37. Laos (1954-present)

 

Crisis Phase (December 29, 1954-July 27, 1959): Laos formally achieved its independence from France on December 29, 1954.  The International Commission on Supervision and Control (ICSC-Laos I) chaired by India, which was established on August 11, 1954, continued to oversee and report on the implementation of the Geneva Accords.  The ICSC-Laos I consisted of 96 military and civilian personnel from Canada (32), Poland (32), and India (32).  Parliamentary elections were held in December 1955, and the Laotian Progressive Party (LPP) won 22 out of 39 seats in the National Assembly. The Laotian Independent Party (LIP) headed by Phoui Sananikone won seven seats in the National Assembly.  The Pathet Lao (Lao Homeland) claimed election fraud.  France provided military assistance (military advisors and training) to the government beginning in January 1955.  The U.S. provided economic and military assistance to the government beginning in January 1955.  The Lao People’s Party (LPP), later renamed the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP), was established with Kaysone Phomvihane as General-Secretary on March 22, 1955.  Prince Souvanna Phouma was selected as prime minister by the National Assembly on August 25, 1957. The Neo Lao Hak Sat was established in 1957. Parliamentary elections were held on May 4, 1958, and the Rally of the Lao People (Lao Luam Lao), which was formed as a result of a merger of the Laotian Nationalist Party (LNP) and the LIP, won 36 out of 59 seats in the National Assembly.  The ICSC-Laos I was disbanded on July 20, 1958.  The Neo Lao Hak Sat won nine seats in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Phouma resigned on July 23, 1958, and Phoui Sananikone formed a government as prime minister on August 19, 1958.  North Vietnamese troops intervened in support of the Pathet Lao in December 1958.  The US provided military assistance (military technicians) to the government beginning in January 1959.

Conflict Phase (July 28, 1959-June 12, 1962): Pathet Lao rebels and North Vietnamese troops launched a military offensive against government troops (Royal Lao Army-RLA) in northern Laos beginning on July 28, 1959. The government declared a state-of-emergency in Sam Neua and Phong Saly provinces on August 4, 1959. On September 3, 1959, the government accused North Vietnam of aggression after Pathet Lao rebels and North Vietnamese troops captured several villages in northern Laos. The government referred the matter to the United Nations (UN) Security Council on September 4, 1959. The UN Security Council established a four-member commission of inquiry (Argentina, Italy, Japan, Tunisia) headed by Shinichi Shibusawa of Japan on September 7, 1959.  King Sisavang Phoulivong (Sisavang Vong) died on October 29, 1959, and Crown Prince Savang Vatthana was formally proclaimed King on November 4, 1959. The UN commission of inquiry issued a report on November 6, 1959, which suggested that it could not find evidence that North Vietnamese troops had crossed the border into Laos. UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold appointed Sakari Tuomioja of Finland as special envoy to the country on November 15, 1959. Prime Minister Phoui Sananikone resigned on December 31, 1959, and Kou Abhay formed a government as prime minister on January 7, 1960. Edouard Zellweger of Switzerland replaced Sakari Tuomioja as the UN special envoy on March 1, 1960.  Parliamentary elections were held on April 24 and May 8, 1960, and right-wing candidates won 59 out of 59 seats in the National Assembly. Prime Minister Kou Abhay resigned on May 30, 1960, and Prince Tiao Somsanith formed a coalition government as prime minister on June 2, 1960.  Prime Minister Nosavan was overthrown in a military rebellion led by Captain Kong Le on August 9, 1960.  In opposition to the military rebellion, General Phoumi Nosavan declared martial law on August 10, 1960.  UN Special Envoy Edouard Zellweger mediated an agreement among the political factions on August 31, 1960, which resulted in the formation of a government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma on September 2, 1960. Government troops and right-wing rebels commanded by General Phoumi Nosavan clashed near Paksane on September 20-22, 1960, resulting in the deaths of 30 rebels and one government soldier.  General Phoumi Nosavan’s troops bombarded the capital of Vientiane on December 13-15, 1960, resulting in the deaths of some 500 civilians and 17 soldiers under the command of Captain Kong Le.  Captain Kong Le’s troops withdrew from Vientiane on December 16, 1960.  The Soviet Union provided military assistance (44 transport aircraft and military supplies) to Captain Kong Le’s faction in December 1960.  A coalition consisting of Captain Kong Le’s neutralist troops and Pathet Lao rebels launched a military offensive against government troops in northern Laos on January 1, 1961.  Thailand provided military assistance (T-6 military aircraft) to the government beginning on January 3, 1961.  Prince Boun Oum formed a government as prime minister on January 4, 1961. China provided military assistance (weapons and ammunition) to Pathet Lao rebels beginning in 1961.  The US provided additional military assistance (T-6 observation planes and helicopters) to the government on January 9, 1961. Pathet Lao rebels captured Ta Viang on January 14, 1961, and government troops captured Vang Vieng on January 16-17, 1961. President John Kennedy of the US appealed for a ceasefire on January 22, 1961.  Pathet Lao rebels launched a military offensive against the government on March 9, 1961. Britain and the Soviet Union jointly appealed for a ceasefire on April 24, 1961. The US provided additional military assistance (emergency airlift of weapons) in support of the government on April 26, 1961.  On May 1, 1961 the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC – Laos II) was established to monitor a potential ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Laos.  ICSC – Laos II consisted of 22 military personnel from Canada, India, and Poland.  The government and Pathet Lao agreed to a cessation of military hostilities on May 13, 1961.  President John Kennedy of the US mobilized naval ships in a display of military force in the Gulf of Siam, and mobilized some 5,000 troops in Thailand on May 12, 1962.  Switzerland facilitated negotiations involving 14 countries (Britain, France, Soviet Union, US, China, Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Burma, India, Thailand, Canada, and Poland) chaired by Britain and the Soviet Union in Geneva, Switzerland beginning on May 16, 1962. Government and Pathet Lao representatives signed a peace agreement in Khang Khay on June 12, 1962, which provided for the formation of a coalition government headed by Souvanna Phouma as prime minister.  Some 5,000 individuals were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (June 13, 1962-April 26, 1964): The Declaration and Protocol on the Neutrality of Laos was signed by the participants of the 14-nation conference on July 23, 1962, which provided for the neutrality of Laos and the withdrawal of troops from Laos to be monitored by the ICSC-Laos II.  U.S. troops began withdrawing from Laos on September 17, 1962, and some 800 US military advisors and technicians completed their withdrawal from the country on October 7, 1962. Prince Souvanna Phouma formed a provisional government as prime minister in 1962. Neutralist troops commanded by General Kong Le and Pathet Lao rebels clashed in the Plaine des Jarres region on March 30-April 13, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 200 individuals. Britain, Soviet Union, and the US appealed for a ceasefire in April 1963. Pathet Lao rebels captured Ban Kosi on April 16, 1963. Pathet Lao rebels and right-wing troops clashed in Savannakhet province on April 25, 1963, resulting in the deaths of 20 rebels. North Vietnam provided military assistance (weapons and military advisors), and deployed some 67,000 troops in support of the Pathet Lao beginning in January 1964. Pathet Lao rebels and right-wing troops clashed in north-central Laos on January 3, 1964, resulting in the deaths of 128 government soldiers. Pathet Lao rebels and North Vietnamese troops captured Na Kay from neutralist troops on January 23-31, 1964. The coalition government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma was overthrown in a right-wing military rebellion led by General Kouprasith Abhay on April 19, 1964, resulting in the deaths of two individuals. Britain, France, and the US expressed opposition to the military rebellion on April 19, 1964, and the Soviet Union condemned the military rebellion on April 20, 1964. Some 500 individuals were killed in political violence between May 1961 and April 1964.

Conflict Phase (April 27, 1964-February 22, 1973): Pathet Lao rebels resumed military hostilities against the government on April 27, 1964. Britain and the Soviet Union appealed for a ceasefire on April 29, 1964. Britain and the Soviet Union jointly condemned the military rebellion on May 1, 1964. Prince Souvanna Phouma was restored as prime minister on May 2, 1964. The US deployed military aircraft against Pathet Lao rebels beginning in May 1964, and some 1,000 US military advisors were deployed in support of the government in May 1964. China provided some 70,000 logistical and construction troops in support of the Pathet Lao from 1964 to 1975, and some 21,000 Chinese troops (anti-aircraft artillery forces) were deployed in support of the Pathet Lao from August 1969 to November 1973.  South Vietnam provided military assistance and troops in support of the Laotian government. Thailand provided military assistance in support of the Laotian government, and deployed some 15,000 troops in support of the Laotian government. France facilitated negotiations between government and Pathet Lao representatives in Paris in 1964, and the parties ended negotiations in Paris in October 1964. Government troops and Pathet Lao rebels resumed military hostilities on October 15, 1964. Government troops suppressed a right-wing military rebellion led by Colonel Bounleuth Sykosy on January 31-February 16, 1965, resulting in the deaths of 79 individuals. The US expressed support for the government of Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma on February 7, 1965. Indonesia provided military assistance to the Laotian neutralist troops led by General Kong Le beginning on August 11, 1965. Parliamentary elections were held on July 18, 1965, and the National Assembly convened on August 16, 1965. The National Assembly was dissolved on October 7, 1966. The government suppressed a military rebellion led by Brigadier-General Thao Ma on October 21-22, 1966, resulting in the deaths of some 30 individuals.  Government troops, supported by U.S. Air Force planes, attacked Pathet Lao troops in the Plaine des Jarres and Xieng Khoang regions.  Some 200 US military personnel were killed in Laos between January 1959 and December 1969, and some 270 Chinese soldiers were killed in Laos from 1964 to 1975.  Pathet Lao rebels and North Vietnamese troops launched a military offensive against government troops in the Plaine des Jarres region on February 11, 1970. Government troops and US military aircraft launched a military offensive against Pathet Lao rebels in the Plaine des Jarres region on January 7, 1972. Government and Pathet Lao representatives held negotiations beginning on October 17, 1972. Government and Pathet Lao representatives signed a ceasefire agreement in Vientiane on February 21, 1973, and the ceasefire went into effect on February 22, 1973. Some 25,000 individuals were killed, and some 400,000 individuals were internally-displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (February 23, 1973-December 31, 1975): Government troops suppressed a military rebellion led by Brig.-General Thao Ma on August 20-21, 1973, resulting in the deaths of some 20 individuals. The 12-member Provisional Government of National Union (PGNU) headed by Prime Souvanna Phouma and the 42-member Joint National Political Council (JNPC) headed by Prince Souphanouvong were established on April 5, 1974. Thai troops completed their withdrawal from the country on June 1, 1974.  US military advisors completed their withdrawal from the country on June 3, 1974.  ICSC-Laos II was disbanded on June 30, 1974.  The government decided to dissolve the National Assembly on July 10, 1974, but the National Assembly was not dissolved until April 13, 1975. King Savang Vatthana abdicated on November 29, 1975.  The Kingdom of Laos was abolished, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos (PDRL) was proclaimed with Prince Souphanouvong as president on December 2, 1975.  Kaysone Phomvihan, secretary-general of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP), formed a government as prime minister on December 4, 1975.  The US imposed economic sanctions (trade embargo) against the government in December 1975.  Some 200,000 Hmong tribesmen fled as refugees to Thailand.

Conflict Phase (January 1, 1976-January 31, 1992):  Hmong tribesmen launched an insurgency against the goverment beginning in January 1976.  Government troops, supported by some 40,000 Vietnamese troops, launched military offensives against Hmong tribesmen in Xieng Khouang province from October 1977 to November 18, 1978, resulting in the deaths of some 5,000 individuals.  The World Bank (WB) provided reconstruction assistance to the government between December 27, 1977 and June 30, 1997.  Former Prime Minister Phoui Sananikone and other right-wing exiles established the Royal Government of Free Laos in Perpignan, France on October 14, 1978. Some 350,000 Laotians fled as refugees to Thailand and other countries between 1975 and 1982.  China provided military assistance (arms and military training) to the Hmong tribesmen in 1979 and 1980.  Amnesty International (AI) condemned the Laotian government on April 16, 1980.  General Vang Pao, a member of the Hmong tribe, established the Lao National Liberation Front (LNLF) in 1981.  The UNLF headed by General Phoumi Nosavan formed the Royal Lao Democratic Government in Bangkok, Thailand on August 18, 1982.  Hmong insurgents attacked and killed some 40 Vietnamese and government soldiers in Saravane province in southern Laos on May 14, 1984.  President Souphanouvong stepped down due to ill health, and Phoumi Vongvichit was appointed as Acting President on October 31, 1986.  Elections for district councils were held on June 26, 1988, and elections for provincial councils were held on November 20, 1988.  Parliamentary elections were held on March 26, 1989, and the LPRP won 55 out of 79 seats in the Supreme People’s Assembly.  Some Vietnamese troops were withdrawn from the country in 1988.  The National Assembly adopted a new constitution, and elected Kaysone Phomvihan as president on August 14, 1991. Government troops and Hmong insurgents clashed near Vientiane in January 1992.  Some 100,000 Hmong tribesmen died as a result of government policies between 1975 and 1992.

Post-Conflict Phase (February 1, 1992-present):  President Phomvihan died on November 21, 1992, and Nouhak Phoumsavan was elected president by the National Assembly on November 25, 1992. Parliamentary elections were held on December 20, 1992, and the LPRP won 85 out of 85 seats in the National Assembly.  A new constitution went into effect in 1994.  Former president, Prince Souphanouvong, died on January 9, 1995.  The US lifted economic sanctions (trade embargo) against the government in 1995.  Parliamentary elections were held on December 21, 1997, and the LPRP won 99 out of 99 seats in the National Assembly. General Khamtai Siphandon of the LPRP was elected president by the National Assembly on February 24, 1998, and Sisavath Keobounphanh was approved as prime minister on February 24, 1998. Hmong tribesmen killed three individuals in Paxai district in Xieng Khouang province in October 1998.  On July 3, 2000, Hmong insurgents attacked a government customs office in Vang Tao, resulting in the deaths of six insurgents.  Parliamentary elections were held on February 24, 2002, and the LPRP won 108 out of 109 seats in the National Assembly.  Hmong tribesmen killed ten individuals south of Vientiane on February 6, 2003.  Hmong tribesmen killed twelve individuals on the border of Luang Prabang province and Viengchan province on April 20, 2003.  Hmong tribesmen killed six individuals in northern Laos on June 7, 2003.  Parliamentary elections were held on April 30, 2006, and the LPRP won 113 out of 115 seats in the National Assembly.  The National Assembly elected Choummaly Sayasone as president on June 8, 2006.  President Choummaly Sayasone appointed Bouasone Bouphavanh as prime minister on June 8, 2006.  Some 50,000 individuals have been killed and some 400,000 individuals have been displaced during the conflict.

[Sources: Associated Press (AP), March 27, 2000, July 3, 2000, August 7, 2000, June 27, 2003; Banks and Muller, 1998, 520-524; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 93; Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1997, 183-185; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), July 2, 2003; Butterworth, 1976, 240-246, 345-348; Clodfelter, 1992, 1127-1131; Degenhardt, 1988, 207-208; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 106-111; Facts on File, January 1-11, 1961, January 12-18, 1961, April 27-May 3, 1961, June 7-13, 1962, October 11-17, 1962, April 4-10, 1963, April 11-17, 1963, January 9-15, 1964, January 30-February 5, 1964, April 16-22, 1964, April 23-29, 1964, May 14-20, 1964, January 28-February 3, 1965, February 4-10, 1965, August 26-September 1, 1965, October 20-26, 1966, February 18-24, 1973, August 19-25, 1973; Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), January 1, 1970; Jessup, 1998, 416-418; Keesing’s Record of World Events, July 25-August 1, 1959, September 12-19, 1959, December 5-12, 1959, December 26, 1959-January 2, 1960, February 6-13, 1960, June 11-18, 1960, October 29-November 5, 1960, August 24-31, 1963, December 3-10, 1966, July 18-25, 1970, May 29-June 5, 1971, April 16-22, 1973, April 22-28, 1974, August 18-24, 1975, January 30, 1976, November 20, 1981, March 1989, August 1991, November 1992, December 1992, December 1997, February 1998; Langer, 1972, 1332-1334; LeBar and Suddard 1960; New York Times, May 27, 1984; San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 2003; Rovine, 1970, 305-309; Time Magazine, April 28, 2003; Wainhouse, 1966, 390-393, 501-512; Weisburd, 1997, 179-182; Zhang, 2002, 1141-1166.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Adams, Nina S. 1970. “Patrons, Clients, and Revolutionaries: The Lao Search for Independence, 1945-1954,” In Nina S.
Adams and Alfred W. McCoy, editors. Laos: War and Revolution. New York and London: Harper & Row, Publishers.

LeBar, Frank M. and Adrienne Suddard, editors. 1960. Laos: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture. New Haven, CT: Hraf Press.

Zasloff, Joseph J. and Leonard Unger. 1991. Laos: Beyond the Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press.