These riots were propagated by the directives of the South Vietnamese president, Ngo Dinh Diem. President Diem was a Catholic and his directives oppressed the Buddhists, who were the majority. The matter was made even worse by the timing of the decision, where Buddhist flags were prohibited just days before Buddha’s birthday, despite the Catholic’s colorful celebration preceding the directive. Buddhists felt that the president was being harsh to them and they decided to start a revolution against him. The tug between the monks attracted president Diem’s brother, who was the senior most Vietnamese-catholic. The brother headed a secret army that Diem used to suppress the demonstrating Buddhists (Seth, 2006). The struggle continued from May to November of 1963. It ended with the a coup against Diem and finally his execution. It however emerged later that the US had a big hand in the coup, though they had been divided on when and how to do it.
The Importance of the Riot to the Vietnam war
This event was a very important and was a turning point in the events of the Vietnamese war. It led to the execution of Diem, who was the leader to the South Vietnamese army who fought against the North Vietnam (Seth, 2006). Further, the riots ended with Diem’s government being overthrown. The North was communist and was supported by other like-minded countries, while the South provided a base for the United States. The execution of Diem led to a very significant change in the way that the war unfolded. United States was using South Vietnam to oppose the spread of communism in Asia. This was part of the larger Cold War and the US felt that the spread of communism would be a win for the Soviet Union. The United States, therefore, engaged in the war to ensure that communism was contained and that they retained their supremacy among the Asian states (Seth, 2006). Diem was the main man that the United States used in order to have a military base, as well as a force in the midst of Asia, where communist was set to easily spread. When Diem died, there was a void that the US government needed to fill to ensure that they retained their military base, before the enemies seized this opportunity to intensify their war. The Americans had to get another team to provide them with a base from where they were exercising their mandate of fighting communism. This small hitch would later prove to be very costly and would see the war extend to over a decade after the riots.
Events preceding the Riots
Before the riots, there was a very strong presence of the Catholic church in South Vietnam. These riots would spur the indignity among the Buddhists. Promotions in government ranks were based on conversions from Buddhism to Catholicism, which led to incompetent people rising to high offices. It was through this channel that the president, Diem had loyal followers, since loyalty preceded competence. One of his main commanders was said to have vomited in a battlefield because he had been raised in ranks as a result of his religious and fidelity credentials, and not as a result of his military competence and ability. Consequently, the South Vietnamese army grew weaker and this emerged when a large and better equipped South Vietnamese army was defeated by a much smaller group of Northern Vietnamese guerilla, known as Viet Kong in a battle commonly known as Battle of Ap Bac (Seth, 2006). Before the insurgence, the US had kept their power and had been having an upper hand in the war. Further, there was a considerable rise of opposing militias that were discontented by Diem’s deeds.
Effects of the Riots to the Vietnam War
The end of Diem’s reign through a coup de tat and execution resulted into many unseen problems. Despite his inability to bring a very stable religious ground, he had remained a nationalist and ensured that the South Vietnam region that was within his jurisdiction remained one. No guerillas would attempt to seize power during his reign, and he remained in full control. After his death, many other small armies tried to compete within themselves to outdo one another and assume power. Different reigns followed each other in short spans, and none of them was powerful enough to engage in war with the North. At this time, the Viet Kong guerillas had received aid from other external countries, especially Hanoi, who took advantage of the confusion that had arose from the end of Diem’s era. Viet Kong was already taking control of the larger part of South Vietnam (Guan, 2002). From these activities, the US government had to spur into action to ensure that they contained the insurgencies, which they, too late, realized that they were harder to quell than they earlier on anticipated. The US was contemplating using emotional takeover and convincing people against fighting, instead of the normal military training. Some of the US advisors predicted that the Vietnam War would be over a month after the death of Diem, but this was not to be. It was only the starting point of another 13 years of fighting and shedding of blood.
The uprising of the Buddhists was the main reason as to why Diem was executed. Had he managed to cool them down, it would have been a different case and there would have been a different reaction from the Buddhist, who would have possibly remained loyal to his government (Guan, 2002).
During the uprising, Diem’s administration was busy trying to solve the Buddhist and any probable coup problem. It was during this period that the North’s Viet Kong started to increase their dominance in the South. This would later lead to a big problem in repelling them, after they had taken control over the larger district. It would therefore be true to state that the uprising of Buddhists against Diem was among the main causes of the prolonged war in Vietnam (Guan, 2002).