(born Jan. 3, 1901, Quang Binh province, Viet.—died Nov. 2, 1963, Cho Lon, S.Viet.) President of South Vietnam (1955–63). Of noble birth, Diem was on friendly terms with the Vietnamese imperial family and served as Emperor Bao Dai's minister of the interior (1933), but he resigned when the French would not accept his legislative reforms. He turned down an invitation to join Ho Chi Minh's forces and lived in self-imposed exile until invited back in 1954 by Bao Dai to serve as prime minister of South Vietnam. In 1955 he ousted the emperor and made himself president. He refused to carry out elections mandated by the Geneva Accords of 1954, ruled autocratically, and showed preference to fellow Roman Catholics in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. An unpopular leader, Diem was assassinated by his generals in 1963.
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Diem (nominative case: dies) translates to "day" in Latin and is used in several phrases: