118. Manifesto of Vietnamese Buddhist Clergy and Faithful1

For many thousands of years the Buddhist clergy and faithful throughout the world as well as within the country have been loyal to the principles of benevolence, altruism and honesty espoused by Buddha. Because of this, Buddhism has gradually evolved an atmosphere of tranquillity. History has clearly proven this point. Thus, for many years Buddhists have been terrorized and repressed everywhere. Because of our conscience, we are still resigned, although not cowardly so, in the face of the suffering and mourning of our present national circumstances. But our sorrow has been taken advantage of by the authorities to cause untold mourning among the Buddhist clergy and faithful in the country. Buddhism has been condemned in a manner unjust to a religion which has existed in the country for thousands of years. From these actions we can perceive the bad intention of the authorities. They even have smashed the most sacred symbol of the Buddhists by taking down the International Buddhist flag. This decision is contrary to the Constitution and brazenly violates the freedom of religious worship. In the face of these unjust actions, the monks and faithful throughout our country must rise up and struggle for their ideals.

The incident which occurred three days ago really affected morale. Blood flowed and human lives were once again sacrificed, so we are now determined to place our hopes before the government and to request the following points:

To request that the Government of the Republic of Vietnam permanently retract the official cable repressing the Buddhist religious flag.
To request that Buddhists be allowed to enjoy a special regime such as that allowed to Catholics according to Decree 10.2
To request the government to stop arrests and terrorization of Buddhist followers.
To request that Buddhist bonzes and faithful be allowed freedom to preach and observe their religion.
To request that the government make worthwhile compensation for those innocent persons who were killed, and mete out proper punishment to the instigators of the murders.

The points mentioned above express the most ardent hopes of Buddhist bonzes and followers in the entire country. We are prepared to make sacrifices until such time as the reasonable aspirations mentioned above are realized.3

Buddhist Year 2307

Hue, 10 May 1963

Bonze Tuong Van
President, Vietnam General Association of Buddhists
Bonze Mat Nguyen
Board of Directors of the Central Vietnam Bonze Association
Bonze Mat Hien
Board of Directors of the Thua Thien Bonze Association
Bonze Tri Quang
Board of Directors of the Central Vietnam Buddhist Association
Bonze Thien Sieu
Board of Directors of the Thua Thien Bonze Association
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 13-6 S VIET. Unclassified; Translation. Transmitted as attachment A to airgram A-781 from Saigon, June 10. A slightly variant translation of this manifesto was transmitted as enclosure 5 to airgram A-20 from Hue, June 3. (Ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET) The manifesto was issued at a mass meeting of Buddhist clergy and faithful at Tu Dam Pagoda in Hue on May 10. The five demands put forward in this declaration are those which have been described in some of the memoir accounts dealing with the Buddhist crisis as having been addressed to the Diem government on May 13. (Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 469; Mecklin, Mission in Torment, p. 154)
  2. See footnote 2, Document 116.
  3. On May 13 a representative of the Diem government met in Hue with a delegation of Buddhist leaders to consider the demands outlined in the May 10 declaration. The government official suggested that most of the Buddhist concerns were groundless, but indicated that the government would consider them. He added, however, that the Buddhist declaration was extreme in language and appeared to be an ultimatum. Such an approach, he indicated, was a mistake. A memorandum of the discussion between an unnamed Vietnamese Government official and the Buddhist delegation was transmitted as enclosure 1 to airgram A-20 from Hue. On May 15 a delegation of Buddhist leaders took up the Buddhist demands with President Diem in a meeting with him at the Presidential Palace in Saigon. For a report of that meeting, see Document 129.