Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 323

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Special Adviser to the United States Delegation (Bonsal)



  • Phoui Sananikone, Laotian Foreign Minister
  • Philip W. Bonsal


  • Problems of Laos at the Geneva Conference

Mr. Phoui came in at his request. He stated that recent reports from Vientiane as well as a conversation which he had had two or three days ago in Paris with the Crown Prince made him fear that perhaps the position of the Laotian Delegation in Geneva had been misunderstood. He was afraid that there had been reports to the effect that the Laotian Delegation here was disposed to compromise with the Communists and to accept claims for Laotian territory through the medium of regrouping zones.

Mr. Phoui then rehearsed the attitude of his delegation and pointed out that he had assumed from the first the position that peace in Laos would be restored after the foreign invaders withdrew and that the so-called resistance forces constituted a purely internal problem which could be solved through Laotian political mechanisms. He recalled that he had turned down a Vietminh proposal that the Laotian Government should be enlarged to include some of these resistance elements. He commented that even if the government were to make an agreement of this nature, the freely elected Laotian Assembly would probably refuse its approval.

I told Mr. Phoui that I had been aware of the strong position which he and his delegation had taken and that I thought it was in every way the correct one and one which should be maintained.

Mr. Phoui went on to tell me that the Crown Prince is very much worried about rumors to the effect that the French are abandoning the fight in Tonkin. The Crown Prince fears that a similar abandonment may take place in the case of Laos. Mr. Phoui asked me for my views on this possibility and also asked as to the possibility that Laos would find someone else, presumably the US, to protect her in the event the French abandoned her. I said that while the situation in Tonkin is militarily critical and difficult, I did not believe that one could argue by analogy with Tonkin in order to reach conclusions about Laos. I [Page 1304] said that it seemed to me most improbable that the French would, so long as the Laotian Government desired to continue the relationship, go back on their treaty obligations to defend Laos. I added that I was without authority to give him any indication as to what our attitude would be in this most unlikely event. I pointed, however, to our general policy of support for Laos and for other free nations when threatened with aggression.

Mr. Phoui stated that there is currently a point of difference between the French and the Laotian military representatives here. In considering the matter of separation of opposing native forces in Laos, the French view is that it might be desirable to concentrate all these forces in one area. On the other hand Mr. Phoui believes that it would be well to leave them in the half dozen provinces where they are since, if they are concentrated, they might be able to exercise a dominating influence in a given province with the result that that province might be permanently lost to the central administration. On the other hand, according to Mr. Phoui, if these forces are left dispersed as they are at present they will be unable, after the departure of their Vietminh supporters, to exercise any important influence. Mr. Phoui asked me for my view. In reply, I said that I could not express an opinion on the subject other than to reiterate to him my confidence in his judgment on this and other matters.