72. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Durbrow) to the Department of State1

2408. Following are comments requested Deptel 1780:2

Although unable conclusively confirm reports peasant discontent and dissatisfaction, Embassy considers peasant question one of several important factors current internal security situation warranting close attention. (See Ambassador’s memo conversation with Ladejinsky, forwarded SEA April 29,3 for further details re reported difference opinion within GVN between those advocating emphasis winning over peasants by taking positive steps assist them and those who would primarily rely armed forces suppress dissident activities [Page 195] rural areas. Ladejinsky reported 13th those advocating “win over peasants” seem be gaining GVN backing.) (Begin Noforn) According recent … information … President’s brother, Can, political boss CVN, while urging province chiefs SVN be hard and ruthless against VC, using all means including “police state methods” ensure security, reportedly urged that MNR and provincial authorities show concern for peasants’ welfare. Can also reportedly stated care should be taken distinguish between VC and peasants forced help VC. He said peasants should be made feel administration will protect them from VC’s. These views indicate Can, like Ladejinsky and “liberal” southerners (such as Tho and Le Van Dong), concerned that all not proceeding smoothly countryside. (End Noforn)
Emb does not believe long-range agricultural programs cited Deptel being downgraded. However, these programs never accorded same high priority as internal security problem. New moves outlined reftel, which generally involve or imply use force, appear motivated by GVN belief security countryside prerequisite for success agriculture, economic programs. (Example VC activities is recent burning, damaging tractors delta region, being reported separately.4) On other hand, should be recognized that vigorous GVN effort organize controversial farmers’ associations past several months does constitute concrete non-military effort directed toward ensuring political stability countryside and encouraging economic development. (Separate report this subject in preparation.5)
Embassy believes recent security measures affecting countryside do reveal trend toward greater use force to suppress dissident activities. This trend reflects GVN concern that security situation deteriorating. However, these measures may result in increase peasants discontent, unless as indicated above, officials implement Can’s directive to win over peasants.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.5/5–1459. Secret.
  2. In telegram 1780, May 8, the Department asked for comments on the following: “Diem has in past often indicated improvement in lot peasantry vital element in regime’s political viability and therefore important GVN objective. Various programs (agrarian reform, land development, agricultural credit, cooperatives, community development) developed at least partly as result this view. Are there indications implementation such programs now being downgraded in favor increased concentration on military force? If not, what meant by statement those who would rely on force apparently winning out over those who favor positive steps assist peasants? Is there concrete evidence peasant discontent?” (Ibid., 751G.5/5–659)
  3. Presumably a reference to Document 68.
  4. In despatch 349 from Saigon, May 27, and telegram 2525 from Saigon, May 29. (Department of State, Central Files 751G.5/5–2759 and 751G.5/5–2959)
  5. Not found.