The car seen in the background has been saved and still be viewed
Thich Quang Duc, real name Lam Van Tuc, was born in a rural part of Vietnam in 1897. At the age of 7 he entered the religious life becoming a disciple of the Zen master Hoang Tham. At twenty he officially became a buddhist monk spending the next decade and a half in the remote Ninh Hoa Mountains.He came back in 1932 and started teaching Buddhism and also spending time rebuilding Buddhist pagodas. By 1942 he had rebuilt 20 pagodas and the same year moved to Saigon where he settled into the Quan The Am temple eventually becoming the Head of rituals Committee of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation.
(6) & (7)
During this time, this was when it was Vietnam’s time as a French Colony. Catholicism spread throughout South Vietnam. The colonial government favored Catholics for significant positions in the government, army, and police. These actions approved by Diem oppressed the 80% Buddhist monks in the country. They were being discriminated in schools and jobs. Protesting monks or nuns were beaten, detained and tortured by Diem’s secreet police. In the fight against the communist, it was the Catholics who were given weapons to fight the Viet cong. It was the intense religious persecution that Thich Quang Duc decided to burned himself to death at a busy intersection in downtown Saigon, Vietnam. As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him (6) & (7).
After the Quang Duc’s protest, his body was burned again when his fellow monks cremated him. The monks say that his body was reduced to ashes except for his heart. Although burned in the fire, it was still intact. The monks declared the organ Holy and is still kept as a holy artifact by the them. (6)
On June 8, 1972, in the village of Trang Bang, a couple of soldiers asked a group of people to hide in the Cao Dai temple. But after a few moments, soldiers told everyone to leave the temple and run. It was a South Vietnam aerial attack on suspected Viet Cong locations. They dropped 4 napalm bombs. Nick Ut photographed this picture of a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc. While she was trying to run away from her village, she got caught on fire by the napalm. The fire had burned off all her clothes. She ran down the Road No. 1 from Saigon to Phnom Penh screaming in fear and pain. She was helped by a soldier who gave her a drink of water and poured some water over her body not knowing that a burn from a Napalm will only burn deeper. After that, Kim Phuc became unconscious. Kim Phuc was then rushed to the hospital for immediate care. She did not have consciousness until several days after. Kim Phuc spent 14 months in the hospital and had 17 operations (11).
Although Kim Phuc was badly burned, she survived. She experienced after effects from the burn. She suffered from pain, itching, and headaches. Being in the hospital for a long period of time, made Kim Phuc dream about being a doctor. She started her studies, but then a local government who wanted Kim as a symbol of the state cut her studies short (11).
Although her face and hands were untouched by fire, after several months in the hospital and several operations, she is now badly scarred on her arms and back. She is now 48 living in Toronto with her husband and children (12).
After many years of anger and pain, Kim Phuc has manage to forgive everyone who did this to her. Kim said that if she ever met the pilot who dropped the bomb on her village, she would tell him, “we cannot change history, but at least we can try and do our best to promote peace.” (12)
By 1997, Kim Phus has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (13).
Interview with Kim Phuc:
Kim Phuc Today