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🚨South Vietnamese Troops and Police Violently Crack Down on Buddhists

Aug. 21, 1963 - South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem’s troops and police shot their way into Saigon’s main Buddhist pagoda today and seized pagodas throughout South Vietnam in a concerted effort to break the back of Buddhist groups. At least one monk was shot to death and 30 monks and nuns were wounded in the midnight raid by Diem’s crack palace guard and police against the Xa Loi pagoda in Saigon. Rooms and holy objects were smashed. Two monks who escaped said 300 monks and 200 nuns were loaded into police vans and carried off. All leaders of the Buddhist movement, including Tinh Khiet, its aging high monk, were arrested. The whole country went under martial law as Diem, a Catholic, sought to end the three-month crisis centered on the Buddhists’ charges of discrimination. A rigid curfew went into effect, and there were orders to roving patrols to shoot violators on sight. Diem’s crackdown took place virtually on the eve of the arrival of the new U.S. Ambassador to Saigon, Henry Cabot Lodge, who has asserted the United States’ policy of religious tolerance. In light of this latest crackdown, American officials in Saigon and Washington are convinced that a major crisis is developing in South Vietnam. President Kennedy and top State Department officials conferred anxiously and at length on the crisis, but delayed further action pending developments. Ambassador Lodge, who was in Tokyo, was ordered to rush to his new post in Saigon immediately.

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