Since its inception in 1946, the Social-Democratic Party operated as a political unit of the Hịa Hảo community. Subsequently, the party became closely affiliated with the dissident faction of L Quang Vinh. In 1954 as L Quang Vinh once again defected to dissidence, the government of Ngơ Đình Diệm revoked the status of the Social-Democratic Party.
In 1955, Phan Bá Cầm and Nguyễn Bảo Toàn filed an application to re-register the Social-Democratic Party. It should be pointed out that on April 28, 1955 Nguyễn Bảo Toàn, general secretary of the Social-Democratic Party, was elected chairman of the Peoples Revolutionary Committee, or Hội đồng Nhân dân Cách mạng. The Committee aimed at helping Ngô Đình Diệm in his violent confrontation with the Bình Xuyên forces and the United Front of the Nationalist Forces. Hồ Hán Sơn became deputy chairman of the Committee while Nhị Lang was named as its general secretary. However, shortly afterwards, Nguyễn Bảo Toàn had to seek political asylum in the United States, Nhị Lang fled to Cambodia, while Hồ Hán Sơn was murdered under barbaric circumstances.
Nguyễn Bảo Toàn was not a follower of Hòa Hảo Buddhism as widely believed. He originated from a Catholic family, which lived in Long Kiến village, Long Xuyên province. In 1946 he joined the central committee of the Social-Democratic Party. In fact, it was a bold move by Huỳnh Phú Sổ, which was designed to demonstrate that the Hòa Hảo community was willing to cooperate with followers of different faiths.
Despite Nguyễn Bảo Toàns assistance to Ngô Đình Diệm in late April 1955 the Social-Democratic Party became the subject of brutal reprisals. Nguyễn Bảo Toàn also fell victim to the secret police of the First Republic.
In the aftermath of the November 11, 1960 failed coup attempt, Nguyễn Bảo Toàn was placed on top of Diệms secret police most wanted list. Moreover, the authorities promised 1.5-million-dong reward to anyone for help in detaining the leader of the Social-Democratic Party. Đức Thụ (Bà). Tâm thư gửi Lê Văn Tết và Trịnh Đình Thảo. Tập chí Việt Nam Tự Do, No 1, 06/09/1981.
In early November 1962, Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyễn Văn Minh, An Giang province chief, discovered a network of Nguyễn Bảo Toàns hideouts following an arrest and interrogation of one local member of the Social-Democratic Party. Subsequently, Đào Quang Hiển, head of Diệms Intelligence Service, or Sở Trung ương Tình Báo, became involved. His deputy in charge of special operations, Trần Bửu Liêm, first managed to detain Nguyễn Bảo Toàns liaison assistants. On November 13, 1962, Nguyễn Bảo Toàn and Phạm Xuân Gia, aka Màng, were arrested in Nguyễn Tri Phương district of Chợ Lớn and were kept at a secret detention center, Hoạt vụ IV, under the supervision of Khưu Văn Hai.
Consequently, the government ordered the elimination of Nguyễn Bảo Toàn and Phạm Xuân Gia. Trần Bửu Liêm assigned 11 trusted officers to carry out the secret execution. In early January 1963, Nguyễn Bảo Toàn and Phạm Xuân Gia were murdered by strangulation. Around 1-2 AM their bodies were tied to cement blocks and sunk in Nhà Bè River near the Tân Thuận Bridge. Nguyệt Đam, Thần Phong. Chín năm máu lửa dưới chế độ gia đình trị Ngô Đình Diệm. Saigon, 1964, pp. 187-189; 325-327.
Moreover, Diệms secret police also targeted Hòa Hảo activists. Notably, in 1962, four trusted assistants of Huỳnh Công Bộ were abducted and murdered. Trần Văn Tập, Lê Hoài Nam (aka Trương Văn Kỉnh), Huỳnh Thiện Tứ, Huỳnh Hữu Thiện and their driver Nguyễn Văn Dánh left Hòa Hảo village. They drove Huỳnh Công Bộs private car to Saigon. All of them disappeared and their whereabouts remained a mystery until the demise of Diệms regime.
As secret police files became available to the general public in the wake of the Ngô clans downfall in November 1963, the Hòa Hảo community discovered what had happened. It turned out that the four Hòa Hảo activists and their driver were followed by the secret police and arrested in Saigon. They were tortured as the secret police were keen to find out their real mission. And finally, they were murdered and their bodies were disposed in the Nhà Bè River.
The authorities of the Second Republic filed criminal charges and the perpetrators were sentenced to long prison terms. During the trial, the defendants revealed details of the murder: Khưu Văn Hai stated that in October 1962 he had received an order to arrest the Hòa Hảo activists from Đào Quang Hiển and Captain Huỳnh Ngọc Thạch, assistant of the National Police chief. Shortly afterwards, Đào Quang Hiển ordered the elimination of the Hòa Hảo mission. Khưu Văn Hai assigned Huỳnh Phước Bang who murdered the Hòa Hảo activists by strangulation in Phú Xuân area, some 150 meters from the bank of Nhà Bè River. Subsequently, the bodies were stuffed into duffle bags, with rocks and sunk in the Nhà Bè River Nguyệt Đam, Thần Phong. Chín năm máu lửa dưới chế độ gia đình trị Ngô Đình Diệm. Saigon, 1964, pp. 322-325.
These tragic incidents suggest that the Hòa Hảo Buddhist community had no freedom to operate in the country ruled by Ngô Đình Diệm. Although the regime did not come up with any formal prohibition or restrictions, the Hòa Hảo congregation became a target of oppression and injustice.