751G.02/2–1350: Telegram

The Officer in Charge at Saigon (Folsom) to the Secretary of State


109. Contel 107, Feb 11.2 [From Abbott.] Gullion and I received Vientiane with full honors. Text President’s message to King Laos3 delivered Crown Prince Savang in presence Cabinet court officials and (in contrast Dalat and Phnompenh) local French officials. Savang cultured gentleman who has been twice to US and familiar world political problems. Understands ideological background our struggle with Communists and accepts position Laos as outpost. Admitted great bulk population did not and could not follow subtleties opposing propaganda and would tend align themselves with side which appeared strongest. Issaqak movement practically ended with surrender week [Page 728] before to him of last band numbering 169. This will greatly facilitate rounding up Viet Minh and Chinese agitators who can no longer pose as affiliates Issarak movement.

Admitted problem lack personnel for new administration Republican Assembly French Union, diplomatic service, etc. (Acting Commissaire Regnier said lycée only graduated twelve persons last year although had facilities for many more.) Savang foresees difficult time at interstate conference but said Laos could not take sides in Vietnam Cambodian rivalry. Bulk Viet minority fled to Siam when French returned and show no tendency come back (only 800 out of 10,000 Viets remain Vientiane).

Prime Minister Prince Bonn Oum said chief problem lack communications. Want free ports on Annam coast and completion projected railroad over mountains to Vinh. Also demand autonomous customs service although willing to have customs union. Question courts and justice not important.

Savang admitted discontent fierce Meo hill tribes northeast Laos and increasing Viet Minh propaganda among them but said he had called all Meo Chiefs to Luangprabang early February and after prolonged talks felt confident their loyalty. (Missionary sources say root difficulty price opium chief money crop of Meos.)

Prince said planned send 18 year old, eldest son and heir to school US when he finishes present studies Paris.

Regnier said fundamental problem Laos lack population and laziness people. Crops had been good except immediate area Vientiane and population generally content as needs were few. Laos Government had been insistent obtain same concessions Viet Cambodia but were now reluctant take over actual responsibilities. Only 29 percent budget or direct French subsidies [sic]. His chief problem lack military equipment. Has only one Junker transport plane, no scout cars other needed land transport. Organization Lao army would be slow first priority being given gendarmerie.

Sent Dept 109, Dept pass Paris 52. [Abbott.]

  1. Time of transmittal not indicated on the source text.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For text, see telegram 59 to Saigon, February 4, p. 720.