323. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

507. CINCPAC for POLAD. Munich pass Ambassador Lodge. Although probably too early make accurate assessment significance past two days events, following is our current thinking which we are using on background basis in answer official and press inquiries:

This is end academic year lycées and universities when students, under pressure examinations; are not attending classes. As in past they tend to let off steam in demonstrations at this time. So far size and scope demonstrations do not equal those of last year.
Buddhists still wrangling over assault on pagodas last August and have picked anniversary date to revive old fears oppressive government actions, but their activities are still more restrained and under control than was case last year.
Although certain elements among both students and Buddhists have made anti-Khanh and anti-U.S. statements, this does not appear to be widespread. GVN has not reacted violently to demonstrations, and appears to be undertaking discussions with leaders student and Buddhist factions.

We note that you are indirectly in touch Tri Quang, Chau, and Hoan; and are no doubt making point violent activities could lead to complete breakdown resistance aggression from North, and thus make it extremely difficult U.S. maintain its stepped up efforts bring pacification program to early conclusion. Report Embtel 5412 that Khanh plans early announcement members new government including Vu Van Mau seems excellent step. You might consider suggesting early establishment National Assembly, where prominent Buddhist personalities could let off steam in debate rather than on streets.

In view of attacks by students on Catholic villagers in Da Nang area, would it be possible to cast any police action there in terms of protecting innocent peasants?

We have no plans for USG statement on merits dispute, but we stand ready to give quick and favorable consideration any suggestion you may make as situation develops.

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Finally, we unable determine here whether these political disturbances could in any way reflect Hanoi or VC campaign mounted as reaction Tonkin Gulf incident. Would appreciate your comments.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Forrestal and cleared with William Bundy and McNaughton. Repeated to CINCPAC and Munich.
  2. Document 322.