“To Do Nothing Would be to Dig Our Own Graves: Student Activism in the Republic of Vietnam”

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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During the Vietnam War, South Vietnamese students were some of the most vocal activists asserting multiple visions for Vietnam’s future. Students’ attitudes spanned the political spectrum from staunchly anti-Communist to supportive of the National Liberation Front. Like young people throughout the world in the 1960s, students in South Vietnam embodied the spirit of the global Sixties as a hopeful moment in which the possibility of freedom energized those demanding political change. South Vietnam’s university students staged protests, wrote letters, and drew up plans of action that tried to unite the disparate political interests among the nation’s young people as politicians and generals in Saigon attempted to establish a viable national government. South Vietnamese government officials and U.S. advisors paid close attention to student activism hoping to identify and cultivate sources of support for the Saigon regime. While some students were willing to work with Americans, others argued that foreign intervention of any kind was bad for Vietnam. The Saigon government’s repressive tactics for dealing with political protest drove away students who otherwise might have supported it.

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