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

1911. Department pass information ACSI. Reference: Deptels 13392 and 1340.3 In pursuance directives reference telegrams, have today passed to General Sounthone as chief of staff and General Ouane as president of the CDNI and commander of the FAL the following:

“Late December 30 the Department of State became concerned over reports emanating from non-American sources that the situation in Laos was rapidly deteriorating with the following rumors in circulation:

1.
On the assumption of power by the CDNI American aid to Laos would be increased.
2.
Prince Souphannouvong and his fellow detainees would face summary trial and execution.
3.
Drastic changes in Lao foreign and domestic policies would ensue.

The American Ambassador is directed that, if indeed such stories are gaining currency, he brand as a falsehood any rumors that the U.S. aid program would be increased if a new government came into power.

The USG, of course, does not credit these stories, which might well destroy the basis of US and UN support for the RLG, but the American Ambassador is nevertheless also directed to lose no opportunity to inform the CDNI and FAL leaders that US reaction to any such drastic measures would be most severe. The USG counts on Lao leaders to recognize that irresponsible behavior on the part of anyone purporting to act in their name could be most damaging to the future of the Kingdom, for such action would almost certainly bring in international repercussions under the most unfavorable circumstances.

In view of the strong rumors of ‘radical changes’ about to take place, the USG regards an early public reaffirmation that the traditional Lao posture of peace, neutrality and moderation remains unchanged to be in the best interest of [garble—all?]. It is the view of the USG that it is highly advisable that this be done even in advance of the resolution of the present crisis. If there is any mistaken assumption that the USG is giving tacit encouragement to radical changes in Lao policies, it must be corrected and any Lao leader who appears to fail to [Page 726] recognize that the USG has not and does not encourage or support the use of military force to effect political ends should be clearly assured that this is true as should already be known full well.

While it is hoped that no one has really misunderstood the position of the US, the situation now appears so confused in some respects as to warrant this confidential clarification by the USG, which hopes that the energies of the leaders of Laos will not much longer be deflected from the critical problems of the country for it is their responsibility as patriots to face them.”

DCM accompanied by ARMATT left informal “pour-mémoire” with each of them in French covering above points. Other three army Generals and other members CDNI central committee being read “pour-mémoire” as soon as they can be reached. British, French and Australian colleagues also furnished copies.

French Ambassador seeing Sounthone and at least two of other four Generals at Sounthone’s 1530 this afternoon. Gassouin as dean diplomatic corps received letter this morning from Sounthone dated yesterday in which Sounthone stated that “I am charged with informing you that until new government is named, powers of government will be assumed by army. Please inform all chiefs diplomatic and consular missions”. Gassouin plans ask whether there has been royal ordinance this effect and if not what is basis his authority. Furthermore, Gassouin will pass through him request for substantive audience with King in addition protocol farewell audience already requested directly.4 Gassouin will also tell Sounthone and his companions of French Government’s concern that King should know possibility that SEATO might not be able to respond to an appeal resulting from situation provoked by purely internal developments in Laos. Doyen will also attempt impress Generals with concern of his British, Australian and American colleagues over possibility any drastic changes in Lao policies. British Ambassador had already attempted unsuccessfully through military attaché to get word to Sounthone his concern over possible action against Souphanouvong and other detainees but believed his ARMATT’s efforts reach General Ouan with some message this morning must have been successful.

Colleagues meeting my residence 1800 hours to learn results.

Smith
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–360. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Paris, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Saigon, and CINCPAC for POLAD. Received at 1:30 p.m.
  2. In telegram 1339, December 30, 1959, the Department of State transmitted to the Embassy a report of the rumors described in telegram 1911 and instructed the Embassy to inform the CDNI and FAL leaders that they were false and that the U.S. reaction to drastic action would be severe. (ibid., 751J.00/12–3059; included in the microfiche supplement)
  3. Document 317.
  4. On January 4 at 10 a.m., French Ambassador Gassouin met with King Savang and made a joint démarche on behalf of French, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States against possible radical changes in the Lao Government and policies. After a half hour, Ambassadors Smith and Lincoln and Australian Chargé Gardner joined Gassouin and the King. (Telegrams 1916 and 1918 from Vientiane, January 3 and 4, and telegram 1362 to Vientiane, January 3; all ibid., 751J.00/1–460) A more detailed account of the joint discussion is in despatch 239 from Vientiane, January 8. (ibid., 751J.00/1–860) All these documents are included in the microfiche supplement.