116. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State1

5. Early AM May 10 Hue quiet. 9 PM curfew now in effect. May 9 crowd of 3,000 gathered radio station 1700 hours local. Chief Bonze Central Vietnam Tri Quang called on people disperse quietly. He promised call meeting later date. His request obeyed. Quang has now demonstrated on at least three occasions his ability handle his followers. He apparently respected as independent, non-GVN Bonze. GVN mobile loudspeakers roamed streets evening May 9 calling on population stay calm, avoid public assemblies, respect curfew.

NRM sponsored public meeting at 1500 hours May 9 for purpose condemnation “Viet Cong terrorist act evening May 8” drew no audience whatsoever and speeches never came off. Large group mostly youths, reported to have marched around old citadel part of Hue several hours early 9th until 0400 hours chanting down with Diem government.

Theme Buddhist banners May 8 reported earlier called for equality of religion. Protested order take religious flags down, urged no refusal sacrifice for Buddhist cause. USIS BPAO forwarding photographs same.

Bonze Quang has reportedly called upon all Buddhist followers in Central Vietnam who can come to Hue May 10 do so for mass funeral victims evening May 8. Reportedly he also has ordered meetings of Buddhists in all provinces. At noon May 8, prior killings, he reportedly sent telegrams to President Diem and Buddhist organization Rangoon protesting order take down flags. This order here known as Decree Number 102 issued by Minister Interior Saigon last year.

Nung battalion paratroops arrived Hue May 9. All evidence indicates ARVN present incident evening 8th refused take action against population, CG under Deputy Province Chief Major Sy unit which fired. Little question now that one of these threw grenade. Province Chief Dang apparently has gained stature during developments, Sy [Page 285]being considered villain. Brother of President, Ngo Dinh Can, reportedly informed of all developments, but not clear as to his feelings re situation.

Mass funeral May 10 probably will be peaceful, although VC have had sufficient time to react and may attempt touch off something following funerals which likely be attended by thousands. Government offices in Hue ordered now by government delegate CVN lowlands to have all personnel remain in office 24 hours a day to “prevent VC infiltration” and have available all possible weapons. May aggravate situation.

Population must be judged as tense. Duration and intensity of crisis unusual in view generally passive nature Vietnamese in terms public demonstrations. People seem to have taken seriously Bonze speech morning 8th “now is time to fight”. While word fight perhaps overemphatic, desire of people seems to be to have some sort of showdown following years of frustration for Buddhists. Student banner morning 9th “please kill us”. Man on street expressing great desire for world to know of killings on 8th. While GVN line is VC responsible, no credibility this among population.

Helble
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Also sent to Saigon.
  2. The correct reference is to Decree 189; see footnote 3, Document 112. Decree 10, which became a central issue in the Buddhist crisis, was issued by Emperor Bao Dai at Vichy, France on August 6, 1950. It established regulations governing the creation and functioning of associations in Vietnam. As interpreted by the Diem government, the law governed the functioning of the Buddhist religion, as well as political parties, trade unions, and sports associations. The law provided, however, that “a special status shall be prescribed later for Catholic and Protestant missions and for Chinese congregations”. (For text, see Journal officiel de la Republique du Viet-Nam, No. 34, August 26, 1950, pp. 434-437; the English language text, as amended by Ordinance No. 6 of April 3, 1954, is printed as Annex XV to U.N. doe. A/5630, December 7, 1963.)