450. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Parsons) to the Secretary of State1


  • Coup d’Etat Staged at Luang Prabang, Laos, November 10

At approximately 5 p.m., November 10, a coup d’etat was carried out in Luang Prabang by Major Bountheng, Commander of the 3rd Infantry Battalion. It appears that Bountheng’s troops were mobilized in full battle dress and took control of all military installations in the city with one company guarding the palace and trucks blocking the airfield runway.

The coup was discussed with other officers in Luang Prabang who concurred. Phoumi Nosavan in Savannakhet was also informed.

Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma was at Luang Prabang November 10 but was allowed to proceed by air to Nam Tha, a city near the Chinese border, to which he was enroute. General Ouane Phatikone [Rathikon], Commander of the Laotian Army and Colonel Houmpanh Horasing, Commander of the 1st Region (Luang Prabang province) appear to have gone with Souvanna. Souvanna returned to Vientiane November 11 while Ouane remained at Muongx Say, a local military center in Luang Prabang province, and Houmpanh was sent back to Luang Prabang, with Souvanna’s approval, to discuss the situation with Bountheng in an effort to avoid bloodshed. There is no indication as yet of the direction in which Rathikon and Houmpanh will throw their support. Mean-while it is reported that a first contingent of Savannakhet forces have been flown to Luang Prabang.

Bountheng’s sole objective appears to have been the overthrow of the “Communist-controlled” Government of Souvanna Phouma. The King is reported to be sympathetic.

Ambassador Brown reports2 that frequent rumors of an imminent attack on Vientiane by the Phoumi forces may incite the Pathet Lao to secure control of Vientiane. Ambassador Brown says that his immediate efforts will be directed to persuade Col. Kouprasith, the Commander of the Lao Army in Vientiane, to maintain control of the city for which he appears to have adequate facilities. He may receive help [Page 952] from one of Bountheng’s companies which happens to be in Vientiane under a Captain Southep whom Bountheng has ordered to resist the PL.

  1. Source: Department of State, FE/SEA (Laos) Files: Lot 65 D 169, 350 POL Affairs 11/60 Laos. Secret. Drafted by George Reynolds and cleared with Usher.
  2. In telegram 904 from Vientiane, November 11. (ibid., Central Files, 751J.00/11–1160; included in the microfiche supplement)