Archive for Ngo Dinh Diem

Brief Thoughts on President Diem, November 3, 2018

Posted in Modern History, Opinions with tags , , , , , , on November 3, 2018 by Ian Pham

Ngo Dinh Diem Memorial(OC Register)

I will start this brief discussion off with an excerpt from “The Lost Mandate of Heaven,” an important book by military historian Geoffrey Shaw (2015):

On November 2, 1971, the eighth anniversary of Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination, several thousand people gathered in Saigon to commemorate the death of the former president of Vietnam. “A yellow-robed Buddhist monk offered a Buddhist remembrance, and Catholic prayers were said in Latin. Banners proclaimed Diem a saviour of the South. The previous day, All Saints Day, Catholics had come to the cemetery from the refugee villages outside Saigon, carrying portraits of the slain president.

Indeed, ever since 1970 the loss of Ngo Dinh Diem has been publically mourned throughout many communities in Vietnam, albeit secretly at times. His memory has been kept alive more openly by the Vietnamese diaspora around the world. (p. 23).

The excerpt above illustrates very well the view of President Diem from the eyes of us Vietnamese people. Ngo Dinh Diem was a bold and inventive genius, who saved half of Vietnam from being swallowed up by the communist plague. He built his nation up from nothing, and turned it into a Southeast Asian powerhouse within the span of a decade. By any measure, Ngo Dinh Diem was a patriot and a Vietnamese hero.

Since his assassination on November 2, 1963, Vietnamese communities from all over the world have come together to honor and remember him. Whether inside or outside of Vietnam, whether Buddhist, Catholic, or Atheist, we Vietnamese know the truth about him, and commemorate him every year for his service and sacrifice to the Vietnamese nation.

President Diem has been treated egregiously unfairly by leftist journalists and historians, then and now. They have lied, slandered, and wrote volumes upon volumes of fake histories about him, telling tall tales that could not be further from the truth.

Little by little however, the leftist lies are being exposed, and those who contributed to this great fiction are steadily finding their rightful place as the liars and frauds of history. While it is unclear how long it will take to bring the liars to justice and fully exonerate the name of President Diem, I can say with confidence that the movement has already begun.

For the last five and a half decades, the Vietnamese people have kept Diem’s memory alive. Furthermore, we are beginning to speak out and set the record straight. Thanks to all of your dedication and patriotism, we not only remember President Diem, but are more empowered than ever to tell of his accomplishments and carry on his legacy. Let us never forget his sacrifices, and let us never stop fighting for freedom and independence.

For further reading on President Ngo Dinh Diem, click here.


Work cited:

Shaw, Geoffrey. The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2015.


Typo Correction: The initial headline read, “November 2, 2018,” when it should have been, “November 3, 2018,” marking today’s date. This error has been corrected, and I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

UNCOVERED: The Monks Who Committed Self-Immolation in South Vietnam (1963) Were Communist Operatives – Geoffrey Shaw

Posted in Modern History, Society with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2018 by Ian Pham

Vietnam Monk(Malcolm Browne)

One of the most shocking and enduring images of the Vietnam War is a photo of a monk who set himself on fire in the streets of Saigon. According to the leading journalists at the time (liberals), and the majority of historians who studied the event thereafter (more liberals), that particular monk, and a few others, committed these acts of self-immolation in protest of the widespread oppression experienced by Buddhists under the allegedly tyrannical, bigoted, and very mean governance of the bogeyman South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem.

However, as this article will show, there was no oppression, President Diem is neither a bigot nor a tyrant, and what the mainstream media led Americans to believe during the Buddhist Crisis of 1963 was far from what was really happening on the ground.

If one were to read and listen to the leftists’ popular coverage, the Buddhist Crisis of 1963 (where the infamous burnings occurred) would appear to be some spontaneous, grassroots movement, orchestrated by a willing and enthusiastic Buddhist majority. However, this mainstream narrative, cultivated by the leftists of that era, and carried on by the leftists of today, could not be further from the truth.

As with contemporary liberals’ coverage of issues they disagree with (e.g. President Trump, conservative views, border patrol, the police, the military, etc.), the liberals of the Vietnam era, in their coverage of the war, presented a very distorted, anti-South Vietnamese, and pro-communist spin on the tragic events of the communist-manufactured Buddhist Crisis of 1963, not to mention the war as a whole.

At that time, for reasons still beyond rational comprehension, the liberal media already wanted to see the fall of the Diem regime, and the prevalence of Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese. In pursuit of that objective, the U.S. media, dominated by an overwhelming liberal majority, sought to demonize South Vietnam and glorify the communist forces. As Geoffrey Shaw’s evidence will show, the Buddhist Crisis of 1963, while orchestrated by radical groups inside Vietnam, was facilitated greatly by major leftist media outlets such as the New York Times (p. 202-3) and the Washington Post (p. 209).

That famous photo of the burning monk, the main topic of our discussion here, was one of the ways in which the media shaped the American public perception of the Vietnam War. Looking at the picture, with headlines and captions telling them that Diem and the South were to blame for the tragedy, Americans at home were horrified by what they saw. As a result, public opinion in the U.S. greatly turned against South Vietnam, even before the U.S. government under Kennedy managed to force American troops into Vietnam.

Given how the Vietnam War ended, needless to say, the efforts by the liberal media to assist the communists and bring down the Diem regime were hugely successful. Tactically similar to the mainstream media today, the media of the Vietnam War era, leftist in their views, pursued their anti-Diem agenda with smears, lies, and fake news. In the end, in wanting Diem to fail, wanting South Vietnam to fail, and wanting America to fail, the liberal media accomplished their mission. However, to their unpleasant surprise, whatever lies and perjuries committed by the liberal media, then and now, are slowly coming to light.

In The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam (2015), new research by military historian Geoffrey Shaw reveals many groundbreaking revelations about the Buddhist Crisis of 1963. Many of the information presented by Shaw in his book were either missed or intentionally ignored (you can probably guess which one) by the mainstream media at the time, during their coverage of the crisis. These important facts were then buried in the historical archives, while the leftist narrative went on to dominate public thought and the history books.

One of the most illuminating revelations about the Buddhist Crisis of 1963, as reported in Shaw’s book, is that the monks who set themselves on fire (including the monk in the infamous photo) were not common or disgruntled citizens, nor did they in any way represent the majority Buddhist population in Vietnam. In actuality, these monks were part of a fringe group of radicalized Buddhists, who, in coordination with anti-Diem forces, orchestrated a fake crisis to tarnish the Government of Vietnam under President Diem. Even more shockingly, these monks were found to be agents of the North Vietnamese, committing what they viewed as martyrdom to further the communist cause.

From the foreword of The Lost Mandate of Heaven, Georgetown University professor James V. Schall reveals the following:

After the war, the North Vietnamese acknowledged that the bonzes [Buddhist monks] who burned themselves in supposed defiance of Diem’s “anti-Buddhist” policies were their agents within minority Buddhist monasteries in Vietnam. This information never appeared in the American press at the time (p. 13).

Clearly stated above, the North Vietnamese themselves admitted that the monks who set themselves on fire were indeed part of the communist forces. Deeper in The Lost Mandate of Heaven, Shaw himself brings to light the fact that two of the monks who led the demonstrations during the crisis, Thich Thien Hao and Thich Thom Me The Nhem, were members of the National Liberation Front (p. 199), otherwise known as the Viet Cong, the brutal southern communist network that has been repeatedly confirmed as subordinates of the North Vietnamese. These monks not only met with North Vietnamese communist leaders, but were doing so with communist leaders from China as well (ibid). Furthermore, the most prominent and influential figure of this crisis, the outspoken, subversive, conniving, and now disgraced monk Thich Tri Quang, was the leader of a “small, radicalized coterie” of Buddhists, and a disciple of a North Vietnamese monk who held approval among the communists (p. 197).

Unsurprisingly, knowing the pro-communist bias and dishonesty of the liberal media, these facts were never reported to the public, and thus, everyday Americans were led to believe that the self-burning monks were part of some national resistance, of which all Buddhists across Vietnam were in support of. In reality, the Buddhist majority did not support these radicals monks. As shown above, the self-burning monks were actually communists, manufacturing outrage to manipulate public opinion in Vietnam and the United States, a scheme that received full complicity and support by the U.S. liberal media.

This position is further affirmed in Shaw’s book, with an excerpt explaining the tactics of the North Vietnamese and their allies. In regards to the communists’ fabrication of the 1963 Buddhist Crisis:

This kind of political sophistication was well within the capacities of Ho Chi Minh and his backers in China and Russia. Stephen C. Y. Pan of the East Asian Research Institute in New York City met and interviewed Ho Chi Minh, Ngo Dinh Diem, and other Southeast Asian leaders. This expert on Vietnamese politics concluded that the Buddhist crisis was indeed a communist front: “The communists knew how to cope with Diem’s appeals. Highly skilled at spreading false propaganda, they created incidents, and launched demonstrations. Masters of cold war strategy, they decided that the Achilles heel in Vietnam was the Buddhist associations. They realised the acute sensitivity of Americans, in particular, to the charge of religious persecution,” (p. 199-200).

The above explains the intricacy and skill in which the communists were able to manipulate American public opinion. Knowing what the average American cares about and is sensitive too, the communists manufactured a crisis, created fake outrage, and then used the willing and enthusiastic liberal journalist to deliver this fake outrage straight to the American public.

The New York Times, one of the most prominent U.S. news outlets covering the Vietnam War, is discovered to have falsely reported the situation in Vietnam during the Buddhist Crisis. According to Shaw, during the start of the crisis in May of 1963, reports by the New York Times blamed the South Vietnamese on explosions that occurred during a (staged) demonstration in Hue, an event claiming the lives of nine people (p. 204-5). Later on, the Time’s reporting of the incident was falsified and indicted as “based on ‘facts’ of highly doubtful authenticity,” (p. 202-3). Furthermore, the New York Times claimed that, during the crisis, President Diem imposed a discriminatory law that specifically targeted Buddhists, another accusation that turned out to be false. In researching the infamous incident, Ellen Hammer, a historian, and Marguerite Higgins, a reporter, had ruled that there was no such persecution of Buddhists by President Diem. From her discoveries, Higgins ruled that in all, the events of the crisis as described by the New York Times were completely false (p. 203).

Furthermore, it is essential to understand that the South Vietnamese security forces deployed to the protests in South Vietnam were only equipped with stun grenades and tear gas, weapons inconsistent with media coverage claiming that government forces fired on the crowd. After the demonstration ordeal, a doctor examining the dead clarified that the burns experienced by bomb victims were beyond the capacity of the government forces’ gear. He then attributed the cause to “homemade bombs… planted beforehand,” with signs that very much “indicate the handiwork of the Viet Cong,” (p. 204-5). Again, unsurprisingly, these facts were largely ignored by leftist “academics,” both journalists and historians alike.

In their coverage of the crisis, the leftist media not only lied to the American public, but repeated these lies over and over, day in and day out. According to Shaw, the distorted leftist reporting of the Buddhist Crisis was kept “on the front pages of the New York Times and other newspapers” for months (p. 210). One can only imagine the affect that these images and stories had on the American public, and how that affected the U.S.-South Vietnam war effort overall.

Though President Diem and his government, in the short term, survived the intricately crafted and viscerally effective outrage campaign of the communists and the liberal media, it would leave a permanent stain on his administration, of which he would never recover. This mark on Diem’s presidency, and the subsequent U.S.-led coup that caused the fall of his administration, was all built on a lie, concocted by the North Vietnamese, carried out by their Viet Cong wing in the south, and popularized by the liberal media.

Observing these liberal media tactics of the Vietnam era, one cannot help but think of the liberal media of today, manufacturing scandals and outrages such as Russian collusion, faux racism, “family” border separation, and Stormy Daniels against President Trump, in a concerted and coordinated attempt to bring down the Trump Administration. Make no mistake that historically, the media is a monumentally powerful entity. They have the power to shape public opinion, influence attitudes and behaviors, spur people to action, and bring down entire presidencies.

During the Vietnam War era, through lies, careful omissions, and the overall shameless dissemination of fake news, the liberal mainstream media turned the American public against the war, influenced the election of opportunist antiwar Democrats into the House and Senate, cut all funding to South Vietnam (even though the South was winning the war), and then celebrated the “victory” of the North Vietnamese.

In this era of Trump, through lies, careful omissions, and the overall shameless dissemination of fakes news, the liberal mainstream media has been trying relentlessly to turn the American public against President Trump, influence the election of impeachment-minded Democrats into the House and Senate, and all the while fantasizing about the leftist overthrow of a duly elected U.S. president, the complete undermining and erosion of American democracy, and spitting in the face of American voters. Unfortunately for the Left, after decades upon decades of unprecedented and unchecked power, the liberal media empire, the oligarchs of the western world, have finally overextended themselves. However, that is a discussion for another time.

Coming back to the Buddhist Crisis of 1963, one may benefit to know that in the midst of the crisis, President Diem reached out to the many Buddhist organizations in South Vietnam, working with Buddhist leaders, and even offering compensation to families whose loved ones died in the protests, even though his government was not responsible for the deaths. Furthermore, President Diem created a Buddhist-led commission to engage further with the Buddhist community in Vietnam, and even agreed to let an international investigation be carried out against his government (p. 206).

All of these initiatives were ignored by the liberal media (p. 207).

In their reporting of the outrage, the alleged discrimination and oppression, the liberal media, in all their boasted propensity for justice and truth, somehow conveniently failed to report any of the actions that the South Vietnamese President took to reach out to the community and soothe his people. Moreover, around this time, in the wake of the Buddhist Crisis, President Diem and his administration was soundly defeating the Viet Cong terrorist network in South Vietnam. The media conveniently failed to report this as well (p. 211).

Like the leftist journalists of today, who purposely omit President Trump’s accomplishments and noble actions (e.g. defeating ISIS, vastly cutting illegal immigration, bringing home U.S. soldier remains from North Korea, revitalizing the U.S. economy, achieving record-low African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and women unemployment, and donating virtually 100% of his salary to charity since taking office, just to name a few), the leftists of the Vietnam War era ignored the monumental accomplishments of President Ngo Dinh Diem, which include establishing a viable non-communist Vietnamese country, defeating the Viet Cong, keeping the North Vietnamese at bay, and building up essential national institutions such as the economy, the military, and the education system, just to name a few.

As the President of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem was viewed by all Vietnamese, Christians and Buddhists alike, as their legitimate leader (p. 17). The “iconic” picture of the burning monk, and the narrative that both leftist journalists and historians painted of Diem was contradictory to the reality.

In Diem’s Vietnam, despite being forced to sometimes take extensive measures to combat terrorism, warlord-ism, and post-colonial factionalism, there existed freedom of religion, freedom of demonstration, freedom of non-political assembly, and some freedom of the press (p. 200). Moreover, President Diem deeply respected Buddhism, viewed Buddhism as a “means to reinvigorate Vietnamese identity” after the French ruined it, and hoped that Buddhism would be a strong counter to communist influence in the countryside (p. 39).

During his administration, President Diem oversaw a Buddhist renaissance that brought the religion back from the edge of extinction after a disastrous near-century of French colonialism (p. 194). Under Diem, substantial government funds were given to the development of Buddhist infrastructure such as pagodas and schools. These funds saw the renovation, rebuilding, and new construction of several thousand pagodas, as well as the organizing of large Buddhist communities in South Vietnam, which in-turn trained and provided access to more than one million Buddhist practitioners across the country. Along with all of this, the Government of Vietnam, led by the Diem administration, also “encouraged Buddhist programs, periodicals, conferences, lectures, and libraries,” (p. 195).

These are all important facts that somehow always seem to be conveniently absent in the liberals’ coverage of President Diem, in today’s history, and yesterday’s news. From the information presented in this article, it is not hard to understand why.

None of the facts above support the leftist claim that Diem was a bigoted, anti-Buddhist dictator. As a matter of fact, the evidence presented completely obliterates that claim, which is why it can never be found in any book or article written by a liberal on the matter.

For reasons still to be discovered, the liberal media and leftists in general had a vested interest in the failing of the U.S. and South Vietnam, and the prevalence of the communists. Their anti-American, anti-South Vietnamese, and pro-communist agenda compelled them to present a distorted and fabricated narrative on the Vietnam War, one in which the communists were the good guys, and the U.S. and South Vietnamese were the bad guys.

To push this false narrative, the powerful American liberal press used all of their clout and resources to slander South Vietnam and the U.S., while at the same time glorifying the communist enemy. One of the means in which the media advanced their agenda was the promotion of the Buddhist Crisis, and repeatedly displaying the infamous picture of the self-burning monk for all Americans at home to see.

In examining Shaw’s research, including facts such as the monk’s communist affiliation, how his radical group was unrepresentative of the Buddhist population, and that the Buddhist Crisis itself was a sham concocted by the communists, this article aims to dispel some of the many prevailing myths about the Vietnam War that resonate to this very day.

Many things we have been taught about the Vietnam War is wrong. But little by little, the truth will be told.

Consider this article one more step towards telling the full truth about the Vietnam War. Major themes for this thesis include the heroism and sacrifice of the South Vietnamese and the allied American soldiers, the brutal and murderous totalitarianism of the communists, and the lies, cowardice, and deceit of the liberal media, during Vietnam and thereafter.

As always, everyone is encouraged to read for themselves the sources presented, and come to a few conclusions of their own. Academic, peer-reviewed, and written by reputable experts in their respective fields, the sources examined are reliable for research and general learning. The source this week, to reiterate, is The Lost Mandate of Heaven, by Geoffrey Shaw. It is a great read, and definitely worth your time.


Work Cited:

Shaw, Geoffrey. The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2015.

Annotated Bibliography: “South Vietnam’s Economy – A Note,” by Curtis Crawford

Posted in Economics, Modern History, Modern History - A.B. with tags , , , on April 22, 2016 by Ian Pham

Saigon 1961Photograph via Flickr

Crawford, Curtis. “South Vietnam’s Economy – A Note.” Vietnam Perspectives 1, no. 4 (1966): 14-16.

This is a brief article by Curtis Crawford, written during the Vietnam War years in 1966. With statistics included, the article encapsulates the strong economic growth that South Vietnam was experiencing between 1955 and 1960 under President Diem.

Some notable points from the article include the fact that from 1955 to 1960, South Vietnam’s “per capita food production rose substantially,” with the total crop production overtaking that of the country’s prewar levels. Moreover, Crawford’s article dispels earlier statistics given by Bernard B. Fall, whose findings are reported and proven by Crawford to be “grossly inflated” and distorted in ways that fail to represent the real growth experienced by South Vietnam’s economy.

Although compact, Crawford’s source gives a concise and statistical illustration of the South Vietnamese economy. In the context of understanding South Vietnam’s economic strength during its existence, Crawford’s article demonstrates that the Southern Republic had a robust and vastly developing economy, one that was competitive and highly regarded in the international system.

Rice to the Refugees: The Untold Act of President Ngo Dinh Diem

Posted in Did You Know?, IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2014 by Ian Pham

President Ngo Dinh DiemHere’s something a lot of you probably didn’t know about President Ngo Dinh Diem. During his time in office, the South Vietnamese President contributed a substantial amount of humanitarian aid in the form of rice to Tibetan Buddhist refugees in the late 1950s-early 1960s. It was then that many Tibetans were exiled from their homeland by the invading forces of the People’s Republic of China, led by the iron fist of the ruthless Mao Zedong.

In the year 1950, with the consolidation of the PRC, Mao Zedong officially pointed his guns towards Tibet, sending the People’s Liberation Army across the border into Tibetan land. Throughout the 1950s, through false treaties and suppressive military force, China would gain control over all of Tibet, turning that part of East Asia into another region under Chinese control. The invasion would be complete by 1959, with the outbreak and bloody suppression of the Tibetan Uprising.

Many, many Tibetans were expelled from their homeland during this time and sought asylum in other nations around the world. The young Dalai Lama and many tens of thousands of other Tibetans would escape to India through the Himalayas, becoming refugees in the process. In reaction to their plight, many nations around the world held out a helping hand to the Tibetan refugees. One of these nations was none other than the Republic of Vietnam (aka South Vietnam), under the presidency of Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem.

According to an old issue of the Chicago Tribune (December 11, 1959), President Diem offered to supply the Tibetan refugees with “surplus rice for a year.” Though the sources are currently sparse for this topic, at least for me, it can be asserted that part of the rice offered by President Diem amounts to 200 tons, as illuminated in the Indian Parliament’s “Rajya Sabha Debates, 1952-2005,” published by the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre (2006: 71). However, further examination suggests that the total volume of rice donated by South Vietnam is much more than that.

An article by Tran Trung Dao (August 30, 2014) on Dan Chim Viet online further elaborates on the subject. According to Dao, President Diem donated rice to the Tibetan Buddhist refugees through the Government of India not only once, but twice. Dao’s source declares that the amount of rice sent to India from South Vietnam during these two times accumulated to a grand total of 1,500 tons. In addition to the 200 tons of rice provided by South Vietnam in the one donation, another shipment of 1,300 tons was sent to India to feed the Tibetan Buddhist refugees. Given the evidence, it can thus be asserted that South Vietnam under President Diem played a substantial role in the support of Tibetan refugees in India.

This humanitarian act was not widely covered during the time that it happened. Moreover, it was overshadowed by the dirty politics of its day, ignored by the biased media of the west, and eventually lost under the many pages of history.

In writing this article, I wanted to share with you something you may not have known about the First President of South Vietnam. I also wanted to leave you all with something warm and uplifting to hold onto on this day of his commemoration. Furthermore, this act of charity and kindness is a great, yet sadly forgotten story that should be shared with anyone who is interested and wants to know. I’m only doing my part in making that happen.

Today is the anniversary of President Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination at the hands of a group of treasonous South Vietnam generals, acting under the direction and encouragement of Henry Cabot Lodge and the Kennedy Administration.

President Diem lost his life on November 2, 1963.

For his services to the nation of South Vietnam, and as we’ve learned, for other peoples of the world at large, he will always be remembered.

Madam Nhu: The Passing of the ‘Dragon Lady’

Posted in Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by Ian Pham

First off, one must express condolence to the recent passing of Madam Nhu.  She is a human being and, as such, deserves as much respect upon her death as any other human being.  Why must we speak of respect at the beginning of this article?  Well, as the wife of a prominent South Vietnamese politician, Ngo Dinh Nhu, Lady Nhu was not the most humble of people.  If you have ever wondered why President Ngo Dinh Diem was branded as an oppressive anti-Buddhist, Madam Nhu is part of the reason why.

Tran Le Xuan (Madam Nhu) was known for her sharp tongue and shrill personality.  Known as the ‘Dragon Lady,’ Xuan would often express her harsh points of views in the most vulgar of ways.  Madam Nhu never hesitated to publicly bash the Buddhist population, making discriminatory remarks, and belittle the people of the religion.  She shamelessly labelled the self immolations of the Buddhist monks as ‘barbecues,’ lauding that she would willingly clap her hands as she watches them burn.

To call Tran Le Xuan an outspoken political figure would be an understatement.  Aside from her blatant disrespect for the Buddhist population, Madam Nhu liked to bash anything or anyone that she did not agree with.  Her targets included the American media, domestic politicians, and even the president himself.  As a result, she became a lighting rod for western journalists, providing them with much ammunition to degrade the image of South Vietnam.  Madam Nhu’s words and actions would be widely publicized, used by the media to further ruin the reputation of president Ngo Dinh Diem.

To better understand the circumstances of Ngo Dinh Diem, the First President of South Vietnam, one must look at his family.  Diem himself did little to discriminate againt the Buddhist population as a whole.  In reality, it was the actions of several of his powerful family members, Madam Nhu among them, that sparked the civil discontent of the Buddhist population.  Diem’s main fault was failing to control them.  The U.S. government also played a role in creating Buddhist discontent as part of their plan to remove Diem.  However, the stupidity of some of the members of the Ngo family seriously exacerbated the situation, giving the Americans all the means to destroy Diem’s image.

This is the unfortunate reality.  Madam Nhu, the sister-in-law of Ngo Dinh Diem, played a role that affected South Vietnam in an extremely negative way.  She was a public figure that attracted much media attention, but she abused this power and represented South Vietnam in a very poor light.  This article is in no way meant to disrespect the late Tran Le Xuan.  She was a tough minded woman, but the truth is that she made some critical mistakes, many which resulted in the suffering of the Vietnamese people.  Therefore, even though one should still respect her passing, one must not forget the wrongs she has done.  Madam Nhu passed away on April 24, 2011, at the age of 87.  May she rest in peace.

Commemorating Ngo Dinh Diem

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics, Society with tags , , on November 1, 2010 by Ian Pham

Today marks the anniversary of President Ngo Dinh Diem’s assassination at the hands of Duong Van Minh and authorized by the U.S. government.  On this day, many writers and bloggers take the time to remember the Vietnamese president, acknowledging his mistakes, but mostly celebrating his accomplishments.

In the past, the public’s perception of Ngo Dinh Diem has often been negative, backed by hundreds upon hundreds of distorted media portrayals.  Nowadays however, with more adequate evidence being published, the public opinion of President Diem has shifted drastically.

As the First President of the Republic of Vietnam, Diem resisted heavy pressure from the U.S., neutralized the political factions of Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen, and damaged the terrorist plots of Ho Chi Minh and his Vietcong.  He created a stable government, free from French, Communist, and for a time, American saboteurs.

Under Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam’s economy flourished.  Coffee shops were filled with busy people, making a quick stop on their way to work.  Echoing in the streets of Saigon were the smooth, cool melodies of Vietnam’s young Jazz musicians.  La Dalat motors, the country’s first motor company, was making their first appearance on the city streets.  In the Republic of Vietnam, business was booming.

In the eight years of his presidency, Ngo Dinh Diem successfully ridded South Vietnam of the numerous military and political threats, stabilizing the country, and making it powerful in the process.  He is a controversial figure, that is true.  However, the claims of his mistakes can now be balanced with evidence of his myriad contributions.

The debate concerning the policies of President Diem and whether his individual actions were ethical or not, is meant for another day.  Today we celebrate the life of the President, commemorating the  many sacrifices that he has made for the Vietnamese tradition.

South Korea’s Syngman Rhee: A Descendent of the Ly Dynasty

Posted in Did You Know?, Dynastic History, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , on October 12, 2010 by Ian Pham

Depending on your knowledge of this particular subject, this may or may not come as a shock to you.  Personally, I was quite surprised when I heard about this.  Syngman Rhee, the first president of the Republic of Korea, is actually a Vietnamese descendent.  Rhee himself declared that he was of Vietnamese ancestry, tracing his origins all the way back to the royal Ly family.

How did the Ly land in Korea anyway?  In the 13th century, princess Ly Chieu Hoang abdicated the throne in favor of her husband, Tran Canh, marking the end of the Ly and the rise of the Tran Dynasty.  Many members of the Ly royal family disapproved, deeply resenting the Tran’s actions afterword.  Tran Thu Do, the man behind the Ly’s toppling, feared of rebellion.  Therefore, he decided to purge the entire Ly family. 

As a result, thousands of Vietnamese people were put to death.  Anyone bearing the name of Ly was hunted down and executed by the Tran.  In order to save his people, prince Ly Long Tuong gathered the remaining  members of the Ly and fled to Korea.  This courageous act salvaged the lives of several thousand Vietnamese people, who would later become proud members of the Korean nation.  One of these proud individuals would be none other than Syngman Rhee, the First President of South Korea.

In the 1950-60’s, Syngman Rhee contacted President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, seeking help in finding the origins of his ancestors.  President Diem accepted, assigning one of his ministers to assist President Rhee on his search for spiritual truth.  Unfortunately, since the tombs of the Ly family were located in North Vietnam, the proof of President Rhee’s ancestry could only be verified later on, after the death of Diem.

The fact is clear now: thousands of Korean citizens are actually of Vietnamese origin, the descendents of the Ly family.  Many Koreans, like Rhee Syngman, are very proud of their Vietnamese ancestry.  Every year, Vietnam enjoys visits by many Korean tourists, there to visit the shrine of their Vietnamese ancestors.  These people are the proud citizens of Korea, but they have never forgotten their Vietnamese beginnings.

Article on Ngo Dinh Diem’s Rise to Power

Posted in Modern History, Politics, V. Arts & Culture, VII. Research with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by Ian Pham

For anyone who is interested in learning more about former South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, there is an excellent article about his political struggles titled Vision, Power, and Agency: The Ascent of Ngo Dinh Diem, 1945-54 by Edward Miller.  This artical examines the challenges and obstacles that Diem was faced with in his search for Vietnam’s Independence.

In the past several decades, scholars chose to characterize President Diem in many different ways.  Some called him corrupted, some called him reactionary, while others called him a puppet that was simply hand picked by the United States.  These perceptions of Diem however are made with bias and ill-intentions while others make reckless assumptions based on these distortions of facts and are therefore abstracted by these claims.

The evidence in this article points out that Ngo Dinh Diem went to great measures to achieve his politicial goals, travelling abroad and making numerous connections with many prominent individuals in Japan, France, and America.  Interestingly enough, this article even discusses Diem’s relationship with Ho Chi Minh, why Ngo Dinh Diem was such a threat to him, and why Ho Chi Minh tried to assassinate Diem on numerous occasions.

This is a brief summary on the article Vision, Power, and Agency: The Ascent of Ngo Dinh Diem, 1945-54. For the full story, feel free to read the article on the Research page or click on the link below.

Diem’s Mistakes

Posted in Modern History with tags , , on May 5, 2010 by Ian Pham

South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated on November 2, 1963.  The coup d’etat was orchestrated by the U.S. government and carried out by Duong Van Minh, a former general of South Vietnam.  Being the President of South Vietnam is definitely not an easy task.  Ngo Dinh Diem faced substantial foreign pressures from other nations, the most obvious push came from the United States.  It is without a doubt that President Diem’s odds were not in his favour in opposing America, but there were some actions that he could have taken that may have saved his life.


A Buddhist monk protests against discrimination by self-immolation.


One mistake that Diem made under his presidency was his discrimination towards Buddhists.  Due to his unjust treatment of the Buddhist population, Ngo Dinh Diem had to deal with a large population who strongly opposed his government.  As a result, many of the Buddhist population turned to the Vietcong’s side for salvation.  Ironically, when the militant population switched sides, they were treated exponentially worse by the North.  The reason being that the Communists do not tolerate any form of religion, since religion provided ideas and philosphies contrary to the teachings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.  The Buddhist population could have been a powerful entity to the South.  Unfortunately, Ngo Dinh Diem failed to utilize their potential.  This discrimination is also the main target of  the American media and journalists in the west.

Diem’s second critical error is his nepotistic approach in forming his government, giving important posts to his brothers and relatives.  His main advisor was Ngo Dinh Nhu, while his brother Ngo Dinh Can was put in charge of Hue, a city located in Central Vietnam.  Other government positions were also handed to his family members.  Ngo Dinh Nhu was a competent advisor and excellent political strategist; many of his ideas helped keep the Communists at bay.  Ngo Dinh Can, on the other hand, was not only incompetent, but made a critical error that arguably contributed to the fall of Diem.  Under Can’s command, the Buddhist flag in Hue was taken down and replaced with a Catholic flag, thus alienating the substantial Buddhist population in the city.  Can was not an able commander.  His appointment, along with some others, caused significant problems for President Diem.


Duong Van Minh was responsible for the death of President Diem.


The third misstep taken by Diem is his failure to control his American opponents.  This step is crucial, but it’s also the most difficult to accomplish.  U.S. President John F. Kennedy and the C.I.A. had tremendous influence over many government officials in South Vietnam. President Diem managed to sideline many who opposed him, but failed to take out some of the key players who would later end up being the pawns of the U.S government.  The most notable being Duong Van Minh, the former general who had deep hatred for Ngo Dinh Diem and was also a Buddhist.  This man would be the key instrument in the C.I.A headed assassination of the first South Vietnamese President.

It should be clear by now the three fatal flaws in Ngo Dinh Diem’s policies: the first being religious discrimination, followed by nepotism, and the final is failure to control the staggering American influence in Saigon (although the third factor is more or less out of his hands).  If President Diem were careful enough to avoid these dangerously problematic actions, one could argue that his assassination may never have taken place.

American Imperialism and the Fall of Diem

Posted in Modern History with tags , , on April 6, 2010 by Ian Pham

It is true that Ngo Dinh Diem was murdered by his ex-general Duong Van Minh in a military coup, but why did the coup take place?  The answer is not a simple one.  Ngo Dinh Diem is a strong leader and much of his views are contradictory to the Americans.  President John F. Kennedy and his administration wanted someone they can control, who can act on their behalf.  During the Vietnam War era the American media and much of the literature in the U.S. accuses President Diem of being corrupted, this is not true at all.


President Diem was assassinated on November 2, 1963.


One cannot deny that he was a nepotist, but he did not commit any illegal act as the leader of Vietnam as some would suggest.  The reason President Ngo Dinh Diem gets murdered by Duong Van Minh is because of was will to oppose American imperialism.  The Americans wanted him to do what they instructed him to do, something that Diem will not comply with.  President Diem’s actions were in the interest of Vietnam and not the Americans.  So for that reason, the American government looked for a man who was willing to do their dirty work for them.  They wanted someone who hated Ngo Dinh Diem, who can’t understand the complexity of the situation and was easy to mold.  The Americans discover these traits in ex-General Duong Van Minh.  So on November 1, 1963, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his younger brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were kidnapped and executed the next day.  Before Diem’s death, North Vietnam was kept in check, his assassination gave the Vietcong an opportunity to move in the army.  After Diem died, it took three years of continuous failed governments before Nguyen Van Thieu finally emerged.

The Americans acted in their own interests and not in the interests of Vietnam.  The killing of Diem caused tremendous turmoil for the people of South Vietnam.  If Diem had lived, the course of the Vietnam War may have gone in a much different direction.