Cold War Files: All Units: Events: Diem Reacts to Buddhist Demonstrations

June-August 1963 three months
Diem Reacts to Buddhist Demonstrations

Buddhist demonstrations spread. Several Buddhist monks publicly burn themselves to death as an act of protest. The immolations are captured on film by news photographers and shock the American public as well as President Kennedy.

Diem responds to the deepening unrest by imposing martial law. South Vietnamese special forces, originally trained by the U.S. and now controlled by Diem's younger brother Nhu wage violent crackdowns against Buddhist sanctuaries in Saigon, Hue and other cities.

Nhu's crackdowns spark widespread anti-Diem demonstrations. Meanwhile, during an American TV interview, Nhu's wife, the flamboyant Madame Nhu, coldly refers to the Buddhist immolations as a 'barbecue.' As the overall situation worsens, high level talks at the White House focus on the need to force Diem to reform.

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