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Main hall of the Xá Lợi Pagoda

The Xá Lợi Pagoda raids were a series of synchronized attacks on Buddhist pagodas in the major cities of South Vietnam on August 21, 1963. The raids were executed by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces and combat police, both of which took their orders directly from Ngo Dinh Nhu, the younger brother of the Roman Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem. The Xá Lợi Pagoda, the largest in the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, was the most prominent of the temples raided. Over 1,400 Buddhists were arrested, and estimates of the death toll and missing ranged up to the hundreds. At first, the Ngo family claimed that the army had carried out the raids, something their ally the United States initially believed. However, this was later debunked, and the incident prompted the US to turn against the regime and begin exploring alternative leadership options, eventually leading to Diem's overthrow in a coup. In South Vietnam itself, the raids stoked widespread anger. Several high-ranking public servants resigned, and university and high school students boycotted classes and staged riotous demonstrations, resulting in further mass incarcerations. As most of the students were from middle-class public service and military families, the arrests caused further upset among the Ngo family's power base. (more...)

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