221. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

91. CINCPAC for POLAD. At 0900 group estimated at over 100 bonzes gathered before Ambassador’s residence (Amb was at office). Bonze Nghiep who has covered public relations for Buddhists made address in English over portable loud speaker. Nghiep requested US Government pursue any possible means solve Buddhist problem in Vietnam as soon as possible. Stated Buddhists are not VC and have never made use of anyone including VC nor are Buddhists exploited by VC. Buddhists are anti-Communist but want cessation of GVN terrorizing, kidnapping and arresting Buddhist monks and nuns. Buddhists completely disagree with GVN communiqué on flying of flag; believe flag symbol of all Buddhist aspirations not of only one Buddhist association. Buddhists favor US aid, US weapons, etc. but disagree with use of aid and weapons to suppress Buddhism in South Vietnam.

Following Nghiep address bonzes commenced chanting. Reporters for international and local press were present (reportedly were advised that some event was forthcoming). Buddhist signs displayed following slogans: “Buddhist flag must be for all Buddhists”; “request government keep its promises faithfully”; “free world and USA are expected to do anything possible for Buddhist problem”. Police cordoned off residence from block away. Small crowds gathered on fringe cordoned area.

At 10:30 approximately 140 bonzes and nuns formed square in front of residence. Bonze speaking in Vietnamese and English repeated appeal to US and free world nations to intercede with GVN to force GVN implement joint communiqué. Bonze also stated demonstration was sample of what would continue take place and someone will be sacrificed if Buddhist demands not met. Initial reports indicated Buddhists might be planning carry out burning on spot. Spectators, uniformed police and plainclothesmen estimated at 500 people. At 10:55 group dispersed with bonzes and nuns proceeding to Xa Loi Pagoda, where they state they will commence two-day fast.

As of 11:20 area quiet.

Foreign press operated freely throughout demonstration and were in no way interfered with by police.

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