13. French Indochina/Laos (1945-1954)

Crisis Phase (September 1, 1945-December 31, 1952):  Laotian nationalists, known as the Lao Issara (Lao Freedom), led by Prince Phetsarath declared Laotian independence from France on September 1, 1945.  The Lao Issara established a provisional legislature on October 12, 1945.  French troops clashed with Lao Issara troops led by Prince Souphanouvong (“Red Prince”) near Savannakhet on March 21, 1946, resulting in the deaths of some 700 Lao Issara soldiers.  French troops re-captured Vientiane on April 24, 1946, and largely regained control of the Laos on September 23, 1946.  Elections for a constituent assembly were held in December 1946.  The Constituent Assembly was convened by the French colonial government on March 15, 1947, and a new constitution went into effect on May 11, 1947.  Elections for the 35-member National Assembly were held in August 1947.  The National Assembly convened in Vientiane on November 26, 1947. French government and Laotian nationalist representatives signed an agreement in Paris on July 19, 1949, which provided for the recognition of Laos as an independence state within the French Union. The Lao People’s Liberation Army (LPLA) was established by Kaysone Phomvihane on January 20, 1949.  The group Lao Issara was disbanded on October 24, 1949.  The Laotian Freedom Movement (Neo Lao Issara – NLI) was established in November 1950.  Souvanna Phouma formed a government as prime minister on November 21, 1951.  Laotian nationalists, known as the Pathet Lao (“Land of Laos”), declared the independence of Laos from France.

J. Monaghan French Indochina Imperialism Project timeline | Timetoast

Conflict Phase (January 1, 1953-August 5, 1954):  Pathet Lao rebels, along with some 40,000 Viet Minh troops commanded by General Vo Nguyen Giap, occupied parts of northern Laos beginning on April 16, 1953.  The government of Switzerland facilitated negotiations between French and Laotian representatives in Geneva between April 26 and July 21, 1954. The parties agreed to a ceasefire on July 21, 1954, and the ceasefire went into effect on August 6, 1954.

Post-Conflict Phase (August 6, 1954-December 29, 1954): On August 11, 1954, the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC-Laos I) was established to monitor the ceasefire agreement and to supervise the disengagement of French and  Laotian military forces.  ICSC-Laos I consisted of some 500 personnel from Canada, India, and Poland.  Katay Don Sasorith formed a government as prime minister on October 20, 1954.  Under the Geneva Agreements, France agreed to recognize the independence of the Kingdom of Laos on December 29, 1954.

[Sources: Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 53-54; Keesing’s Record of World Events, June 6-13, 1953.]


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.

Thakur, Ramesh. 1984. Peacekeeping in Vietnam: Canada, India, Poland, and the International Commission. Edmonton,
Alberta: The University of Alberta Press.

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