Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 10. 1963.
Vietnam Police Burn And Shoot
Vietnam Police Burn And Shoot
South Vietnamese students have suffered at the hands of Ngo Dinh Diem's police. Early in June, for example, 500 Buddhist students gathered in Hue (the ancient capital of Vietnam) before the office of the chief Government delegate for their region, to present a list of grievances.
The 300 soldiers who were called out to disperse the crowd proceeded to do so by liberally using some kind of blister gas: 67 persons, mostly students, many of them girls, were hospitalised—40 with second-degree burns. Some are still in serious condition.
On May 8, in Hue, the Buddhist populace, led by their monks, staged a protest demonstration. True to its Buddhist origin the demonstration was non-violent. Diem's troops fired into the unarmed crowd from steelclad cars and drove over some of the fallen. Nine were killed.
On July 8. Nguyen Tuong Tam, one of the country's most celebrated intellectuals and writers, committed suicide on the eve of his treason trial for allegedly having participated in an anti-Diem coup in 1960. In his wallet was found this statement.—
"History alone will judge my life. I will allow no man to try me. The arrest and trial of all nationalist opponents of the regime is a crime which will force the nation into the hands of the Communists. I oppose this crime and, like the high priest Thich Quang Due, I also kill myself as a warning to those people who are trampling on all freedoms."
Thich Quang Due was the Buddhist priest who triggered the present series of demonstrations when he immolated himself in a Saigon street on June 11. A 15-year-old boy was killed, more than twenty injured, and many hundreds arrested when Diem security forces dispersed mourners at Thich Quang Due's funeral.
In the United States, leading intellectuals have raised their voices against US support for "a regime universally regarded as unjust, undemocratic, and unstable." In South Vietnam itself, there is a widespread and defiant wearing of a tiny patch of yellow cloth by Catholics, Protestants, as well as by Buddhists . . . a tiny patch of yellow cloth worn by the poor and the rich, by students and intellectuals, by men and women, by all those in South Vietnam outraged by the Diem Government's meaningless and gratuitous oppression.
Mrs. Freda Cook, lecturer in English at the Normal University, Hanoi, told Salient that in contrast to the situation in Saigon there is not any kind of warlike atmosphere in Hanoi (capital of North Vietnam).
She said, "Only the knowledge that the struggle still goes on in the South and that relations and loved ones are involved creates a feeling of uneasiness which is expressed from time to time in demonstrations against American interference and of solidarity with the guerrilla fighters."
She continued, "Although North Vietnam is still a poor and rather backward agricultural country, it is gradually, sometimes spectacularly, raising its material and cultural standards. Eighteen years ago 90 per cent of the population were illiterate; now the situation is reversed."
Her students lead austere lives but warm in comradeship, and are more confident of their place in life than young New Zealanders. "They look forward to a bright future which they themselves are building," she concluded.