263. Department of State Daily Staff Summary1

Far East:

GVN Military Moves to Crush Buddhists2—Although the forcing of Saigon’s Xa Loi Pagoda was apparently not the basis for GVN declaration of martial law, the Pagoda was the scene of the first known action under the proclamation. Xa Loi has been cleared and it like other Saigon pagodas has been cordoned off by police and ARVN troops. Communications facilities are under heavy guard, military censorship on press cables has been imposed and the Saigon airport has been closed. Security forces are in the streets in number and are guarding the roads into Saigon.

The situation in Hue is reported to be very tense, but reasonably quiet. Hue’s main pagodas are reported to have been largely destroyed inside earlier in the day by Saigon combat police and there were ugly incidents between highly excited crowds and security forces. Our Consul in Hue reports that anti-US feeling there is at an all-time high in his experience.

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A problem in US-Vietnamese relations has been created by the escape of two Buddhist priests from Xa Loi into the adjacent USOM building where they sought and obtained refuge. After the police were refused permission by US officials to enter the building, a cordon was thrown around the building and the police denied Americans permission to enter or leave it and demanded that all Vietnamese nationals leave the premises.

In the wake of police threats to enter the USOM building, our Chargé was called in by Foreign Minister Mau who demanded the priests be handed over. The Chargé demurred stating he would have to seek instructions first, meanwhile he noted his concern over possible violations of the diplomatic immunity of the USOM building. He reports the Foreign Minister implied the effort to enter the building would be dropped.

We have urgently responded to Trueheart’s request for guidance on the problem of the priests by saying that they should not, for the time being, be turned over to GVN authorities.

We expect to issue a statement on August 213 stating that the repressive measures against the Buddhists undertaken by the GVN represent a direct violation of its assurances that it was pursuing a policy of reconciliation with the Buddhists and consequently the actions of the GVN cannot be condoned by the United States. (Secret) CINCPAC 210030Z, August (S);4 Saigon 271, 8/20 (U); Saigon 274, 275 and 277, 8/20 (C); Saigon 276, 8/20 (LOU); to Saigon 224 and 225, 8/21 (C).5

[Here follow a section on the Near East, an Addendum on the Far East dealing with Malaysia, and Notes.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Top Secret and Secret Summaries: Lot 65 D 142. Top Secret; Eyes Only for Designated Recipient. This summary was part of a daily series prepared in the Operations Center of the Department of State and made available to the Secretary of State and other principal officers in the Department.
  2. See Document 262.
  3. Text in American Foreign Policy: Current Document, 1963, p. 864.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 261.
  5. Telegram 271 is not found; telegrams 274 and 275 are in Department of State, Central Files, POL 25 S VIET; telegram 224 to Saigon is Ibid., DEF 6 S VIET; and 225 is Ibid., SOC 14-91 S VIET. None is printed.