Parents of Vietnam’s Mme. Nhu Found Dead in Washington : Son Held in Murder of Diem Diplomats

From Times Wire Services

The son of an exiled former South Vietnamese ambassador to the United States was arrested Friday and charged with murdering his parents, District of Columbia police said.

Khiem Tran Van, 60, reported finding the bodies of his parents, Tran Van Chuong, 88, and Nam-Tran Chuong, 76, in their home Thursday, police spokesman Charles Randolph said. He was arrested at the home of his parents and was to be arraigned today in Superior Court.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but laboratory tests performed Friday indicated that the couple, the parents of “Dragon Lady” Madame Nhu, died of asphyxiation.


Both Resigned Posts

In August, 1963, Chuong resigned his post as South Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, protesting what he said was the Diem government’s mistreatment of Buddhists. His wife also resigned as South Vietnam’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

The Chuong’s daughter--the controversial Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu--and her late husband, South Vietnam’s security chief, were considered the tough backbone of the Diem government.

Madame Nhu served as first lady for her bachelor brother-in-law, South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem.

In his letter of resignation to Diem, Chuong took issue with the contention of his daughter and her husband that a crackdown on the Buddhists was necessary because of their growing opposition to the Diem-Nhu regime.

Controversial Comment

Buddhist clergymen were at the forefront of protests against the Diem government and several Buddhist priests immolated themselves.

In reaction, Madame Nhu said she would “clap hands at seeing another monk barbecue show, for one cannot be responsible for the madness of others.”

At the time of his resignation, Chuong described himself as a Confucian. His wife was known as a devout Buddhist. Their daughter was converted to Catholicism.

The Diem government was toppled in a coup in November, 1963, and Diem and his brother were killed. Madame Nhu fled Saigon, apparently settling in Italy.