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

2895. Ref: Deptels 1997,2 2005,3 2020;4 Embtels 2863,5 2865,6 2866,7 2868,8 2891.9 Following summarizes principal points my audience with King May 12 five to seven p.m. (full details by pouch):

After hearing text Dept’s message (Embtel 2891), King expressed at length polite appreciation for fact U.S., “great reliable friend who had provided effective moral and material support all kinds to Laos,” should take such constant interest in Lao national affairs. He wished however point out that “Crown’s deep desire was for U.S. to treat Lao as adults, capable of judging international and national events in full responsible manner and possessing due awareness of gravity their particular situation.” Throne’s role to date, he said, had been to restore democratic spirit “which had been so hard pressed by events and by vested interests of those previously in power.” He had not yet started consultations with deputies next govt though hoped one would be formed rapidly in order preclude possibility lengthy crisis. In particular, Throne anxious have govt in being at time summit conference10 “since no one knew what outcome of latter would be.” “We can nevertheless assure U.S. that regardless of its direct interference in national internal affairs of Laos there would be no military govt here.” (Assurance “there would be no military govt” repeated subsequently by King at least four times.)
In face King’s obvious emotional reaction to receipt message (as on Jan 4, his mouth trembled as he spoke), I carefully and calmly emphasized that U.S. approach not intended as interference in Lao internal affairs but solely represented comments and counsel from one [Page 769] of Laos’ best friends whose own security inescapably affected, along with that of others upon whom Laos depends, by actions taken by Laos. Our remarks were based essentially on our concern from standpoint possible external reactions. In face current extraordinarily complex problems bound to be perplexing to any govt, USG had believed Crown might wish have benefit its carefully considered views which might prove helpful to Laos in reaching its own decisions at this critical time, suggestions were meant solely as timely and friendly counsel to Lao who faced responsibility for decisions.
King replied that knowing basic U.S. attitude always considered intervention by U.S. as friendly; “otherwise would be impossible explain démarches.” He then stated his May 11 speech inaugurating new Assembly (Embtel 2873)11 had already made clear external policy would remain constant. Furthermore, this policy paralleled that of U.S. Laos had never sought wage war against anyone. Its neutrality had just been reaffirmed and would be again in stronger terms. “Main preoccupation of Laos was self-preservation and this why Crown totally opposed to Communism. All the rest of little concern to Throne. No matter what U.S. desires might be, Laos would continue pursue anti-Communist struggle; “any other policy would be rank suicide.” I made it clear that last thing USG desired was for Laos to alter its anti-Communist stand but that continued moderation in pursuing this policy seemed likely prove more successful and certainly less dangerous if not disastrous than more violent measures likely be adopted by less moderate govt rather openly forecast in recent public announcements by Army leaders to which we had perhaps given too much credence.
Re formation next govt, this was matter for Parliament’s decision and one in which Crown could not be involved without giving appearance having personal interest at stake. King obliged stand aside whenever issues revolving on personalities arose, especially in view his own deep traditional attachment to democratic processes. He could only ensure that general tendencies or character of govt were suited to nation, i.e., would not tolerate military govt. Thus would not accept any recommendations as to individuals we believed should or should not be in next govt. Moreover, he remarked with obvious satisfaction, Parliament now entirely different body: “members new Assembly twice as capable as those of third legislature. Admittedly had less political experience but intellectually far superior.” Inasmuch as no crisis yet at hand with provisional govt still in charge, Crown would wait one or two weeks in order allow full parliamentary play among members or groups, giving ample scope to exchange viewpoints and development positions.
I immediately, politely but firmly stressed fact USG not in any sense endeavoring recommend or suggest that particular individual or individuals be included in Cabinet, merely that it not give appearance being dominated by military and include men of international stature and that only more specific suggestion made, had simply indicated belief presence too many Generals or one as PriMin or Vice Premier might provoke reaction abroad undesirable from standpoint Lao national interest or that of friends, referring to my conversations with Generals Ouan and Phoumi under Dept’s directives May 10. King at once indicated he had been told of my approach to them immediately thereafter, adding that while next govt would not be dominated by military, civil govt would be obliged maintain tight liaison with Army since latter always better informed of situation and developments in countryside and in much closer touch with people.
Savang then gave me extremely optimistic picture of current security situation which he claimed better than at any time since independence thanks to Army’s efforts past six months as assisted by US funds and advice. He himself in direct contact with population as well as through Army. This connection Monarch made clear he could not countenance return to former types of govt (presumably Savang meant one headed by or including either Souvanna or Phoui) “for this would mean retrogression of security situation to that obtaining six months ago when entire population on verge accepting Communism whereas with “new look” six months from now it would be possible again travel safely anywhere even to most inaccessible areas. New national spirit had emerged in past three months in hearts of people as result their turning toward Crown to save them in December crisis and internal anti-Commie program must be completed to fulfill population’s desires. “This program could in no way be interpreted by VM as provocative”.
King again defined his own personal position: (A) his political and religious convictions and love of democracy made him avoid seeking play major role in nation’s affairs; (b) his family for generations had defended Lao soil as soldiers and fulfilled responsibilities as statesmen and he was following their example. Laos now on right road to recovery: population including Montagnards encouraged by feeling of increasing security and demonstrating attachment to Crown; commercial investments on upswing; whole atmosphere throughout country changed. For these reasons there would be no change in established anti-Commie policy and “prisoners would not be released” (presumably Souphannouvong, et al.). Remarked however that population not interested in National Assembly nor in govt but only in improving conditions of life. Thus up to new govt and Assembly to go out and win people’s confidence in every Muong.
King voiced hope USG would feel reassured and would not worry further over composition new govt. He felt it would be a good team, born of a worthy parliament, one that would constructively stay on path to national reconstruction. While it would not be one dominated by military, Army had deservedly won prestige by its determined efforts and had proven itself mainstay of country. In conclusion he again thanked the USG for its interest in the welfare of Laos and went to considerable lengths in expressing his personal gratitude for all that I had myself done in past two years here, not only in behalf of my own govt but for his Kingdom. He said that he might find personal satisfaction in knowing that in his contacts with me I had always proven myself frank and loyal and that he was fully aware of what I had done in behalf Laos and that I would realize he considered that I had personally played a large part in the success achieved by Laos during past two years. Smiling, he ended the audience by wryly commenting that from his 30 years of experience under many training circumstances he had discovered the value of patience coupled with tenacity. He felt these virtues continued to be called for in the present situation.

Comment: Except for anticipated initial slight display Royal irritation, audience held in extremely friendly atmosphere with numerous references by King to friendship our two countries and to Lao gratitude for our continuing aid. Nevertheless, quite apparent King, while saying military should stay out of govt and attend own security task, is deeply dependent upon Army and determined see none of old reliables in next govt, preferring new formula probably already privately worked out in advance with Phoumi and Somsanith, Nevertheless I believe this formula may now be considerably modified, in terms of military participation at least, as result US démarche which gave inescapable specific significance to somewhat more general terms used by UK, UNSYG, French and Australians in their concurrent démarches.12

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–1460. Secret; Limited Distribution. Repeated to London, Paris, USUN, Canberra, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Document 343.
  3. Document 345.
  4. Supra .
  5. See footnote 2, Document 345.
  6. In telegram 2865, May 11, Smith reported that he and his British, French, and Australian colleagues judged that the situation in Vientiane required immediate presentation of an oral démarche based on telegram 1997. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–1160)
  7. See footnote 4, Document 343.
  8. In telegram 2868, May 11, Smith informed the Department of State of his forth-coming audience with King Savang. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–1160)
  9. Telegram 2891, May 13, contained the text of the démarche that Smith read to Savang on May 12. (ibid., 751J.02/5–1360
  10. Reference is to the forthcoming Paris summit between Eisenhower and Khrushchev, May 16–17.
  11. Dated May 11. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.02/5–1160)
  12. Detailed accounts of these concurrent démarches are in despatch 476 from Vientiane, June 7. (ibid., 751J.00/6–760)