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

1945. Department pass niact CINCPAC for POLAD. Department pass Department of Defense. Reference: Embtel 1932, [3 document numbers not declassified], ARMA CX 56 and CX 58.2 Prime Minister at 4 p.m. May 15 requested me to obtain US Government’s advice with regard to RLG efforts to force integration or dispersal two ex-Pathet [Page 533] Lao battalions.3 Since lapse of extended ultimatum 0700 May 15 situation unclear. Regional commanders were authorized shortly thereafter to use all necessary means presumably including force to disarm and gain control of troops unwilling integrate voluntarily or demobilize. High-ranking ANL officer has informally requested [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] stock of tear gas and gas masks as recourse to avoid use of firearms in dispersing battalions, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Prime Minister has letter from Souphanouvong stating latter ordered nonintegration of two battalions.

Prime Minister informed me evening May 14 of general situation of ultimatum to expire early morning May 15 and said that army intended cut-off supplies to force issue.

Having learned of army orders to commanders use all means necessary to force dispersal or compliance, I intend seeing Prime Minister or Foreign Minister soonest to indicate that pending receipt US Government response to request for advice, I feel it necessary to express concern at grave consequences which might result from eruption open conflict and that I hope all measures likely to set off open conflict will be avoided so long as any other means may be available, such as psychological war, withholding supplies, et cetera. Have advised all US agencies pending receipt advice not to aid or abet any aggressive efforts ANL likely to trigger open conflict.

Advice requested most urgently.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.55/5–1559. Secret; Niact; Limited Distribution.
  2. Telegram 1932 from Vientiane, May 14, contained preliminary information on the controversy over integration of the two Pathet Lao battalions into the ANL. (ibid., 751J.5/5–1459) In a memorandum to Parsons, May 16, Jenkins summarized the situation apparently based on some or all of the referenced reports. (ibid., FE/SEA (Laos) Files: Lot 65 D 169, 351.11 Pathet Lao, Jan–June 1959; included in the microfiche supplement)
  3. Since November 1957, two Pathet Lao battalions were garrisoned with their dependents at Xieng Khouang on the Plain of Jars, where they remained to be integrated into the ANL. Negotiations with the government dragged on inconclusively over the issues of rank and numbers of commissions and back pay. On May 14, the Royal Lao Government issued an ultimatum giving the Pathet Lao 24 hours to accept integration or resign from military service.
  4. In telegram 1365 to Vientiane, May 15, the Department concurred with Holt’s proposed approach and instructed him to stress to the Royal Lao Government that violence against the two battalions would be “disadvantageous,” unless it was in response to Pathet Lao-initiated violence. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.5/5–1559; included in the microfiche supplement)