324. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1
2005. For Cumming and Parsons. Reference Embassy telegram 1980.2 Am pleased to report that from conversation last night between DCM and Nhouy Abhay, Deputy Prime Minister, we may still be able to avoid intervening to extent which had previously seemed required to assure avoiding certain disaster in elections. If Nhouy’s account reflects views Prime Minister Kou Abhay and King as it may because Minister Interior who was present throughout conversation did not demur, it would appear that Kou and Nhouy are already taking energetic moves in general direction which we had hoped to quietly inspire. While Nhouy hopeful that rift between LHL and CDNI can be healed and is confident that he and his brother can enforce unity in government [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Embassy [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] believe that quiet but strong and clearly-stated US encouragement to each of principal CDNI, FAL, and LHL leaders to cooperate fully will still be required if any such plan to bring about a united effort and a single slate is to succeed.
As reported in Embassy telegrams 2002 and 20043 Kou and Nhouy’s plan involves development list 59 “government” or “national” candidates roughly one for each Muong selected not by a committee nor by Somsanith, who as Minister Interior will otherwise be in charge of elections, but by Nhouy and Kou whose selection could not be challenged as being either pro-LHL or pro-CDNI.
Individuals will be chosen who will really win their seats by popularity with their constituents. It will not be hard to find the 60. Each candidate will be given necessary funds and will take right approach which will be one of getting really close to people even though this may not necessarily mean having to walk to every village. Because candidates will be “government” and not party candidates they will enjoy far more prestige and chance of election. Minorities will be “treated like people,” as Lao with no distinction being made. Nhouy referred frequently to his previous conversation with Ambassador Smith and DCM (memos conversation December 4 and 7),4 to his [Page 732] brother Kou’s radio speech (Embassy telegram 1978)5 which Nhouy said must be read weighing every word. (Prime Minister had particularly emphasized personal “man-to-man” approach by members of government and their principal subordinates to villagers.) A registration will be undertaken which will provide registration cards “for all reliable Lao.” Nhouy expects that PL elements will “take to bush” during registration and many of them already live in bush anyhow. Thus they will not have necessary registration cards when voting takes place. Establishment of security for villages is not a difficult problem for arms can and should be issued to more of the reliable villagers as soon as they have been distinguished carefully from unreliable ones. Nhouy felt that contrary to last elections it is not necessary and one should not attempt to distribute “dollar derived funds” to the people. Simple supplies and expense money and transportation are all that should be required.
I hope to see both Kou and Nhouy tomorrow or Friday and may get further indications of their thinking.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–1360. Top Secret; Priority; [distribution indicator not declassified].↩
- Both dated January 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.13/1–1460 and 751J.00/1-1460, respectively)↩
- Neither found.↩
- Telegram 1978, January 11, contained a summary of an 11-minute address to the nation by the new Prime Minister, Kou Abhay, on January 10. Kou stated as goals for his government peace among the Lao, close communication between the government and the people, and improved standards of hygiene and living. In foreign affairs, Kou stressed “peaceful co-existence” and “viligant neutrality.” As a final goal, Kou assured his listeners that he hoped to turn the government over to younger and more dynamic Lao leaders after the elections. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.13/1–1160)↩