Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc was a 66-year-old Buddhist monk whose self-immolation on June 11, 1963, intensely affected the attitude of the Kennedy administration toward Ngo Dinh Diem and vividly signified the Buddhist-government crisis in South Vietnam. Quang Duc burned himself to death at a busy Saigon intersection in full view not only of passersby but also the media, which the Buddhists had alerted before the episode. The result was maximum exposure, particularly in the United States. While self-immolation is a traditional form of protest in many parts of Asia, the event violated the sensibilities of the policymakers in Washington and was a decisive factor in convincing them that Diem was incapable of governing the Republic of Vietnam. As a result, the incident also reflected the sophistication of the Buddhist anti-Diem movement in understanding the importance of the press as a convenient method of expressing its position. Quang Duc's action also reflected the increasing failure of the Diem government to deal with the pervasive pluralism that characterized South Vietnam in this period. With his mandarin mentality, Diem responded to discontent with his regime by more repression. The result of this escalation was a growing stubbornness by Diem and more self-immolations by Buddhist monks, as well as other anti-Diem demonstrations. Thus, Thich Quang Duc's suicide marked the beginning of the end of the Diem regime.