308. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
977. CINCPAC for POLAD. Foreign Minister Lam (protect source) asked Political Counselor to meet with him yesterday afternoon for informal talk. Emphasizing that he speaking on strictly personal basis, Lam inquired re public reactions to coup in U.S. After fill-in from press summaries, Lam remarked that U.S. could not avoid charge of having backed or supported coup regardless of outcome. He noted two contradictory rumors in Saigon that U.S. backed coup primarily because (1) U.S. convinced Nhu had contacts and dealing with DRV for neutral solution Vietnamese problem; and (2) U.S. desired change of regime in order obtain new group more amenable neutral solution. Latter rumor obviously naive but indicative of current confused attitudes. Lam expressed strong hope for early U.S. recognition to clear air and help legitimatize provisional government, although noting Foreign Minister formal request for recognition only circulated on Wednesday.2
Lam then turned to current problems of new government and appealed for continued U.S. advice and support in days ahead. He noted that relationship between Military Revolutionary Committee and executive headed by Prime Minister Tho not clearly spelled out and Ministers still feeling their way. However, he believed relationship likely evolve in such manner that executive would run day-to-day affairs of government but with close consultation with military committee on broad policies.[Page 589]
Lam expressed deep concern over possible dangers in organization of police under new government. He felt appointment of General Xuan as head of National Police placed ex-Surete type in key position where he could carry out program of arrests, intimidations and reprisals reminiscent of Nhu. This coupled with appointment of headstrong, impetuous General Dinh as Minister of Security created situation which would bear close watching. Lam labeled reorganization of police and their reorientation to protection of civil liberties as “number one problem of provisional government.” Similarly there was need to assure populace of impartial administration of justice both in cities and countryside.
With regard to general approach and image of new executive, Lam considered it essential that there be rather sharp contrast between its approach to populace and that of previous regime. For example, new administration should shed itself of trappings of obvious security measures for movements of Prime Minister and should emphasize simplicity and desire to keep in touch with the people. Bureaucracy should be instructed that advancement dependent on performance alone and that employees should concentrate on discharging their responsibilities and eschew petty politics. Lam said he had discussed above with Tho, who was in a like mind.
Lam had no idea how long transition period between provisional and elected government would be, but believed in principle it should be as short as possible consistent with successful prosecution of the war. In this connection he inquired as to VC reaction in the countryside, which EmbOff provided based on latest MACV reporting.
Lam expressed some concern over French attitudes and policy in present circumstances and for future. He asked to be informed if we received any information as to when (or in Ambassador Lalouette would return to Saigon.
Lam said there would be some reshuffling of functions at FonMin. With regard to post of Secretary General, he said he was considering list of candidates among whom mutual friend appeared prominently (probably Lien, former Counselor of Embassy in Washington).
Lam noted that Ambassador Ly was being recalled for consultation and that despite previous indications that he would return to Vietnam, nothing had been heard from former Ambassador Chuong. He added that if we had suggestions as to likely candidates for Ambassador to Washington he would welcome them on personal basis.
In closing, Lam reemphasized personal nature his remarks and his hope U.S. Government would soon grant recognition to the new provisional government.[Page 590]
Comment: Re penultimate paragraph, believe we might well offer suggestions, but be wary of limiting choice to a particular individual. In this connection understand from Ambassador D’Orlandi that tentative feelers have been made to Thuan by General Don.