Thursday, May 27, 2010

That Buddhist Monk Who Burned Himself to Death

One of the most famous photographs in the history of the world is the photo of the Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc sitting in the lotus position in a busy intersection in Saigon on June 11, 1963 after he set himself on fire to protest the treatment of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Catholic President Diem.

Some of the photos of the incident, taken from different angles, show the Vietnamese people in Saigon coldly catching a smoke or bicycling past the monk to go shopping.

One of my Vietnamese clients and friends, discussing those photos with me, made the following observations.

"Pete, the reason why the Vietnamese who are not Buddhist monks are walking by like they did not care is because none of them believed that the monk was alive when he was brought to the scene. The reason why there were so many monks at the scene surrounding the taxi is that they were helping the Viet Cong taxi driver act out a lie for the foolish American reporters invited to the scene. The Viet Cong murdered the monk in advance, and then proposed to the other Buddhist monks and nuns that the government would be embarrassed if the dead body were forced into a lotus position and then doused with gas and set afire, and the American press were fooled into thinking that he burned himself. Most of the people in the intersection are aware of the game, and thinking to themselves, 'Oh, no! More Viet Cong bullshit! And now they have the monks and nuns playing their stupid game! Where did they murder that poor monk?'"

Lo and behold, if you check you will find...

(1) Statements stating that the monk did not move -- not even twitch -- as he burned. He was as still as a dead man.

(2) Statements which, while claiming that Thich Quang Duc walked under his own power, and sat down under his own power, and affirmatively instructed that he be doused with gasoline so that he could be set on fire, were made by the reporters who did not actually WITNESS these details, because a vast crowd of monks and nuns, "seven people deep," surrounded this process, preventing anyone from seeing anything.

The Vietnamese man who explained the ruse to me is a devout Buddhist.



  1. I have to add that, subsequently, other monks did in fact burn themselves to death, in protect against oppression of Buddhists by Catholic President Diem.