200. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State 1

752. Department pass CINCPAC POLAD for information. Department pouch London, Paris. Reference Deptel 482.2

Phoui government’s first two months in office are insufficient to give full evaluation of its capabilities because of:
Its overriding preoccupation with monetary reform;
The prolonged Assembly debate which absorbed much of Prime Minister’s time; and
Extended absence of Katay during this period as well as shorter absence of two CDNI Cabinet members, Khamphan Panya and Sisouk.
Nevertheless Phoui has given proof of political courage and exceptional tactical ability in pushing through unpopular measures, of willingness to cooperate with US and of coming to grips with important problems of country.
He has shown himself willing and able to cooperate with CDNI members and give them the mature leadership required to afford them an opportunity to work towards ends for which Committee was created. While Rally of Lao People has not given any indications of trying to develop itself and evolve more strongly as a live political organization, CDNI has displayed a certain vitality which if upheld may turn it into a most important anti-Communist political grouping within next few months.
Of other Cabinet members, Minister Education Bong appears very friendly to us and I believe we can work with him. Secretaries State for Defense Khoranok has proven himself a positive element in Cabinet, although it not sure how much scope Minister Defense Katay will grant him. As foreseen, Secretaries State Liep, Tan and Pan carry virtually no weight and cannot be expected to play role of any consequence. While Cabinet admittedly technically weak, believe it can be shored up, as Phoui has himself suggested by appointment certain of former more able Ministers as administrators of major programs such as rural development.
Government will almost certainly survive this session of Assembly so that there now appears to be good prospects it will continue in office until next normal session beginning May 11, when parliamentary game and whetted appetites of those out of office will probably again place its existence in jeopardy. (However, were serious dissensions to divide Cabinet, Assembly may be constitutionally recalled at request its Standing Committee.)
Possible stumbling block to continuing unity of Cabinet under Phoui remains Katay. As he has been away large part of period, his attitudes toward this government and his role within it have not yet been defined. If he proves a maverick, survival this government will be in doubt; but if he proves willing to work within its framework, as at least he apparently has been on monetary reform, this Cabinet may well be one with which US can most fruitfully work right through until next elections. Two big questions will be (1) whether it can survive after Assembly reconvenes and (2) whether through its accomplishments and political sagacity it can place itself in a position to provide and enforce the most effective possible single slate for the next elections.
If next general elections are held in December 1959 as proposed at present, dry season, which is now beginning will be last during which certain types of development work (i.e., roads) can be undertaken before start of electoral campaign. Therefore if Phoui’s anti-Communist Cabinet is to give country benefits of good government sufficient to win and hold loyalty Lao people against Communism, decisions on programs in various fields—rural development, public works, education, etc., must be taken now and work on these programs started as soon as possible. These programs are dependent on US guidance, encouragement and support. Therefore it imperative that at this juncture US representatives be prepared to come forth boldly and imaginatively to make it possible for Phoui government to point at end of this dry season to appreciable concrete accomplishments, as proof that an anti-Communist RLG can achieve results and that cooperation with US remains best policy.
In sum while Phoui government still presents uncertainties, it gives us our best fighting chance for the next six months at least and indeed offers us good reason to hope that it or a similar successor government can win out against a legal Communist takeover in the next elections. However it is certain that unless US is prepared to give it timely continuing and adequate support, and above all encouragement and confidence that it can hope to succeed, it will fail in its task. It is therefore recommended that in counting the necessary cost in terms of political and administrative inconvenience as well as dollars, [Page 488] of such current all-out support as will be required to win, we constantly bear in mind the added costs we would inevitably face elsewhere in SEA if Communists take over Laos in next elections.
More detailed assessment of Phoui government’s performance to date being transmitted Department through other channels.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 851J.13/10–2658. Secret. Repeated to Phnom Penh, Saigon, Bangkok, Manila, and Hong Kong.
  2. In telegram 482, October 17, the Department of State requested the Embassy’s analysis of immediate and long-range prospects of the Phoui government with reference to the next general elections in Laos. The information was to be used in interagency planning in Washington for future U.S. policy toward Laos. (ibid., 851J.13/10–1658; included in the microfiche supplement)
  3. Not further identified.