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

3321. Ref: Embtel 3319.2


Following is unofficial translation full text communique issued at Buddhist Institute press conference Saigon 1700 local time March 12:

“In recent days the country has been in a state of crisis. Since the November revolution, our country does not yet have effective institutions to inspire prestige at home and abroad, nor to settle the fundamental problems of an independent and democratic country. And also since November 1963 we have witnessed disputes and purges within our ranks.

“This state of affairs has created disunion and friction in the ranks of the army and obstacles dividing the people and the army, thus causing [Page 284] harm to the efforts of national salvation and reconstruction and more suffering to the people who have already borne untold hardships.

“Realizing the danger of destruction, and faithful to the fate of the fatherland, the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam recognizes the following points:

  • “1—The Generals and officers who have contributed to the revolution should be restored to their positions so they can take part in the reconstruction of the country.
  • “2—To avoid political frictions which can create disunion and cause harm to the spirit of unity within the army, the Generals serving abroad or at home should return to their purely military duties.
  • “3—The nation urgently needs fundamental institutions characteristic of independence and democracy, a National Assembly, and a government of national solidarity.
  • “4—The government should implement without delay what it has promised—even a small part of its promises—for the revolution, particularly the social revolution related to the life of the masses.

“Faithful to the spirit of union in this historic period, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam eagerly hopes to contribute along with other civic organizations, religious groups, all classes of people and particularly with the army, toward carrying out the above-mentioned aspirations.”

While question-answer period was in progress a so-called “proclamation from the movement of the youths, students and school children, Saigon” was circulated. This document, which bears no Buddhist Institute seal (as communique does), is sharp attack on Chief of State Thieu, the Directorate, General Nguyen Huu Co, Can Lao remnants, governmentʼs failure to execute Chinese merchant Ta Vinh. Document was disowned at press conference so it seems likely that certain individuals took advantage of audience press conference provided to distribute tract.
Institute declaration itself is interesting but not necessarily incendiary document. The four points have obviously been drafted with extreme care and certainly avoid any head-on confrontation with Ky government. No gauntlet is thrown, no deadline for action is set. No mention is made of Thiʼs removal and in fact, during question-answer period, it was stated that there was no connection between conference and that event. Point one of communique could be read as not necessarily relating to Thi in view of fact that he was in exile in Cambodia when 1963 coup took place.
Nevertheless, point one is most interesting aspect of entire document. It certainly reads as a call for reinstatement of ousted southern Generals “Big” Minh, Tran Van Don and Le Van Kim. Point may very well represent bid for southern Buddhist support for UBA. As Dept aware from our reporting, southern Buddhist elements have become disenchanted [Page 285] with USA to point where leading southern layman Mai Tho Truyen refused to participate in last UBA biennial convention in December 1965. Point one may stem from Tri Quang who, though he did not participate in press conference probably had hand in drafting communique. He had nice things to say about Minh, Don and Kim in mid-February (see para 5, enclosure 1, Embassy airgram 489, Feb 17).3
As for point three case could be made that Ky government is already making progress in this direction with blueprint for political development outlined by Ky January 15 speech. As for point four, all Vietnamese can agree with the sentiment.
In sum communique appears as cautious testing of political wind. Institute has been politically mute for some time—to the point where some of its more influential lay and clerical members have complained about its impotence and inaction. To those critics Chau and his colleagues can now reply that they have done “something”. They have let government know they are still there and that due attention must be paid them.
Ky and Chau have had at least two separate private meetings over past few days. Ky has indicated his confidence that organized Buddhists are not supporting Thi.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Confidential. Repeated to CINPAC for POLAD. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 12:26 a.m.
  2. Dated March 13. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid.)