Hoa Hao - History

History

Huỳnh Phú Sổ faced a great deal of trouble when he began to spread the ideas of his religion, a large part of which was Vietnamese nationalism, a dangerous idea in that time of French colonial rule. He was famously put in a lunatic asylum because of his preaching, but supposedly converted his doctor to the Hòa Hảo belief. As the popularity of Hòa Hảo grew, Huỳnh Phú Sổ made a series of prophecies about the political future of Vietnam. He said that the "true king" would return to lead Vietnam to freedom and prosperity, which caused most Hòa Hảo to support the Nguyễn pretender: Marquis Cường Để, living abroad in Japan.

During World War II, the Hòa Hảo supported the Japanese occupation and planned for Cường Để to become Emperor of Vietnam. However, this never happened and the Hòa Hảo came into conflict with the communists both because the Việt Minh were anti-Japanese and because of their Marxist opposition to all religion. During the State of Vietnam (1949–1955), they made arrangements with the Head of State Bảo Đại, much like those made by the Cao Đài religion and the Bình Xuyên gang, which were in control of their own affairs in return for their nominal support of the Bảo Đại regime. In fact, the control of this government by France meant that most Hòa Hảo opposed it.

When America began pushing for Ngô Đình Diệm to run South Vietnam, the most powerful groups to concern the Americans were the Cao Đài, the Bình Xuyên and the Hòa Hảo, which had formed a small private army under General Ba Cụt. O.S.S. Colonel Edward Lansdale used bribery with CIA funds to split the Hòa Hảo and in 1956 General Dương Văn Minh crushed the Hòa Hảo and General Ba Cụt was captured and beheaded in public. This was the end of the Hòa Hảo as an armed group – some later joined the Việt Cộng in opposition to the Diệm regime. After Diem was deposed and killed, the Hoa Hao changed their emphasis from anti-Diệm to anti-Communist. During the early years of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, An Giang province and its capital Long Xuyên were among the few places in the Mekong Delta where Viet Cong activity was minimal and American and South Vietnamese troops could move without fear of sniper attack. After the war, the Hòa Hảo were allowed to remain, but like all religions, under strict Communist control.

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