Phan Quang Dan

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Phan Quang Dan () was an early to mid-20th century Vietnamese nationalist and friend of Bao Dai. In the 1940s, he had been in the Dai Viet nationalist party. He had a medical degree from Harvard, and was reported to have worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War.

He was allied with Nguyen Tuong Tan, an early VNQDD nationalist and leader of the Greater Vietnam People's Rule party.

Opposition activities in 1956-7

Returning to the RVN in September, 1955 to form an opposition slate for the March 1956 National Assembly elections, he was arrested just before the elections, accused of communist and colonialist activities, and his position at the University of Saigon Medical School was cancelled. [1]

He formed another coalition in May 1957, the Democratic Bloc, which owned the Thoi Luan newspaper. It became the best-selling newspaper, but, after criticizing the government, its offices were destroyed by a mob in September. It contined publishing until March 1958, when closed by the GVN. Permission to form a new Free Democratic Party and publish a newsper were not acted upon. He published an article, in March 1959, in the newspaper Tin Bac, which was shut down; the same thing happened to Nguoi Viet Tu Do in June. [1]

1959 elections

After the August 1959 legislative elections, where he won the greatest plurality of any candidate,[2] he was one of only two opposition ministers in the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem did not want him seated, as he considered Dan a demagogue and he was suspicious of demagoguery. U.S. Ambassador Elbridge Durbrow had told Diem that the idea of a loyal opposition would be helpful internationally for Vietnam, but the idea was unattractive to Diem. Durbrow later said, "We should be prepared to acknowledge to ourselves that even over the longer term, democracy in the Western sense of the term may never come to exist in Vietnam. We should look with tolerance at [the government's] attempts to establish a political system that it considers in conformance with local traditions and needs. We should not try to make over Vietnam in our own image." [3]

Arrest for coup plotting

Diem later arrested Dan, as advising a group planning a coup in November, 1960.[1] The International Commission of Jurists, in 1961, expressed concern over his disappearance after the coup of November 11, 1960. The ICJ described him as leader of the Democratic Party of South Vietnam.[4] He was freed after the fall of Diem.[1]

Return to government, 1968

In 1967, when the government of Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky was formed after Thieu's efforts to ban Ky,[5] internal U.S. documents emphasized the need to include opposition. Phan Quang Dan, Tran Van Huong, and Nguyen Luu Vien were specifically mentioned. [6]

Dan was named to the government of Prime Minister Tran Van Huong in 1968. Huong had been the vice-president for the ailing General Nguyen Van Thieu. Dan became the minister dealing with defectors.[7] Four weeks later, he was stripped of the post for an allegedly treasonous statement. He had told a U.S. audience, that the Saigon government should be more liberal in agreeing to talks with the Vietcong. "Either you kill them all or you talk to them, and killing all of them is impossible." [8]

Later, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs and deputy Prime Minister for social welfare and refugees in post-Diem governments. He was head of the Ministry of Social Welfare and responsible for Operation Babylift in 1975. He came to the U.S. after the fall of South Vietnam.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 , [ Volume 1, Chapter 5, "Origins of the Insurgency in South Vietnam, 1954-1960" Section 3, pp. 314-346], The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 1
  2. Jamieson, Neil L., Understanding Vietnam, pp. 238-239
  3. Moyar, Mark (2006), Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965, Cambridge University Press, p. 76
  4. International Commission of Jurists, Vietnam - Dr. Phan-Quang-Dan's Disappearance
  5. "South Viet Nam: No Longer a Choice", Time, September 13, 1971
  6. William J. Jorden (National Security Staff), [Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967 Memorandum to Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Walt Rostow, "Priorities in Viet Nam under a New Government], Document 304
  7. "Some Old, Some New", Time, May 31, 1968
  8. Purnell, Karl M. (August 26, 1968), "Operation Self-Destruction: Planes Over Saigon", The Nation