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Diem and Nhu became a major liability for the Kennedy Administration when their national popularity plummeted as a result of numerous humanitarian violations Diem ran his country as a brutal dictatorship alongside his powerful brother Nhu who was even more ruthless than him America was put into a very serious diplomatic situation by the Southern Vietnamese leaders and their gruesome regime By the time Kennedy took office in 1961 the situation in South Vietnam had seriously deteriorated An unsucsessful military coup of November 11 1960 had been followed by an increase in repressive measures and killings of their own citizens by Diem and his military On May 8 1963 there were riots in the Southern Vietnamese city of Hue which were spurred when Diem refused to let the Buddhists fly their flag in celebration of Buddhas birthday 12 Buddhists were shot and killed by Diems troops during the riots and in response Diem claimed that the Northern Vietnamese communists were responsible for the murders Diem was able to quiet the Buddhists in Hue but on June 11 1963 the demonstrations reached a climax when a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in front of the Cambodian Embassy An american photographer captured the actual burning with a picture that shocked the American people In reaction to the climax of demonstrations and general unpopularity of the current Southern Vietnamese political system Kennedy said The repressions against the Buddhists were very unwise and all we could do is make it very clear that we dont think that this is the way to win The United States cut back on the economic aid that was being given to the Southern Vietnamese to encourage them to make peace with the Buddhists and concentrate on fighting the war with the North This pressure which might have been effective earlier came way too late Americas commitment to supporting the Southern Vietnamese resulted in a political predicament that even Kennedy
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