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New Buddhist Crackdown in Saigon

Aug. 25, 1963 - At least 600 students were arrested today in Saigon by bayonet-brandishing troops and steel-helmeted policemen moving to crush the latest focal point of opposition to South Vietnam’s regime. There was some shooting during a brief demonstration in the central market area, and witnesses said a girl demonstrator had been killed by the troops. Many students were viciously clubbed. At the height of the mass roundup of students, the army stationed anti-aircraft batteries around the President Diem’s palace and at scores of strategic intersections in Saigon. The Government apparently feared elements of the Vietnamese Air Force might attack the palace, as they did in November 1960, in an attempted coup. Helping the army troops and police were companies of armed “Republican youth,” a paramilitary force headed by Ngo Dinh Nhu, Diem’s brother. Nhu, who organized the anti-Buddhist drive that brought South Vietnam’s crisis to a boil, was said to be pleased with today’s results. He was said to feel that his success might soon warrant easing martial law and other crisis measures. The Government radio appealed to students today to rally behind Diem and to remain calm. The radio also urged other Southeast Asian countries to be more understanding of events in South Vietnam and not to fall for “Communist schemes” to divide Asians. South Vietnam’s war against the Communist Viet Cong is beginning to be affected by the Buddhist crisis, which began May 8. Since Diem placed the country under martial law, U.S. military advisers say, most of South Vietnam’s fighting soldiers have been diverted to major cities to prevent civilian uprisings and possible coup attempts. The troops included key paratroop and marine battalions, the advisers said. On the other hand, the Communists do not appear to be taking any advantage of Diem’s moves. Attacks by guerrillas still are routine ones on strategic hamlets and outposts. One American adviser said: “The Viet Cong probably won’t bother capitalizing on the present situation. They don’t have to. Their propaganda harvest will mean more in winning the war for them at this stage than weapons.”

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