urgency and in which Thuan did not develop any other idea himself on how to deal with letter-I suggested that commission's reply might state that, while Buddhists' letter does not accord in all respects with commission's understanding of June 5 agreement, commission in spirit of amity and in interests of moving forward accepts Buddhists' statement of agreement in principle and as basis for discussion. Letter could also refer to need for clarification of certain points, if that was the case. Such a reply, it seemed to me, would be difficult for Buddhists to reject and was in keeping with spirit of conciliation and with object of restoring Buddhists' confidence in GVN. I reminded Thuan also that while GVN and Buddhists were busy writing letters to each other, possibility of incidents was ever present, whereas I felt there was less chance of this while parties were actually at conference table. Thuan seemed immediately attracted by my suggestion and said without further discussion that he would proceed to try to sell it and let me hear from him later this afternoon./4/

/4/Trueheart cabled the Department 2 hours later to report:

"Thuan telephoned me at 8:30 p.m.-believe he had been with Diem until that time-to say that reply being sent to Buddhists would quote from a previous Buddhist letter passage stating that agreement not reached at June 5 meeting and would go on to propose meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow mornng. My suggestion paragraph 6 reference telegram not accepted, Thuan said. On other hand, GVN had apparently not found it necessary to include in reply its own version of June 5 agreement." (Telegram 1180 from Saigon, June 13; Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

7. In reply to my question as to whether there had been any reaction to memorandum I left with President yesterday, Thuan said it was still being "studied".

 

Trueheart

 

171. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency/1/

Washington, June 13, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Special Group (CI). Secret. Drafted by Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.

PRESENT
Governor Harriman, The Attorney General, Mr. Gilpatric, Mr. Bell, General Taylor, Mr. Murrow, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Colby vice Mr. McCone
General Krulak was present for Item 1
Mr. Koren was present for Items 1, 2, and 3
Mr. Bowling was present for Item 4
Mr. Maechling was present for the meeting

1. Southeast Asia Status Report

Viet-Nam Mr. Koren commented that the Vietnamese action to follow through on funding of CI project has been most encouraging. About 64% of the rural population has been incorporated into the strategic hamlet program, and the hamlets now completed are over one-half of the projected goal. The press has reacted favorably to recent efforts to brief them on military operations. The Group reviewed the Buddhist problem and expressed concern over the hesitancy of the Vietnamese Government to take action to ease the situation. It was acknowledged that the situation could rapidly become more serious, but that the Country Team is handling the situation well.

Mr. Bell inquired about the validity of the number of returnees reflected in the status report, and what follow-through procedures are utilized to convert them into useful citizens. He observed that if good results have been achieved in this program, these facts should be exploited in the press. The Group requested State to submit a report on the results achieved in this program./2/

/2/No such report has been found. On June 20, Robert H. Johnson of the Policy Planning Council addressed a memorandum to Rostow, in which he questioned the success of the returnee program as reflected by the statistics released by the South Vietnamese Government. Johnson had discussed the program with a member of the British mission in South Vietnam and concluded:

"While there has been an impressive increase in surrenders under the surrender program the overwhelming portion of these are not true VC, but individuals who have come out of VC areas. It is impossible to determine how many VC have surrendered but one estimate is that not more than 20 out of a total of several thousand who have surrendered since the announcement of the surrender policy are VC. The government had done nothing to develop a program of rehabilitation of surrendered VC." (Ibid., S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Chron File-Robert H. Johnson-1963-Jan-June)

In response to Mr. Gilpatric's question on what else is being done in the Montagnard program, Mr. Koren stated that we are distributing food, medicine, and clothing to the tribesmen. Mr. Gilpatric commented that if we have a good story to tell on this program, it should be brought to the attention of the press. The Group requested State to submit a report on the successes achieved in this program./3/

/3/On June 19, Henry L.T. Koren circulated a memorandum to the Special Group for Counterinsurgency which summarized U.S. efforts with the Montagnards. (Ibid., Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Special Group (CI))

[Here follow discussion of Thailand and Cambodia under item 1; and items 2, "Progress Report on Internal Plan for Cambodia"; 3, "Progress Report on Internal Defense Plan for Thailand"; 4, "Follow-up Report on Iran"; and 5, "Miscellaneous".]

James W. Dingeman
Executive Secretary

 

172. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 14, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14- S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1182. CINCPAC for POLAD. Thuan telephoned me at home at lunch time, in an obviously jubilant mood. GVN-Buddhist meeting this morning had gone well./2/ All preliminaries (preambles) had been disposed of and full agreement reached on first of five Buddhist demands (flags). Thuan said this was most difficult of five points--presumably he meant for GVN--and he thought remainder could be agreed this afternoon or at latest tomorrow morning.

/2/According to telegram 1184 from Saigon, June 14, 5 p.m, the Buddhist delegation and the Vice President's commission met in the morning in the Vice President's office, and reconvened for further discussion at 3 p.m. (Ibid.)

Meanwhile, chief bonze Khiet is sending out nationwide order this afternoon calling on all Buddhists to avoid all manifestations and incidents, in view of favorable progress of talks with GVN. For its part, GVN commission, on order of President (Thuan stressed this point), is directing GVN authorities throughout country to suppress all barriers around temples, and so forth, taking care only to be on alert against VC incidents. Thuan thought VC likely to move when they saw GVN-Buddhist agreement was imminent. (I am inclined to agree with him.)

At conclusion meetings, Thuan said there would be a joint press conference.

Buddhist delegation is headed by Thien Minh, who represented Central Region at June 5 talks and who has full powers in writing from Khiet, according to Thuan. Other members are Tam Chau, Duc Ngiep, Tien Hoa, and Huyen Quang. Tri Quang is alternate delegate but he was not present this morning's meeting. This is puzzling and conceivably ominous. Fact Khiet did not appear in person perhaps explained on protocol grounds; possibly he is waiting to be received by Diem at end of drama.

More details as available./3/

/3/At 8:30 p.m. Thuan informed Trueheart that negotiations continued to go well in the afternoon, with full agreement reached on the second Buddhist demand, which called for the revision of Decree No. 10. Negotiations on the remaining Buddhist demands gave over at that point to a joint consideration of measures to counter an anticipated effort by the Viet Cong to exploit the funeral services for Quang Duc. (Telegram 1187 from Saigon, June 14; ibid.) On June 12, the South Vietnamese National Assembly had established a special committee to examine ways to revise Decree No. 10. (Telegram 1170 from Saigon, June 13; ibid.)

Trueheart

 

173. Telegram From Prince Sihanouk to President Kennedy/1/

Phnom Penh, Tune 14, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. A copy of the original French text is ibid. A notation on the French text indicates that the telegram was sent by MacKay Radio. In telegram 964 from Phnom Penh, June 14, the Embassy reported that Agence Khmere Presse in Phnom Penh had published in that day's issue the text of Prince Sihanouk's message to President Kennedy, along with the texts of similar telegrams sent by Sihanouk to U.N. Secretary-General U Thant, British Prime Minister Macmillan, French President De Gaulle, and Indian President Radhakrishnan. Ambassador Sprouse reported that the Foreign Ministry also told him the Cambodian Government had given a diplomatic note to the South Vietnamese Charge in Phnom Penh expressing concern over events in Vietnam following the deaths in May of Buddhists in Hue. (Ibid.) On June 18, Ceylonese Prime Minister Bandaranaike also sent a letter to President Kennedy expressing concern over developments in South Vietnam, and requesting that the United States use its good offices to enable the Buddhist majority in South Vietnam to enjoy the right to practice their religion. (Ibid.) And on June 28, the Representatives at the United Nations of Cambodia, Ceylon, and Nepal called on the U.S. Delegation at the United Nations to express mounting concern over religious difficulties in South Vietnam. (Telegram 4686 from USUN, June 28; ibid.)

161/SPU/T. For several years now we have followed with sorrow the development of the exceedingly cruel religious persecution of the monks and faithful of the Cambodian Buddhist community in South Viet-Nam. In vain, we have attempted to alert international public opinion.

Today, this persecution has overtaken the Vietnamese Buddhists themselves. Their nonviolent protests and the heroic act of martyrdom of the venerable Thich Quang Duc have roused the conscience of the world. Through my voice, Cambodia, where Buddhism is a State religion, and the Cambodian people, deeply moved by the suffering of the Buddhists of South Viet-Nam, beg Your Excellency to intercede with the full force of your moral prestige and that of your country to the end that the Catholic South Vietnamese Government may accord Buddhists the right to practice freely their religion of peace and brotherhood.

Here in Southeast Asia, where the coexistence of all religions had been established in an atmosphere of reciprocal tolerance and esteem, it rests with the great powers to bring back to reason a government that has revived religious conflicts that had been quiescent for more than a century.

Norodom Sihanouk

 

174. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 14, 1963, 4:43 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Rice and Forrestal. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1225. Embtel 1182, 1184, 1187; Phnom Penh's 964 to Dept./2/ Dept pleased note results reported reftel. You are to be congratulated.

/2/Regarding telegrams 1184 and 1187, see footnotes 2 and 3, respectively, to telegram 1182, Document 172. Regarding telegram 964, see footnote 1, Document 173.

Unfortunate New York Times story (septel)/3/ stating U.S. has warned Diem it will publicly condemn his treatment Buddhists unless he takes prompt action to meet their grievances will not be carried VOA. In response press queries here at noon press briefing today Dept spokesman stated this was speculative story on which he had no comment. Stated we following this sensitive internal issue very closely and were in touch with GVN officials. Pointed out Diem had set up GVN committee to meet Buddhist leaders in effort resolve this serious question. There were two meetings yesterday with apparently encouraging results. In reply query whether we would make statement spokesman replied we had made clear our concern. Queried as to why story described as speculative spokesman replied it was. Queried as to whether it was inaccurate spokesman replied "No".

/3/Telegram 1222 to Saigon, June 14, 1:06 p.m., summarized an article by Max Frankel which appeared on the front page of The New York Times on June 14, entitled "U.S. Warns South Viet-Nam on Demands of Buddhists." The article reported that the Kennedy government had warned President Diem that it would publicly condemn his treatment of Buddhists unless he took prompt action to meet their grievances. Frankel added that U.S. diplomats had told the South Vietnamese Government in blunt terms that continuing Buddhist dissatisfaction could become politically disastrous. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

You authorized confirm to GVN under instructions that there has been no U.S. public official statement and that unfortunate New York Times story gives us most serious concern. There has been no change in our policy of supporting GVN and are gratified by news reported reftel.

If issues are resolved between GVN and Buddhists and there is joint press conference, would be helpful if Buddhist leaders could in turn express solidarity with GVN against VC aggression. Leave handling this matter to your good judgement.

Re 1184. Assume funeral will be June 16 and not June 23 as stated reftel. If reftel correct, please confirm.

Re 1187. Would you consider discussing with GVN whether prominent GVN officials should offer participate in funeral. Realize likely go against grain for them attend funeral of man who died protesting GVN actions. On other hand this would be eloquent mark GVN-Buddhists understanding achieved at meetings and reduce effectiveness possible VC attempt stir crowd into actions demonstrating Buddhists opposition to GVN. In view NYT story fully realize you ,may wish make no demarches to GVN at this time.

Rusk

 

175. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 14, 1963, 11 p.m./2/

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, SGN(63) 19 GVN. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Hilsman and Harriman.

/2/Due to a delay in servicing, this telegram was not received in Saigon until June 16. Another copy of the telegram indicates that it was sent on June 14 at 10:25 a.m. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63)

1219. Re contingency plan enclosed in May 23 letter Nolting to Hilsman/3/ suggest you consider:

/3/Document 133.

1. Means whereby word [can] be gotten to Vice President that while there is no change in U.S. policy of supporting Diem, we want Tho to know that in event situation arises due to internal political circumstances (in which US would play no part) where Diem definitely unable act as President and only in this situation we would want to back Tho as constitutional successor and that we would assume he would need military support. In view present precarious situation it would seem worthwhile to run risk delivering such message now assuming Tho would not likely consider it in his interest to inform anyone else. We would have to tell Tho that if word leaked we would flatly deny. Assume message would have to be delivered directly by American official who had some reason for seeing Tho. You may wish consider whether it would be preferable to say this directly to Diem.

2. Suggest you consider steps gradually increase covert and overt contacts with non-supporters of GVN. In present situation this should only be done if you feel our (overt or covert) contacts with those who might play major roles in event of coup are now inadequate.

Request your views. You may consult within TF/Saigon if you consider necessary.

Rusk

 

176. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 15, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Emergency. Repeated to CINCPAC. A note on another copy of this telegram indicates that the President read it. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63)

1189. CINCPAC for POLAD. Department telegram 1225./2/ Saw Thuan 1230. He was deeply distressed and angry at NYT story. Said at first it would "ruin" negotiations.

/2/Document 174.

Thuan reported talks with Buddhists this morning had made little progress. Buddhists had in fact asked unaccountably that meetings be adjourned until Monday, but under GVN prodding finally showed up hour late. Thuan now thought they had gotten word of NYT story (this entirely possible as US press fully aware from their headquarters).

I told Thuan I saw nothing to do at this point but press for quick agreement. He asked for our help. Could I state publicly that there has been no change in our policy of supporting GVN and that U.S. is gratified at reported progress yesterday? I said I would have to request instructions and could not be sure Dept would authorize such statement in present context. I would nevertheless inquire.

I cannot of course guarantee that statement will have any effect on negotiations. It would take some of curse off this affair in GVN eyes. Statement would have no value unless I can make it on explicit instructions. Please instruct./3/

/3/The Department responded, in telegram 1228 to Saigon, June 15, sent out emergency at 3:22 a.m.: "You may state publicly there has been no change in U.S. policy of supporting GVN and U.S. gratified at progress thus far reported." (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19-2 US-S VIET) Trueheart reported, however, in telegram 1192 from Saigon, June 15, 7 p.m., that Thuan had informed him at 6:30 p.m. that negotiations with the Buddhist delegation had been successfully concluded, and Trueheart felt that, in light of that development, it was no longer necessary to make the statement. (Ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET)
On June 17, Foreign Minister Mau called in Trueheart to discuss handling press queries growing out of the story in The New York Times. Mau noted a report that the State Department spokesman had confirmed the story, and Trueheart explained that the report was inaccurate. (Telegram 1196 from Saigon, June 17; ibid.)

Trueheart

 

177. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 16, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Limited Official Use; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1193. CINCPAC for POLAD. Following are today's developments on Buddhist problem.

1. GVN and Buddhists issued joint communique announcing agreement on five Buddhist demands. Communique signed by members Buddhist delegation and GVN Interministerial Committee and by President Diem and supreme leader of Vietnamese Buddhists, Thich Tuch Khiet. Text read over radio this morning. Text being sent septel./2/

/2/See Document 178.

2. Bonze Khiet also announced early this morning that rites for dead bonze postponed for "many reasons, particularly organizational difficulties". News of postponement circulated by sound trucks near pagodas and by hand bill. However, many people gathered at pagodas and along anticipated route of cortege. Postponement apparently due to disagreement between GVN and Buddhists over size and character of funeral ceremony. Bonzes desired large impressive procession while GVN, for reasons public order among others, desired simple ceremony with limited number participants. Date of funeral not as yet announced.

3. Catholic Archbishop Paul Nguyen Van Binh of Saigon published pastoral letter reminding parishioners that Church and State must remain separate.

4. Police quelled sizable riot instigated by approximately 250 students among crowd estimated at 2000 persons gathered at intersection of Phan Than Gian and Le Van Duyet Streets. Riot began at about 0915 hours when students made rush on police cordoning off area around Xa Loi Pagoda. Youths threw thousands of rocks at police and latter employed tear gas and water from fire trucks. No bonzes involved in fighting. Demonstration was brought under control by police at about 1100. GVN communique later blamed incident on "extremist elements" (VC not mentioned) and loud speakers at Xa Loi now carrying Buddhist announcement to same effect and requesting people to remain calm. Communique also states thirty police were injured and hospitalized while no demonstrators were gravely injured or hospitalized. (Embassy officers present throughout this riot and report no doubt whatsoever it provoked by crowd not police.) As of mid-morning all military units in Capital Military District were on full alert on outskirts of city and available for immediate deployment, but not used./3/

/3/The Daily Staff Summary, circulated to principal officers in the Department of State on June 17, drew on an Associated Press report of the riot, and described it as "the most violent anti-Government outburst in South Viet-Nam in years." The Staff Summary noted that order was restored "with tear gas, clubs, and shots fired in the air." According to the Staff Summary, "one person reportedly was killed and some Buddhists and policemen injured." (Department of State, Top Secret and Secret Summaries: Lot 65 D 142)

5. Between 0600 to 0830 approximately 300 paramilitary and regular members of Women's Solidarity Movement gathered at their headquarters to hear broadcast over loud speaker of WSM resolution of June 7 and appeal by Madame Nhu for members to abide by spirit this resolution. Madame Nhu did not appear in person.

6. Today's edition of Times of Vietnam carries VNP text of statement signed by thirty ranking military officers pledging to "close ranks behind Ngo Dinh Diem to defend constitution and the Republic".

Trueheart

 

178. Editorial Note

On June 16 in Saigon, the Interministerial Committee of the Government of Vietnam and the Buddhist Delegation issued a joint communique on flying the Buddhist and national flags and on essential religious activities. The communique noted the debates held between the Interministerial Committee and the General Association of Buddhists of Vietnam June 14-16 "to seek a satisfactory resolution for the five demands" presented by the Buddhists. The following points were agreed on:

1. The conditions and circumstances for flying the national flea and the religious flag. "The national flag, the symbol of the spirit of the nation, should always be respected and be put at its appropriate place."

2. A decision to "detach religious associations from the regulations of Ordinance No. 10 and set up new regulations suitable to the particular characteristics concerning the activities essential to these religious associations." The communique noted that the National Assembly would consult with the religious associations concerning these new regulations.

3. Establishment of a "committee of investigation to re-examine the dossier of Buddhist complaints" concerning the arrest and detention of Buddhists. In addition, "all those who are involved in the movement" would receive a Presidential pardon.

4. The right to practice "normal and purely religious activities" within the boundary of the pagodas or the headquarters of the General Association of Buddhists without permission from the government.

5. An investigation to determine responsibility for the incidents since May 8, and punishment for those government officials responsible.

President Diem signed the communique under a paragraph that reads: "The articles written in this joint communique have been approved in principle by me from the beginning."

For full text of the communique, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 856-859. A copy was transmitted in telegram 1194 from Saigon, June 16. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

 

179. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 16, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Top Secret; Priority; Eyes Only.

1195. Deptel 1219/2/ delayed due servicing and just received. Without speculating on actions which might have seemed advisable had message been received promptly, I do not think it would be wise to take any action now on numbered paragraph 1. At this time, we have formal agreement between GVN and Buddhist leadership and outward calm throughout the country, following a relatively minor outburst in Saigon this morning. Moreover, notwithstanding that my misgivings about Ngo family including Diem have greatly increased during last two weeks, I am still not impressed by the competition, nor do I think are any of my colleagues American or foreign.

/2/Document 175.

Our best move at this juncture--and one I propose to make unless otherwise instructed--is to press Diem directly and indirectly to accept Buddhist crisis as blessing in disguise and to use agreement reached as stepping stone to concessions to other groups (before they demand them). The whole operation would be keyed to building up popular support for regime prior to August parliamentary elections and importantly also to making sure that paper undertakings to Buddhists are carried out in full measure.

This scheme will doubtless be regarded as naive by anyone who knows this country (and it is certainly the longest of shots). Moreover, I fear that my own ability to put it across may have been diminished by my actions on Buddhist affair and that GVN confidence in our ability to carry out private diplomacy is gravely undermined by NY Times story. I nevertheless think that we should give this approach a fair try. If we find Diem in a mood to freeze up, rather than move forward, then I think his days are indeed numbered and we must begin to make moves along the lines of para 1, Deptel 1219.

Re para 2, there are no bars whatsoever on contacts and we are receiving just now a surfeit of coup talk and anti-regime comment. It is to be expected in such circumstances that one is never in contact with the people (if any) who really mean business, but we have all the lines out that we know how to put out and have had for some days. However, everyone is as usual under strict instructions not to encourage coup talk and to meet any that arises with firm statement of US support for GVN.

For time being I am not discussing Deptel 1219 with anyone but Manfull.

Trueheart

 


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