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

6. May 10 meeting 10:30 hours local at Tu Dam Pagoda attended by estimated five or six thousand Buddhists. Crowd orderly. ARVN troops and police in area. Province Chief Dang present. Numerous banners displayed “kill us, ready sacrifice blood, Buddhists and Catholics equal. Cancel Decree Number 10, request stop of arrests and kidnapping; a Buddhist flag will never go down”. Ex-chief Bonze Tri Quang urged all be peaceful. Carry no weapons, be prepared die. Be alert to VC efforts agitate people, follow Gandhi policies. Quang asked people agree to follow him and crowd roared assent.

Buddhist leader [less than 1 line not declassified] told crowd this regime is a good govt. Bonze Quang told people fly flags and he would [Page 286] take responsibility. Letter addressed to GVN2 given to Province Chief related peaceful history Buddhists, even despite many arrests and kidnappings recent years. Some bad men in govt responsible for this. Themes of banners embodied in letter which signed by Quang and other high Buddhists and organizations. Chairman GVN Buddhist Association Mat Nguyen called on GVN pay families of May 8th victims. Nguyen told crowd all Buddhist temples in Vietnam will always remember incident on Buddha’s birthday. Nguyen called on GVN punish man who ordered open fire evening May 8th.

Province Chief thanked Buddhists for opportunity address meeting, expressed sorrow for those dead, stated GVN ready help families of victims and guarantees payments to families. Crowd cheered him enthusiastically.3

Final of hour long session was official placing of blame for Decree Number 10 re no flags on former Emperor Bao Dai who allegedly issued original order. Meeting ended peacefully.

Believe crisis nearing end. Although mass funeral which may be held although not now confirmed could still cause difficulties. Population seems quiet, but long term hard feelings will clearly persist. Pacifist direction of Buddhist leadership has avoided additional bloodshed and crystallization of conflict. Catholics here appear almost unanimously sympathetic to Buddhists’ situation.

Arriving aspects whole incident: 1) Relatively bold natural language in banners and addresses May 8 of Bonze; 2) Duration of tension highlighted by 5 major demonstrations [of] over 50 [in] one hour; 3) Total failure NRM scheduled meeting May 9 which was to have blamed deaths on VC; 4) Inability or unwillingness GVN to quell overt large scale protest albeit peaceful at early stages; 5) Willingness of people to congregate and demonstrate in face of police and military; 6) Evident grounds will rock roots popularity of cause which not frequently witnessed in Vietnam.

Believe Embassy Saigon and Dept should anticipate some international reaction to incident, particularly in view Bonze Quang telegram to Rangoon. Would seem Communists almost certain to give incident big propaganda play as example GVN suppression freedom of religion and slaughter of innocent people.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Also sent to Saigon.
  2. An apparent reference to Document 118.
  3. A marginal comment in an unknown hand reads, at this point, “Great”.