348. Editorial Note

During the early morning of May 24 in the midst of a tropical rainstorm, Souphanouvong and seven other Neo Lao Hat Xat leaders escaped from Phone Kheng police camp outside Vientiane where they had been held since July 1959 pending their much-delayed trials for treason. According to reports, the escape was engineered by a commando operation from the outside but with the apparent complicity of nine prison guards who disappeared with the Neo Lao Hat Xat leaders. (Telegram 3000 from Vientiane and CX–79, DTG 241200Z, from USARMA Vientiane, both May 24; Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/5–2460; both included in the microfiche supplement)

At the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting, May 24, Deputy Assistant Secretary Steeves briefed the participants on the escape as follows:

“Mr. Steeves referred to reports from Vientiane on the escape last night of several leading NLHX prisoners. He added that their escape could have a very definite effect on the current leadership issue in Laos, perhaps presaging a prominent role for Colonel Phoumi in the government. Ambassador Johnson later commented that he viewed the news of the NLHX escape as very disturbing.” (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75)