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

737. Eyes only Secretary. Bangkok—eyes only Ambassador. CINCPAC—exclusive for CINCPAC. His Majesty received Secretary Parsons, Secretary Irwin, Admiral Riley and Ambassador at 1115 in Luang Prabang.

After opening exchange of courtesies, HM expressed his sorrow and humiliation at situation in which his country now finds itself. He said however that since last meeting of military officers in Luang Prabang situation had improved considerably. Soldiers throughout country and indeed people generally were beginning be uneasy about government’s policy and particularly negotiations with Pathet Lao. This was true even in certain circles in Vientiane. Most civil servants disapproved of government’s policy. General Ouan very worried about it.

HM expressed view that FAL were now united in their will fight PL and in opposition to policies of government. In three or four days commander first region planned announce his disapproval of government’s policy and his withdrawal from its control, in order continue struggle against the PL. (Comment: We understand from other sources that Houmphan does not expect declare for Phoumi but to remain neutral and anti-Communist.)

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Similar statements were to be made throughout country and simultaneous attacks on PL would be launched countrywide. Even in Vientiane action would be taken not against government since it was not planned attack government anywhere in country but only against “certain persons”.

(Comment: Implication HM left in our minds was that among those persons were Captain Kong Le, Quinim and one or two other leftist members of government.)

Thus the military were close to being reunited and by these actions would become reunited and would be fighting side by side.

Political situation seemed to HM to be rather simple. Government really was in three parts. First: Souvanna who was case by himself; isolated to extraordinary degree, unaware of what goes on around, behind or even against him. Second: Small group dominated by Quinim which was pro-PL or PL-dominated. Third: Rest of government which on whole opposed its policies.

HM felt cumulative effect of countrywide initiation hostilities against PL and declaration of opposition to government, especially from Colonel Houmphan, and possibly from influential circles in Vientiane, would be to show it to be both helpless and repudiated and leave Souvanna no alternative except resign.

In this case, all power would revert to King and he would appoint probably para-military government which would proceed with task of cleaning up PL. In this he would need support first in form arms, later money and certainly airlift. HM asked what US position would be under these circumstances.

Secretary Parsons said US always anxious support patriotic and anti-Communist elements in Laos. Was very important for us however have some legal authority, to call of which, we could legitimately respond. It would not do us or anyone else any good if we were arraigned before UN on charges improper interference internal affairs another country by reasons of supporting even anti-Communist elements against wishes legal government.

HM said he fully realized importance legal authority and international implications where it was lacking.

He felt that solution proposed was preferable to solution resulting from direct action by himself. This would appear as nationwide movement coming from people rather than as revolution inspired by palace.

He said that in addition to concern about negotiations with Pathet Lao under existing circumstances, people were very much worried about fact that very high ranking and widely respected Bonze had recently been killed in Vientiane. (Comment: No word any such occurrence here, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] contacts with Bonze community feel most unlikely any truth in report.)

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King said he in communication all regions and with Vientiane. Message had been sent General Ouan asking him come Luang Prabang. He did not know whether Ouan would do so or not. He did not know whether signal for action would come from Vientiane or Luang Prabang.

The King said he realized the course of action proposed risked loss Vientiane and necessity regaining it by force. This was risk which had to be taken. He felt that action would be likely to take place by the weekend. Risk was that Pathet Lao might learn of plans and act first. He recognized struggle would be long and hard.

HM said he concerned about risk intervention from North and asked US position in such case.

Secretary Parsons reminded him of US reaction last year when similar situation was faced. Said HM could count on similar US reaction by this time. If matters should develop in this way, issue would be clear and US would have support its allies. King said he too most anxious for issue to be clear. He had not really doubted what Secretary’s answer would be as he hoped things would develop so that events would constitute as much purely internal matter as possible with as little involvement of US as possible.

Secretary Parsons suggested it would be useful to know who people in charge program were so as, for example, be sure that requests for support were properly authorized. HM replied that he expected over-all command to be in Savannakhet. He only wanted one headquarters, not committees scattered around country. People at Savannakhet had already declared themselves as anti-Communist. They were militarily and politically most experienced leaders and strongest anti-Communists. They would have to take lead even if not too well loved throughout country.

Secretary Parsons said he thought King should be informed of his discussions with Souvanna. Not being aware of what King had just explained, and in view indications given Ambassador Brown October 6 that King was unwilling take action supplant Souvanna government, US had felt it must make best of Souvanna government. It had suggested to Souvanna that he move government to Luang Prabang in order get into freer atmosphere than Vientiane. King replied that Souvanna had spoken to him about this some time earlier. King had not felt it appropriate give advice and had told him to do as he wished. King’s own view was that it too late for government move Luang Prabang. Its members, even Souvanna himself, might be arrested there, so unpopular were they. He said that whatever happens, he would [omission in the source text] Souvanna and see that he came to no personal harm.

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King then made long speech about how he had fought Communism all his life and intended continue to end with surrender unthinkable, even if his own life should be lost. He also expressed complete trust in US which he had felt ever since US had saved Laos after Dien Bien Phu.

Secretary Irwin asked what effect HM thought arrival Soviet Ambassador would have on government and people. HM said it would be encouragement for government and anxiety for people.

Secretary Parsons told HM he had told Souvanna that Soviet aid would be for purpose enslavement country rather than help it. HM said he well aware of this.

Contrary to announcement on radio Vientiane, HM said royal ordinance approving establishment diplomatic relations with USSR had not been signed by him, in fact had not even been prepared. (Comment: Hard believe government would have let Soviet Ambassador come Vientiane before even preparing legal paper necessary establish diplomatic relations.)

King said putting out such information was an example of how PL control government. This matter was by no means settled.

Ambassador Brown called King’s attention to newspaper reports that Soviet Ambassador was coming Luang Prabang. King expressed thanks for this information. Said with smile it might be necessary make special arrangements receive him. Certainly he was not coming present his letters of credence.

(Comment: While foregoing encouraging and much of it confirmed from other sources, King’s extreme optimism and present appearance decisiveness should be regarded with considerable caution. Further comments follow.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/10–1360. Top Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Repeated niact to Bangkok and CINCPAC. Received at 7:44 p.m.