Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 323

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

secret

Participants:

  • Major Mathieu, Member Franco-Laotian Delegation for Military Talks with Vietminh
  • Philip W. Bonsal

Subject:

  • Cessation of Hostilities in Laos

I saw Major Mathieu briefly during the interval at today’s restricted session. He expressed general optimism regarding the outlook for the military talks with the Vietminh on the situation in Laos. From the military point of view, the problem would probably be solved by having the so-called Laotian resistants, once the Vietminh invaders have withdrawn, integrated into the Royal Laotian army. In Major [Page 1321] Mathieu’s opinion, this can be done without great danger since there are only some 1500 men involved.

From the political point of view, the problem is more complicated. The Laotian Government’s position is that it is willing to grant complete amnesty to those who have borne arms against the government and to permit these people the full exercise of their political rights as Laotian citizens at the next elections. According to Major Mathieu, however, something more is required to meet the need of the Vietminh for some sort of face-saving device which will permit them to climb down from their former exaggerated position with regard to the Pathet Lao.

Major Mathieu stated that what is now being considered is the possibility of constituting a committee some of whose members would be Ministers of the Laotian Government and others representatives of the Pathet Lao. The mission of this committee would be to study the political situation and to make recommendations for over-all political pacification of the country. In view of the well-known Laotian temperament, Major Mathieu believes that such a committee would promote harmony in a framework of security for the present government.

I said that I was glad that there was no question of a coalition government or of giving the Pathet Lao elements any authority in any area of Laos. I referred briefly to the well-known talent of Communists for infiltration and subversion. I said that off hand it seemed to me that if the committee which Major Mathieu discussed is to be constituted, it would be better if the representatives on the Laotian side could be well below the rank of Ministers. There would thus be avoided any appearance that the Laotian Government was treating the Pathet Lao movement as an equal. I said that perhaps the Laotian governmental side might be made up of some members of the Laotian National Assembly and that it should be understood that the function of the committee would be merely to make some recommendations which would be submitted to the Laotian Government for its consideration but which would have no binding character whatever. Major Mathieu said he thought well of this idea.