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South Vietnamese Government Relations with Buddhists Deteriorating

June 8, 1963 - Relations between Buddhists and the South Vietnamese Government appeared to be deteriorating quickly today. A cooling-off period, designed to ease the way for high-level negotiations between the Government and Buddhist leaders, appeared to be over. A powerful women’s group headed by Mrs. Ngo Dinh Nhu (pictured), sister-in-law of President Ngo Dinh Diem, issued a sharp denunciation of Buddhist priests who have been leading demonstrations of religious protest. The group’s statement called them Communist dupes. Mrs. Nhu is one of the most powerful figures in the regime, as is her husband, the President’s closest political advisor. The religious split between the Government and Buddhist priests began a month ago when troops ended a religious demonstration in Hue by firing into a crowd, killing nine persons. Troops stopped a protest in Hue Monday with gas grenades, which sent 67 demonstrators to hospitals, 40 of them with second-degree burns. The Buddhists want the Government to assume responsibilities for the May 8 deaths. The Government claims that a Communist agitator threw a grenade that killed the nine Buddhists. The Buddhists want to fly their flag without the national flag, and they want what they say is religious equality. The Government says religious equality already exists and insists that its flag be flown higher than the Buddhist flag.

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