Ngo Dinh Can was the younger brother of Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu, and from the Ngo family compound in Hue, he ruled central Vietnam as an effective warlord or feudal baron. Though Can held no official position, he was the de facto governor of the Hue region, and his authentic power under the Diem administration was as broad in his area as was that of Nhu in the Saigon region. The dividing line between the two brothers' domains was Phan Thiet Province. The youngest brother, Ngo Dinh Luyen, resided abroad as South Vietnam's ambassador to Great Britain.
Unlike his brothers, Can did not have a Western education, never traveled abroad, and rarely left his native Hue, where he lived with the clan's widowed matriarch. He lived in an unpretentious, reclusive style, despite many reports that he had used his position for personal enrichment. Employing his own secret police network, Can exercised a severe, even cruel, domination over central Vietnam. His local authority was largely independent of Saigon, and at times he was at odds with his brothers. Largely, however, the brothers worked together to maintain their power. Following the assassination of Diem and Nhu in 1963, the new regime arrested, tried, and executed Can.