Introduce to Buddhist Crisis in Hue
One of the unknown events that happened during
Prior to the Buddhist Crisis in Hue
The Diem Regime
Vietnam divided into two regions North and South in 1955 at the DMZ border. North Vietnam was led by Ho Chi Minh Revolution Party while the South was under of control of President Ngô Đình Diệm.
He used to his family to keep Huế under firm control. In 1956, he appointed his younger brother Ngô Đình Cẩn as an “Adviser controlling political organisations at home and abroad” in Hue.
Can ruled Hue with a well-known strategy called Iron Fist. The fact that he developed his own secret police and imprisoned and tortured political and religious opponents which can be seen in Hue nowadays at the Nine Bunkers prison facility.
On the other hand, in 1960, Diệm’s elder brother, Ngo Dinh Thuc, was installed as Archbishop which made the political situation in Vietnam increasingly complex.
The Unfair Religious Treatment in Vietnam
Under Diệm, Catholics also exempted from the corvee labor that the government obliged all other citizens to perform; Furthermore, public spending was disproportionately distributed to Catholic majority villages.
In addition, a series of brutal policies against the Buddhists were promulgated.
Discrimination between two religions lost the balance in society, political turmoil. Thus, Vietnam society faced a huge crisis throughout the South Republic of Vietnam.
The Buddhist Crisis in Hue broke out
On the Vesak Day, the 8 May 1963, President Ngô Đình Diệm and many Catholic churches encouraged to fly Vatican flags at the Celebrations. This was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục’s ordination as a bishop.
Moreover, Diem prohibited from lying the Buddhist flag to celebrate the most significant day of Buddhist calendar.
Hue was known as the religious center of Vietnam for thousand years. The ban was the last hit to make the bomb explode. Thus, many Buddhists protesters marched from the Từ Đàm Pagoda to the Radio Huế headquarters at one end of the Trường Tiền bridge.
However, the police and army stopped the demonstration by firing guns at and throwing grenades into the gathering, leaving nine dead!
This event ignited a series of religious protests activities later in the history of Vietnam.
The Buddhist crisis in Vietnam so began!
The Thanh Tu Dao Memorial in Hue
Nowadays, you can visit the Thanh Tu Dao memorial which was built to commemorate those who died in the beginning of the Buddhist Crisis in Hue.
Buddhist Crisis in Vietnam in June 1963
After the unfortunate incident in Hue, unrest quickly spread to Sai Gon. In particular, the crisis reached
“Thich Quang Duc sat down cross-legged in the traditional lotus style of Buddhism, and waited, his head slightly bent, while the other two monks brought the gas tank and had a liter over his head. “
According to a journalist of New York Times, Mr. David Halberstam narrated in the surprise and full of respect :
“I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was smell of burning human flesh; human being burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think… As he burned he never move a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.”
The crisis did not stop there, the scale of the riots was increasingly widespread. Firstly, on July 7, 1963, the secret police of Ngô Đình Nhu, the brother of President Ngô Đình Diệm, attacked a group of journalists from the United States who were covering Buddhist protests.
Crisis in August 1963
The impact of the crisis was getting worse and it was marked through the event at Xá Lợi pagoda. According to many Vietnamese journalists, it was the only emotional public gathering in South Vietnam since Diem’s rise to power almost a decade earlier.
Never seen in Vietnam history such resentment from locals against an unfair government. More than 1400 Buddhists were arrested and a large number people disappeared and killed. This is a non-trivial number and makes anyone shudder.
The end the Buddhist crisis in Vietnam
The political and religious tensions unleashed during the Buddhist Crisis led on 2 November 1963. President Ngô Đình Diệm was overthrown and Diệm being assassinated.
You can watch this video to easily visualize the coup in 1963
Lesson learnt from the Buddhist Crisis in Vietnam
Due to the image of Buddhist Crisis in Vietnam, the world and American knew a true fact about the Vietnam War. We all remember a saying of the US government before first involving in the Vietnam War: “to bring freedom and human right to the people of Vietnam”.
As the matter of fact, they supported a regime which did not even let his own people choose the most simple right, the right of choosing your own religion.
There was one sad fact that the “Vietnam War” was a war between lies and truth. By the time truth won, more than 3 million people were dead, 58,000 of them American.
This was a miserable lesson for many Vietnamese and American nowadays.
Now, when people want to see and learn more about the unknown Buddhist Crisis in Hue and the Vietnam War, you can visit Thánh Tử Đạo and Thiên Mụ pagoda. There host the car of Thich Quang Duc, the monk who had self-immolated in protest against the policies of the regime.
You can also participate in the Hue Walk of Revolution to listen to a very compelling explanation about how Revolution of Vietnam started in 20th century. This special Hue Walking Tour also includes a visit at the Thanh Tu Dao Memorial to talk specifically about the Buddhist Crisis in Hue.