In the 1960s, South Vietnam, now known as the Republic of Vietnam, was a country with a Buddhist Majority of close to 90 percent. Ngo Dinh Diem, who was the president back then, oppressed the Buddhist community in Vietnam with his pro-catholic agenda. The president, being a catholic himself prepared policies that were biased towards Catholics in public service and military, land allocation, tax concessions and general favoritism. “Decree Number 10” a rarely used law was invoked in May 1963, wherein all religious flags were banned. This further agitated the Buddhist community and several protests followed.
On 11th June 1963, at a busy intersection of Saigoan, the capital of South Vietnam, a Buddhist monk by the name of Thích Quảng Đức, burnt himself alive. This practice of monks setting themselves ablaze while they are alive is known as self-immortalization. Photographs of the immortalized monk circulated through the international community, bringing attention to President Diem’s unjust policies. Bowing to the international pressure, the Vietnamese government announced reforms that would reduce the severity of the situation. However, these reforms were never implemented and hence the protests continued with over 15,000 Buddhists rallying in Saigon. Several other monks immortalizing themselves and a series of attacks were launched by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The Americans after a fact finding mission concluded that ongoing tensions would result into a civil war that would then make the people of South Vietnam believe that life under the Viet-cong or the Vietnamese Liberation front would be much better than the current government. This was against the interest of the United States of America. President Kennedy urged the Vietnamese government to get a hold of the situation. Eventually on 1 November 1963 a coup was conducted by the generals of the Army of the Republic of Vietnamese, where President Ngo Dinh Diem was arrested and assassinated.
Fact: The heart of the burning monk Thích Quảng Đức is miraculously intact and was preserved as a relic. The body was then re-cremated.