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Diem, Ngo Dinh (1901–63)

Subject History

Place South-Eastern Asia » Vietnam

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


President of the Republic of [South] Vietnam (1955–63). A devout Catholic from a wealthy family which had provided many high officials for the Vietnamese royal court at Hue, he considered becoming a priest but took up a career in administration instead and was quickly a provincial chief. In 1933 he joined the cabinet of the young emperor Bao Dai as Minister of the Interior but soon resigned because the French (Vietnam was part of the French Empire) would not give more power to the Vietnamese government. Diem was captured by the viet minh in 1945 and invited to join ho chi minh's government in the North but, anti-communist as well as anti-French, he refused. In 1947 he went abroad. The geneva accords (1954) gave him an opportunity to return to Vietnam, as the French withdrew and Bao Dai, under American pressure, made Diem his Prime Minister. In 1954 South Vietnam was controlled by three religious-military sects: the Cao Dai, the Hoa Hao (each of which had private armies of 50,000) and Binh Xuyen. In the first six months of his administration Diem crushed them and rehabilitated a million refugees from the North. A year later he rigged a referendum which abolished the monarchy: he then proclaimed the Republic of Vietnam with himself as President. Aloof and aristocratic, he did not make a successful or popular ruler. He had little understanding of, or sympathy for, the peasants ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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