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

520. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embassy contact close to both Tri Quang and Nguyen Ton Hoan came to Embassy yesterday to report on recent conversations these personalities. Claimed he was acting as emissary for both. In conveying substance his conversation with Tri Quang, source reviewed line of reasoning being pushed by Buddhists that Gen Khanh is in fact captive of other Generals at present time. Source believes Tri Quang sincere in his belief that apparatus exists within government inimical to Buddhist interest-this group led by Generals Khiem and Thieu and comprised of ex-Can Lao members, Catholics, and certain key Dai Viets. According to source Tri Quang believes Catholics in fact control Dai Viet party. Tri Quang mentioned following personalities as members Can Lao-Catholic-Dai Viet combine: Generals Khiem, Thieu, Lam, Phat (Interior), Cao (Khanh’s Chef de Cabinet), Dzu (ex-Commander Second Division), Col. Ben (Chief of Police), Col. Phuoc (Chief MSS), Col. Huyen (Information), Xuong (Head Popular Forces) and Dr. Truong (Minister of Health). Tri Quang feels Buddhists must neutralize or destroy this organization.

[Page 697]

According to source Tri Quang has informed Gen. Khanh through intermediaries that Gen. Khanh has choice to throw in his lot with above group or with the “Buddhists and the people”. Tri Quang believes that with Buddhist support Khanh would be able to neutralize or eliminate the Khiem/Thieu faction. However, if Khanh does not opt for Buddhists, Tri Quang intends launch campaign of passive resistance. Tri Quang would not resort to demonstrations or to violence but would call on Buddhist faithful not to cooperate with government. Non-cooperation campaign on part of Buddhist faithful would proceed in three phases: 1) in general population; 2) in civil service and bureaucracy; and 3) in army. No timing was indicated by Tri Quang as to when he expected reply from Khanh to Buddhist demands, nor did he indicate nature his specific demands.

According to source, Hoan shares view that Khanh merely frontman for Khiem and Thieu. Hoan informed source that Khiem and Thieu were real leaders of, and had Dai Viet support for, January coup and at last moment decided push Khanh forward as “leader”. Hoan claims Khanh has sought destroy Dai Viet organization since that time and this is why Hoan has consistently opposed Khanh since his return to SVN. Hoan fears that Khanh, with Buddhist support, will seek consolidate his personal position, neutralize Khiem/Thieu group and destroy Dai Viet party at the same time. Hoan believes Khiem content to have Khanh serve as lightning rod and pick up pieces after Khanh is brought down.

Source claimed Hoan had commissioned him to try arrange meeting with Tri Quang soonest to explain basic Dai Viet position as not anti-Buddhist nor pro-Catholic. Source says Hoan would be prepared accept position President of National Assembly if offered. However, if major confrontation between Buddhist leadership and Hoan’s faction of Dai Viets should ensue, Hoan would likely leave country.

In subsequent meeting last night with EmbOff, Tri Quang confirmed all above points attributed to him, although denying source had been commissioned as his emissary. Tri Quang unwilling indicate precisely what he is after beyond destruction of above “cabal” of Can Lao-Catholics-Dai Viets. Tri Quang added that he was not personally against Khanh per se nor was he personally in favor of General “Big” Minh, whom he still considers to be of little capacity.

Today, Thich Tam Chau’s liaison officer with Embassy invited Political Counselor and EmbOffs to joint meeting tonight at An Quang Pagoda with Tam Chau, Tri Quang, and Thien Minh. Will probe intentions and at same time attempt steer Buddhists towards less negative pursuits and towards more positive support of Khanh, making it [Page 698] clear we do not intend to act as intermediary between him and Khanh.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. Taylor reported that at the meeting on August 22 Tri Quang presented the official Buddhist position essentially along the lines described here. The Embassy officials stressed the unfortunate effect continued divisive actions had in the United States and emphasized the duty of the Buddhists to deal directly with their government. (Telegram 528, August 23; ibid.)