377. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

364. Manila for MLG. CINCPAC for POLAD. Addressees pass interested agencies. References: Embtel 355, Deptels 214, 215.2 My reservations proposals Bangkok’s 160,3 with most of which I fully agree, stem from fact I believe we have reached crucial stage in negotiations between Souvanna and Phoumi and approach to Sarit most effective if made on fully considered basis as part of definite plan.

Our objectives are: (1) prevent civil war, (2) prevent Communist intervention, (3) preserve FAL security and defense capabilities and (4) develop government with sufficiently broad-based support to offer prospect stability of tenure and with minimum leftist tendencies. It is important that this be accomplished soon.

On further reflection, I believe it would be unwise for us attempt determine too precisely form of compromise between the two men. We are far too unsure our facts. At best our judgments are based upon [Page 816] a distillation of rumor, counter-rumor, [garble] and speculation. In any event, a fact in Laos today is not a fact tomorrow. Moreover, in endeavoring to induce a solution to our taste, we must recognize that it would not endure if it did not correspond to the genuine result of the myriad conflicting political forces in the country.

Therefore we must concentrate our efforts primarily on forcing an agreed solution. Souvanna personally is certainly in mood for negotiation and might well, if he thought he could get away with it, modify his cabinet, which as we know was not his first choice. He has begun process reducing influence Kong Le. He has appointed a respected soldier as C-in-C. He has told Phoumi Kong Le’s appointment as deputy is temporary. He plans send further emissary Savannakhet, probably Amkhe. He has publicly appealed for avoidance bloodshed. How far he is free agent is still, however, not fully certain. MILATT, who saw Ouane today, reports him dejected and unwilling talk freely.

Phoumi, however, gives less indication willingness make concessions. He has not renounced intention retake Vientiane by force. His radio continues challenge legality Souvanna govt and call it pro-Communist. He is rapidly organizing new administration in south. He may be endeavoring hold new session Assembly there and get them vote overthrow Souvanna, thus introducing further element confusion into situation.

I recommend therefore that we present following position to Phoumi and Souvanna (more general than that proposed in Embtel 355) and try get Sarit’s support for it. See no objection also making other points in Bangkok’s 180 to Sarit.4

Current situation in Laos continues in US judgment to be an internal affair.
There must be a negotiated settlement involving an overall political solution for the country.
Solution by force cannot be supported by U.S., West or U.N.
While there may have been some duress in recent events, US nevertheless acknowledges that Somsanith govt in fact resigned and Souvanna has been requested by King to form new govt. We must therefore deal with him as Premier-designate.
Time is of essence to protect country against Communist insurgency or invasion. FAL and police must not be weakened, allowed to deteriorate, or be diverted from their primary internal security mission.
Constitutional processes must be restored throughout Kingdom to include freeing of all individuals and all elements of govt from coercion and intimidation.
Troops must be paid promptly, but in normal fashion, and without political advantage to either side.
While above considerations are not all inclusive, it is hoped solution along above general lines will be reached, thus preserving integrity and well-being of Laos and permitting continuation U.S. assistance.

Following additional points should be made vigorously to Phoumi:

The U.S. will not provide you as an individual with either military or financial support in your present effort to take over govt or to recapture city of Vientiane. We would view with greatest disapproval any effort set up rival govt or divide country. This could help only country’s enemies. Accordingly, we advise you as friends to commence negotiations now while you appear strong, so that your position and influence will be preserved for the service of your country. Please keep U.S. informed.

Do not regard Zellweger as useful emissary this stage (A) in view his performance on Luang Prabang visit, and (B) importance having Phoumi hear U.S. views from U.S. source. Ideal emissaries would be Heintges and Jorgensen together but sending them or anyone from here, even with Souvanna’s blessing, would be open misinterpretation many quarters, particularly if Phoumi disregards our advice. Therefore feel best method is send someone from Bangkok to Savannakhet to present this message. If Sarit bought suggested approach, would be [best?] send someone along to support. Could Bangkok provide emissary and plane?5

As soon as emissary named and Dept approval sending him secured, would inform Brit, Fr and UN and approach Souvanna.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8–2260. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Bangkok, Paris, Phnom Penh, Saigon, London, Manila, and CINCPAC. Received at 10:22 a.m.
  2. In telegram 355 from Vientiane, August 20, Brown suggested that a U.S. official or Zellweger facilitate a compromise between Kong Le’s and Phoumi’s forces under conditions which would physically separate the two sides and reconstitute the Lao Government under Souvanna Phouma. (ibid., 751J.00/8–2060)

    In telegram 214 to Vientiane, August 20, the Department of State approved this suggested compromise, preferring Zellweger to act as the intermediary. (Ibid.)

    In telegram 215 to Vientiane, August 20, the Department noted that while it approved of a agreement between Souvanna and Phoumi on withdrawal of Kong Le’s forces, it did not wish to imply sympathy with Kong Le. (Ibid.) All three telegrams are included in the microfiche supplement.

  3. The reference is in error and should be to telegram 180 from Bangkok to Vientiane, sent to the Department of State as 312, August 21, in which Unger stated that he was going to discuss with Sarit five “fundamental objectives” in Laos: removal of Kong Le, integrity of the FAL, support of Phoumi, avoidance of a civil war, and a compromise political settlement resulting in a neutral Laos still friendly to the West. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8–2160; included in the microfiche supplement)
  4. This reference confirms that the previous reference (see footnote 3 above) is indeed to telegram 180 from Bangkok to Vientiane.
  5. See Document 379.