vurru the 11th hour already passed, Vietnam looks to Ngo Dinh Diem, its new Catholic Premier, as the embodiment of its last hope.
A bachelor in his early 50s, Ngo Dinh Diem is highly respected by the non-Catholic majority in Vietnam for his personal integrity and ability. He comes from an old Catholic family of the Mandarin class. and was Premier, 20 years ago, of Annam, once an independent kingdom and now a Vietnam province.
A strong nationalist, he served in the short lived government formed by the Indo-Chinese after they were liberated from the Japanese in 1945 and before the French had recovered their control in the country. This was a "popular front" government dominated by the Communists in general and Ho Chi-Minh in particular; but although the latter used it for his own ends, it worked reasonably well, and the country was unified, independent and, superficially at least, at peace.
Diem was later asked by Chief of State Bao Dai to join the Vietnam cabinet, hut because of disagreements between them he refused, and during the last five years has lived in the United States and France. He has responded. however, to the present crisis and returns to lead his own people, with full authority from Bao Dai in the direction of national affairs. One of his brothers was killed in the present war. and another is Bishop Peter Ngo Dinh Thuc, Vicar Apostolic of Vinh Long.
Nationalists first and foremost, and distrustful of the French, the Vietnamese are asking if their new Premier will yet save an almost desperate situation by direct negotiation with Ho Chi-Minh, As matters stand, they watch with the gravest misgivings vital discussions in which they have no part and which may have, •to them, disastrous consequences for their future.
They feel that, once freed from the French, they might be able to bring about a reasonable settlement for themselves. They want to fight their own battles—not a French one.
It is thought that Buti Loc's withdrawal in favour of Diem was precipitated by the former's reluctance to consider dealing with the Red leader, who is at least of the same blood as the Vietnamese and a man for whom they have some respect.
They believe that some modus vIverult could he worked out, and they rely on the chances of rallying the peoples of Indo-China in the long run by calling on their traditional dread of China and their inherent dislike of Communism.
Vietnam fears that France may retain some practical control over it in spite of the recent agreements on Indo-China independence; that negotiations between France and Vietminh may result in advantages to France rather than to Vietnam; and. above all, that hopes of peace in the future may be destroyed by partition.