201. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

900. Department pass CINCPAC for POLAD. In conversation 19th I asked Phoui for his estimate political situation, particularly in regard potential threats to stability his government. Following is summary his estimate:

Rally has decided in favor special Assembly session January 15 to permit adoption new electoral law and other urgent legislation (establishment of administrative tribunals, regulation of mining and exploration). Another matter which gives concern is question of whether elections due December 24 or 25 should be postponed one year. According Phoui, postponement could be effected by obtaining royal ordinance extending terms of present deputies from four years to five, thus bring terms into harmony with amendment to constitution prescribing five-year terms. Motive for postponement would be to enable RLG and Rally to make adequate preparations, and sufficiency of preparations will depend in large degree on how far and how effectively village aid program will have progressed. This question would have to be given serious reflection by both Lao and American authorities. Assembly may otherwise remain in session from January 15–June 15 to give Rally enough time to campaign for December elections, which they would not consider they had if session was to run from May 11–October 11.

If motion of no confidence should also be introduced in January session it will be defeated, provided Rally caucus determines by two-thirds majority to support government, thereby binding all Rally members [Page 489] to oppose motion in Assembly vote. If two-thirds majority not obtained in caucus vote, some ex-Ministers who rankle under loss of power and prestige might support NLHX in Assembly and place government in minority. However caucus two-thirds majority safe so long as Katay remains loyal. No present grounds for supposing he will not; his arbitrary behavior in regard promotions and assignments police and ANL personnel and his intemperate telegram on protection Air Laos monopoly ([document number not declassified])2 reflect his mercurial character rather than any sinister purpose. As for Rally deputies, majority would prefer avoid Cabinet crisis which would probably last long time and thus deprive them of needed time to mend political fences in own districts. Hence principal source of danger remains possibility defection by ex-Ministers.

In event opposition with support ex-Ministers should defeat government on no-confidence issue in January special session. Phoui saw four possible courses of action:

Resignation government, accepted by Crown. Crown should then designate as candidate person who (A) had best chance investiture (B) would be likely continue fundamental national policies and (C) would be likely have confidence of American authorities. Hence Crown would probably designate Phoui himself, who, however, would be faced by two groups of would-be ministers, those stemming from previous Cabinets and those in present Cabinet, and his chances of success would be very slim. If Crown wished put quick end to crisis it would be obliged designate man who could obtain support from nearly every party, such as Pheng Phongsavan. To do so, however, would be to disregard foregoing qualifications (B) and (C) at critical time in Lao history.
Government might refuse to resign and instead ask Crown to dissolve Assembly. This would entail new elections within 90 days, for which RLG has had insufficient time to prepare.
In event crisis appears imminent in January, Crown might convoke national congress composed of all members Assembly and King’s Council (in pursuance constitution Article 43) to amend constitution by creating second category of Crown-appointed Deputies, as in Thailand. Since congress would embrace 59 Deputies and 12 Councilors, two-thirds majority required for amendment would have to be made up of all 37 Rally Deputies and all Councilors, less one or two possible defectors. To avoid this narrow margin, such amendment might be preceded by another more easily obtained, reducing number of congress votes required for amendment constitution to simple majority. Idea of second category Deputies would appeal to many present [Page 490] Deputies who fear defeat in next election. Crown might actually appoint only enough second category Deputies to ensure control Assembly by conservative majority.
Revolutionary solution, which has attraction of simplicity but which should most certainly not be availed of hastily; rather RLG should be prepared to make use of it only if no other solution practicable. It would permit elimination not only enemies of state, but of opponents of RLG both in Assembly and in Rally itself. Under this solution, RLG would obtain early agreement from ANL officers to create at proper time revolutionary committee composed of responsible military officers and public servants. Within three or four days after vote of no-confidence, committee would announce that coup had taken place, that Assembly and political parties dissolved, constitution annulled, and all political and military authority restored to Crown. (In theory, Crown recovers all powers which under present constitution are now being exercised by RLG.) Crown would then nominate various individuals to carry out such powers in various capacities. This solution, if it could be carefully enough planned and effectively supported, Phoui considers the most satisfactory from point of view of efficiency and as having added advantage of enabling RLG to cut links between NLHX headquarters and NLHX provincial cells, since NLHX along with other political parties would become illegal. However possible counteractions or reactions would also have to be carefully assessed.

Phoui concluded with remark that he did not present any of four “solutions” to me as a proposition, but rather as matter for reflection. I said that I would communicate his analysis to Washington, and refrained from any comment on merits. He said in such case he would like to reduce his analysis to memorandum form and promised to give it to me by November 25.3 If he does so, it will be transmitted verbatim to Department.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–2158. Top Secret.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Phoui gave Smith the memorandum on November 27. It is summarized in telegram 924 from Vientiane, November 30. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–3058; included in the microfiche supplement) The verbatim text was pouched to the Department but has not been found.