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Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president of South Vietnam in 1967, but was forced to flee when his government surrendered to the North in 1975.
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He had chosen to base his government on military rather than popular support.
This decision was further reinforced when Thieu pressed through an election law on June 3, 1971,
which would limit the number of presidential candidates. The bill—designed to cut the number of presidential candidates to give the winner a more convincing majority—stipulated that prospective presidential candidates must have their nomination papers endorsed either by 40 deputies or senators or by 100 members of elected provincial councils. Thieu consequently entered the South Vietnamese presidential elections with only one opponent, former general Duong Van Minh, who later withdrew.
The war's unpopularity in the U.S. grew strong, and following the Paris Peace Talks, the U.S. agreed to withdraw its forces in April 1973. Thieu's government survived only two more years. With the North Vietnamese Army encircling Saigon, Thieu officially resigned on April 21, 1975, and fled South Vietnam five days later. He turned the government over to Vice President Tran Van Huong, but Huong resigned seven days later, turning the office over to Duong Van Minh, who was considered acceptable to the North Vietnamese. Minh officially surrendered as North Vietnamese tanks rammed through the gates of the presidential palace on April 30, 1975.
Thieu originally took refuge in Taiwan, but later moved to London, where he lived for several years. He led a very quite life, avoiding the limelight, and granting few interviews. He later moved to the United States, living in an affluent suburb in Boston, Massachusetts. Slowly, he began to re-emerge, traveling to portions of the world, talking with sympathetic groups in 1989 and '90.
In a November 1990 interview with TIME magazine, Thieu stated he was keeping in contact with expatriates, and was organizing groups to support change in Vietnam. He said he no longer wanted a leadership position there ("I am old, too old to take power again"), but wanted to lend his experience to those pushing for reforms. He said he hoped to return again someday to his homeland.
As of 1996, Thieu was still living near Boston, holding to a quiet life. He told a reporter, "I read. I discuss. I work in my home." Thieu died on September 29, 2001 at his home in Massachusetts. He was 78.
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