Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana on May 31, 1964 · Page 50
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Lake Charles American-Press from Lake Charles, Louisiana · Page 50

Lake Charles, Louisiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 31, 1964
Page 50
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family She has lost her home, her husband, her fortune; and her gentle, heartbroken parents wonder: how did such tragedy befall the lovely daughter they named Beautiful Spring? By MARYA SAUNDERS home — knowing he was not there! Madame Nhu's fath er announces resignation as ambassador. tor). Beautiful Spring' had her own liveried coolie to pull her to school in & rickshaw. As a child, Beautiful Spring- remembers herself in rebellion against her mother, a celebrated local beauty surrounded by admirers, including a rising young intellectual, Ngo Dinh Nhu. Constantly in her mother's shadow, Beautiful Spring wanted to marry and get out of her house. But instead of picking a husband from her mother's list of selected young men, she set out to win the affection of her mother's friend, Nhu! He was 13 years older than she, a Catholic, and the exponent of a radical philosophy he called "personalism." She Marries into Power Beautiful Spring knew that her Buddhist parents did not agree with Nhu's philosophy. "My wife is a true daughter of Buddha," Chuong once told me proudly. "As a baby, she was very sick, and when my wife's mother thought she was going to die, she took her baby -dress to the altar of Buddha in the main temple in Hue. She bowed to Buddha and said, 'This is my child. Take care of her. I give her to you.' So you see, my wife has been consecrated to Buddha. "But," he continued, "Buddhists are tolerant of other religions, and that is why when Ngo Dinh Nhu asked for my daughter's hand in 1943, I was happy to give it." When Beautiful Spring married Nhu, she really married the entire Ngo Dinh family and thus was able to have the power she craved. President Diem feared his sister-in-law's tantrums and yielded to her regularly when she burst into his study demanding new laws or changes in government policy. Vietnamese men are traditionally frightened of women, especially of wives, whom they often called the "generals of the household." Madame Nhu fully exploited this role after she became "first lady" for the bachelor president. A focus for much of her anger was her parents' religion. While her father and mother burned incense before an altar of Buddha in their home. Madame Nhu led anti-Buddhist repressions—including fierce raids on the temples at Saigon and Hue, where she had worshiped as a child. By now. Beautiful Spring was known as the Dragon Lady. She told reporters: "All the Buddhists have done for this country is to barbecue a monk. We should beat them three times harder." "I wrote to President Diem and to my daughter to protest those outrages against our people," Mrs. Chuong explained at the time, "but I received no answer to my messages." By Aug. 22, 1963, the policies of Madame Nhu and the Diem regime had become intolerable to her parents. The Ambassador, his gentle face clearly reflecting a profound sorrow for the decision he was forced to make, announced his resignation. His wife joined his protest by resigning as Vietnam's representative to the United Nations. When he was asked about his daughter, he looked away sadly and said: "My wife and I do not wish to speak of Madame Nhu or be associated with her in any way. We prefer to ignore her as an individual." "How can such things happen?" Mrs. Chuong asked in tears. Today the Chuongs' headstrong- middle child finds it hard to give up the limelight. She still demands attention—but often to little avail. In a letter to the United Nations, she demanded an investigation of American complicity in her family government's overthrow. She also demanded the exhumation of her husband's and brother-in-law's bodies and safe passage into Saigon to view them. "I do not believe they are dead." She cried. The U.N. Can't Help Her Unfortunately for Madame Nhu, her demands do not meet with the quick response they once did'. If and when the U.N. replies, it will only be to tell her that it cannot act except on the request of a national government. She did receive one response, however. The new Vietnamese government declared her an outlaw. It issued an order for her arrest and demanded her extradition from France. "Idiotic," Madame Nhu sputtered from her Paris apartment. "They are so beaten on, alJ sides, that, to save face, they can do nothing' else but attack a widow and orphans?" Official* indicated! that the order probably would not be enforced; but was issued to pave the way for legal confiscation of her property. "Poor girl," her father said recently, summing; up the problem. "It is very hard for her. She is now just a page in, history—andi that page has been turned." Family, Weekly, May $1,1961

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