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

541. CINCPAC for POLAD. Accompanied by Alex Johnson and Manfull, I called on Khanh at Vung Tau this afternoon to impress on him our view of seriousness of situation arising from the student-Buddhist demonstrations2 and to encourage him to take certain actions. The outcome was agreement to the following actions which conform generally to our recommendations:

He will endeavor to announce his government on Thursday3 following Vu Van Mau’s return on Wednesday. He hopes that Vu Van Mau will accept the vice presidency; if he declines, the announcement of the government may be delayed.
He will meet the Buddhist leadership to hear their complaints and seek enlist their help in forming government. They will be told the time schedule Khanh is working on to preclude drawn out discussions. Khanh has invited and offered his plane to Tam Chau. Thien Minh and Tri Quang to meet with him this evening at Vung Tau for this purpose. While he had an agreement with them “in principle”, he [Page 699] would prefer to have them actually present at Vung Tau before making any announcement of the meeting. However, if they fail to show, he will announce that he has made the offer.
Khanh will announce this evening steps he is prepared to take to meet certain student demands, such as limiting press censorship (freedom of press, etc.) and relaxing curfew hours.
Khanh will issue orders to police to prevent further violations of law by the students but he intends to proceed with utmost caution to avoid a physical clash with the students which might produce unwanted martyrs.
GVN will proceed urgently with mobilization decrees under which Khanh could draft into military service a selected number of students. However, these decrees will not be issued until after new government is installed.
Khanh will return to Saigon tomorrow afternoon and remain in Saigon until current situation abates. Khanh reluctant return Saigon because he claims he unable work with constant incursions on his time. However, in view public and press comment, he would return tomorrow afternoon following his meeting with members of MRC at Vung Tau.

For our part, we undertook to explain to Washington that the situation here, while serious, is not falling apart and to pass the word to Buddhists that we have no sympathy for their divisive machinations.

Full report on above and other items discussed follow by septels.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 12 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Also sent to CIA, the Department of Defense, and the White House and repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 10:42 a.m.
  2. On August 23 and 24, students and Buddhists in Hue, Da Nang, and Saigon demonstrated against the Khanh government and the August 16 constitution. At the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting on August 24, Hughes stated that they were “quite serious and have definite anti-American undertones.” (Ibid., Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 66 D 147) In a memorandum to the President on the same date, Ball characterized them as “near-riots,” but not as serious as the ones against Diem the year before. (Ibid., President’s Reading File: Lot 74 D 164)
  3. August 27.
  4. The full report was transmitted in telegram 545 from Saigon, August 25. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S)