Ngo Dinh Nhu

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About this sound Ngô Ðình Nhu (October 7, 1910 – November 2, 1963) was the younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnam's first president, Ngô Ðình Diệm. Nhu was widely regarded as the architect of the Ngo family's nepotistic and autocratic rule over South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963. Although Nhu did not hold a formal executive position, he wielded immense unofficial power, exercising personal command of both the ARVN Special Forces (a paramilitary unit which served as the Ngo family's de facto private army) and the Can Lao Party, which served as the regime's de facto secret police. A long-time opium addict, Nhu's extensive underground connections with the international opium smuggling market allowed him to channel millions of dollars in drug money into the personal accounts of the Ngo family during their regime. An outspoken admirer of Adolf Hitler (particularly his approach to internal security), Nhu's organizational models incorporated elements of both fascist and Communist style and methodology.

In his early age, Nhu was quiet and bookish individual who showed little inclination towards the political path taken by his elder brothers. While training as an archivist in France, Nhu adopted the Catholic ideology of personalism, although critics claimed that Nhu had misused their philosophy. Upon returning to Vietnam, he helped his brother in his quest for political power, and Nhu proved to be an astute tactician and strategist, helping Diem to gain more leverage and outwit rivals. During this time he formed and handpicked the members of the secret Can Lao Party which swore its personal allegiance to the Ngo family, provided their power base and eventually became their secret police force. He remained as the head of it until his death.

In 1955, Nhu’s groups helped to intimidate the public and rig the 1955 State of Vietnam referendum that ensconced Diem in power. Nhu used the Can Lao, which he organised into cells, to infiltrate every part of society to root out any opposition to the Ngo family. In 1959, he organized a failed assassination attempt via mail bomb on Prince Sihanouk, the leader of neighbouring Cambodia, with whom relations had become strained. Nhu publicly extolled his intellectual abilities, and was widely regarded as conceited by the public. He was also known for making aggressive public statements; these included a promise to demolish Xa Loi Pagoda, where Buddhist dissidents were mobilising against him, and a vow to kill his father-in-law Tran Van Chuong, who was the regime's Ambassador to the United States. As opposition to the family grew, coup attempts often formed around hatred of him and his wife, and Diem's supporters in Washington tried to convince the president to do away from his brother, to no avail.

In 1963, the Ngo family's grip on power became unstuck during the Buddhist crisis, during which the nation's Buddhist majority rose up against the pro-Catholic regime. Nhu tried to break the Buddhists by using the Special Forces in raids on Buddhist temples that left possibly hundreds dead, and framing the regular army for it. However, he was found out and this intensified plots by military officers, encouraged by the Americans, who turned against the Ngos after the pagoda attacks. Nhu was aware of the plots, but remained confident that he could outmanoevre them, and began to plot a counter-coup, as well as the assassinations of US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and other American and opposition figures. However, Nhu was fooled by the loyalist General Ton That Dinh, who had turned against him. On November 1, the coup proceeded, and the Ngos were caught off guard and defeated. The next day, Diem and Nhu were captured and executed.

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