Archive for September 10, 2010

Nguyen Van Thieu: The Second President of South Vietnam

Posted in Modern History with tags , , on September 10, 2010 by Ian Pham

It has been quite a while since I’ve talked about about the Vietnam War.  The main focus then was on Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam.  Now it is time we talked a little about Nguyen Van Thieu, the man who succeeded him.  After the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem, the Republic of Vietnam fell into a period of governmental disorder.  During this time, many people vied for the position of head of state.  All of these people would fail, rising to the top but quickly collapsing under the pressure of leadership.

The U.S., France, and several other countries tried to re-establish order in the government, propping up many unworthy people to the top position, only to see them crumble.  This chaotic situation would last for three years.  Finally in 1967, Nguyen Van Thieu, who was chief of state at the time, defeated his competitors in the presidential race and became the second president of the Republic of Vietnam.  Under his leadership, South Vietnam would sustain itself until the collapse of the country in 1975.

As with his predecessor, Ngo Dinh Diem, the government of Nguyen Van Thieu was faced with many obstacles.  Besides the Vietcong, the Thieu government also had to deal with the United States.  The Americans assassinated Diem because of his refusal to bend under U.S. pressures, his successor, President Nguyen Van Thieu, would also create obstacles for the United States.  In the early phases of the war, the Diem government was faced with arrogant Americans who would force their way into Vietnam.  Under Thieu’s time, the U.S. had been beaten humbly and were desperately trying to pull out.

Like Ngo Dinh Diem, Nguyen Van Thieu was also a strong leader whose government was afflicted with corrupted officials.  Many of the people around him, including his advisors, were puppets of foreign powers.  Several of the generals of the ARVN were secretly on the payroll of the French, while some of Thieu’s advisors were working for the CIA. For this reason, he was unable to fully exert his political influence.  Even so, he was able to govern the country and lead it though a time of modest prosperity.

During Nguyen Van Thieu’s presidency, Diem’s also, Vietnam was the strongest economy in Southeast Asia, surpassing all others in agriculture, as well as heavy industry.  Vietnamese farmers benefitted greatly from President Thieu’s agricultural reforms.  The laborers also gained immensely, since Vietnam’s industrial base was steadily on the rise.  It may be hard to believe now, but during the democratic era of Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu, the Republic of Vietnam had already established its very own car company, called La Dalat.  Surprised?  I sure was.