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From the past pages of dawn: 1967: Fifty years ago: Dead nun’s plea

Updated May 20, 2017 06:44am

SAIGON: South Viet-Nam Buddhist youth today [May 19] staged a political come-back by publishing two peace letters left by the Buddhist nun who burned herself to death on Tuesday [May 16].

The letters were addressed to President Johnson, South Viet-Nam President Nguyen Van Thieu and North Viet-Nam President Dr Ho Chi-Minh and were found at her home.

The re-entry of the Buddhists into political life coincides with a week of prayers for peace in all pagodas.

In her two letters, Thich Nhat Chi Mai, as the nun was called, appealed to the three statesmen to do all in their power to bring back peace.

She told President Johnson: “I am a simple girl, but am heart-stricken by my country’s plight. Your slogan ‘defence of liberty and wellbeing’ no longer has any sense. How many tons of bombs and money have you spend on our people, destroying the body and soul of the nation? How many Viet-Namese patriots have you brutally repressed? How many Americans who understand the situation and who acted humanely, courageously denouncing your errors, have been deported?” She continued: “Do you know that the majority of my people in their hearts detest the Americans who have brought misfortune to their country?”

The nun offered Mr Johnson what she called “my plan”: the end of raids on North and South Viet-Nam; gradual withdrawal of US troops and free choice of the future for Viet-Namese; the UN to run general elections; aid for reconstruction of the nation.

She wrote to the other two Heads of State: “You do not even give me the possibility of saying that I have lived in freedom. This is why I have decided to die, so that you can hear my cries of pain and those of my many compatriots. May my final words be spread through the entire world! It will be an occasion for you to hold a reference on war or peace, to act for the people and by the people. Have you the courage to listen to the people even when what they say does not please you? Our people desire only to live in peace, the opposite of what they now have owing to your absolutisms.”

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2017