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Khanh steps down

Nguyen Khanh steps down as president of South Vietnam and Xuan Oanh, former professor at Trinity College in Connecticut, is named prime minister. Khanh had been a major player in the instability that followed the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. This period was marked by ten successive governments in Saigon within 18 months. A military junta headed by General Duong Van Minh as chief of state assumed control of the government upon Diem’s death. On January 30, 1964, Khanh, a 37-year-old Major General, led a bloodless coup against Minh, but allowed him to stay on as titular head of state. What followed was a series of governments, none of which was able to govern; one Johnson administration official suggested that the coat of arms of the South Vietnamese government should be a turnstile.

With the passing of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution earlier in August, General Khanh sought to take advantage of the new situation. He promoted himself to the presidency, hastily issued a new constitution, and dismissed former figurehead chief of state Minh. These moves were answered by protests when students and Buddhist took to the streets demonstrating against Khanh’s new government and the continuing influence of Catholics in the government. Khanh spoke with some of the demonstrators but said he would have to discuss their complaints with U.S. ambassador Maxwell Taylor. Two days later, he resigned. The Military Revolutionary Council made up of top South Vietnamese generals met to choose a new head of state. They chose a triumvirate of Generals Khanh, Minh, and Tran Thien Kheim as an interim government to restore order. Xuan Oanh was chosen prime minister of the new government, but Khanh retained the premiership. However, he was ousted in February 1965 by Generals Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu. Khanh then went to the United States and settled in Palm Beach, Florida. Washington had watched the political instability in South Vietnam with great alarm and hoped that Ky and Thieu could establish a viable government that would fight the communists.


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