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1966: Vietnam Buddhist burns to death

A 17-year-old Buddhist girl has committed suicide by setting herself alight in a street in the city of Hue.

She was protesting against the South Vietnam regime.

It is the fifth such death in three days.

A girl of 19 set herself alight two days ago outside a pagoda in Saigon and a monk did the same in the mountain town of Dalat.

In June 1963 Buddhist monk Quang Duc became famous when he was photographed setting himself alight in a suicide protest against the South Vietnamese government then under Ngo Dinh Diem.

Appeal to stop suicides

The Buddhists are demanding the resignation of the military government led by Prime Minister Air Vice Marshal Ky and Head of State General Nguyen van Thieu.

But their spiritual leader, Thich Thien Minh, has appealed to his fellow Buddhists to stop this kind of self-sacrifice.

Today he met with a six-member government delegation in Hue to discuss the possibility of enlarging the government to include more civilians.

The city has been under the control of Buddhist students for the past two months. They agreed to remove roadblocks and close the radio station after an order from Lt-Col Phan van Khoa, the pro-government mayor of Hue.

Yesterday, US President Lyndon Johnson condemned the recent Buddhist suicides saying these "acts of desperation" hampered progress towards a more democratic government.

During his Memorial Day speech in the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, he said such action obscured the sacrifice of many thousands of Vietnamese in their struggle for independence.

He also pledged America's continued military support in the war against the communists in the north.

In Context
The following day, Thich Thien Minh was seriously injured when a bomb was thrown into his car.

He had just reached agreement with the government to add 10 civilians to the national ruling committee of 10 generals.

But General van Thieu clung on to power until shortly before forces from the communist north overran the capital, Saigon, in April 1975 and the Vietnam War finally ended.

Buddhists were persecuted and many sent to "re-education" camps. Among them was Thich Thien Minh himself, who was jailed for life in 1979 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime.

He is a member of the outlawed the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam - the government allows only its state-controlled Buddhist Church of Vietnam to operate.

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