343. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos1
1997. Deptel 1983, rptd London 8316, Paris 4671, USUN 889.2
- British, French, and Australian representatives met with Steeves morning May 6 to discuss
recommended démarche. We reviewed briefly political situation in
Laos and remarked particularly on following points:
- Démarche predicated on CDNI success in forming majority group in Assembly. Since their success depends on weaning away 10 to 15 mostly RLP deputies, it by no means yet certain such a majority will be achieved.
- Of 53 deputies elected, 44 are Electoral Committee’s first choice from slate agreed upon by RLP and CDNI under principle we encouraged.
- Extend of fraud in elections not clear and in any case Assembly and government emanating from it will have to be lived with.
- Nevertheless we agreed démarche might be advisable but commented
as follows on text proposed by three Ambassadors in Embtel 2818 (rptd London 405, Paris
461, USUN 891):3
- We consider it most unwise to make the internal political affairs of Laos the direct subject of such a démarche. We would prefer to recast it with emphasis on international aspects.
- We have grave reservations regarding making any threat of withdrawal of aid since it doubtful we are prepared carry out such a threat and since it would probably be strongly resented by Lao.
- We believe any such démarche should be couched in positive terms.
- To be most effective we consider démarche should be presented to King personally and not through intermediary particularly not Khamphan Panya who might distort it.
- Steeves then read our
proposed draft substantially as follows:
Begin Verbatim Text
- At this important juncture in the history of Laos, my government as a friend of Laos feels a special sense of responsibility and concern for its international prestige and future peace and stability.
- The recent elections for the new Assembly have taken place under circumstances which have created doubts and concern abroad. Nevertheless, we are convinced that Laos can emerge from these difficulties by following a prudent course based on its own national interest.
- It appears to us essential that there be brought about the broadest possible reconciliation of patriotic elements. Such a reconciliation should produce a widely representative government including men of international stature—a government formed according to legal and constitutional processes so as to avoid any charge that it had been created under duress or through fraud.
- We consider it highly desirable that the new government reaffirm the fidelity of Laos to its traditional policy of peace and neutrality.
- Such a government can open a new era. After so many years of tribulations the Kingdom needs peace which can be brought about externally by reassuring the enemies of Laos of its peaceful intentions and internally by uniting patriotic elements for the tasks of national reconstruction. We consider that the threat posed by the Kingdom’s enemies can best be countered by the success of a popular government.
- As a friend of Laos we would be able to give such a government full support and work effectively with it for a more peaceful and prosperous future.
End Verbatim Text.
- Ensuing discussion revealed broad agreement among those present. Both Paris and London consider it most desirable have strong government including Souvanna Phouma and Phoui. In answer to direct question, Steeves stated that if government of national union requires Souvanna as Prime Mininster, we would certainly go along with it although with considerable misgivings. Quai keen on implying threat to curtail aid although French representative expressed his personal agreement with our view that such a threat to Asians would be strongly resented and thought that Paris would probably accept our view on this matter. Paris also very clear it would not want to make “frontal attack” on Phoumi. Foreign Office wanted to make special mention of difficulties which would face UK in defending Laos against expected Soviet accusation that elections were violation Geneva Agreement if next Lao government were based solely on CDNI, since FonOff believed such a government would have little popular support. Foreign Office also preferred to include in démarche reference to Geneva Agreements (along lines declaration of Lao Ambassador to UK on Jan 9 at London), rather than to Kou’s Jan 10 declaration. Foreign Office finally did not think joint written communication good idea and favored separate oral presentations. Australian Min External Affairs pointed to “diminishing utility of such démarches” and raised question regarding effectiveness of the one proposed, but saw its advantages.
- All agreed to following points, subject to concurrence their
- Text démarche should be drawn up on contingency basis and presentation left to Ambassadors’ decision. In view time element Ambassadors should be free to proceed as they judge best in the light of developing political situation.
- If démarche is carried out, it should be oral, All felt [oral] presentation would be more effective and with less chance of being used against us and RLG than written communication which might be leaked.
- Démarche should be made separately by each Ambassador and texts their remarks should not be identical in order avoid impression of “ganging up.”
- If at all possible démarche should be made directly to King; otherwise its effectiveness would be sharply diminished. However Ambassadors should be free to proceed as they had proposed (your 2818) if situation so required.
- Démarche would have greater impact if Asian colleagues in conversations with Lao officials should talk along same lines. It agreed to leave matter of informing Asian colleagues also to discretion of Ambassadors.
- It was agreed UNSYG should be informed in New York of proposed démarche.
Subject to your further comments, you are authorized to proceed along above lines and use text para 3 above.4
For USUN: Since Zellweger has presumably recommended that UNSYG send personal message to King (Embtel 2833),5USUN should seek ascertain what action UNSYG has or is proposing take. USUN should also show him our proposed text (para 3) making clear Ambassador Smith has been given discretionary authority use it as outlined. Mission may use substance para 5.
If SYG indicated he contemplating message to King you authorized to encourage such action if in your judgment SYG’s thinking is generally consistent with ours.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–660. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Anderson and Chapman; cleared with SEA, FE, BNA, UNP, IO, WE, and SPA; and approved by Parsons. Repeated to London, Paris, Canberra, and USUN.↩
- Document 341.↩
- In telegram 2866 from Vientiane, May 11, Smith reported that he delivered an oral version of paragraph 3 to Khamphan Panya on May 8 and Kou Abhay on May 9. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–1160; included in the microfiche supplement)↩
- In telegram 2833, May 5, Smith reported on a conversation on the morning of May 5 with Zellweger. Zellweger approved of the idea of a démarche and suggested a parallel one to King Savang by Hammarskjold. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–560; included in the microfiche supplement)↩