249. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State0

891. Embtel 890.1 I called on Souvanna at his request at 1900. He said he was physically well but psychologically depressed. He had called on Boum Oum with a view to starting three Prince discussions and had been met with a position that the government should be divided four PL, four Vientiane, four Vientiane neutrals and four Xieng Khouang neutrals with defense and interior to remain with Vientiane. This was stated by Boun Oum to be his “last position.” It was not negotiable. Boun Oum had nothing to discuss. Souvanna said he found it difficult to conduct a negotiation in the face of such a position.

I said it was only to be expected that Boun Oum’s initial negotiating position would be tough. Moreover, Boun Oum was very angry at Souphanouvong’s airport speech which had been exceedingly disagreeable and critical of Boun Oum as well as of Americans. Souvanna said he had not listened to the speech, having been talking with others while it was being delivered. I suggested that he read it.

Souvanna said that if this was Boun Oum’s position there was really no possibility of discussion and they might as well go back to Xieng Khouang. I said that it would be easier to have a discussion if there were two positions to discuss and while I hesitated to advise anybody as to how to negotiate, especially in a foreign country, I should think thing for him to do was to put up his position in detail as he had promised to do. Since Boun Oum had said that there was no need for a “three Princes meeting,” I suggested that Souvanna ask Boun Oum to come to the cease-fire committee building tomorrow for “consultations.” Apparently the idea of a formal opening of the “three Princes meeting” was repugnant to Boun Oum, but Boun Oum had said he was willing to consult. If Souvanna simply invited him for consultations it would be more difficult for Boun Oum to refuse. Moreover, if Souvanna should in fact [Page 547] consult with other groups in the capital, this would also make it more difficult for Boun Oum to refuse further discussions and would also probably be beneficial. Souvanna said he had this in mind. I suggested that he announce this tomorrow.

I said that US was still, as Ambassador Harriman had told him, sincerely anxious to be able to support a government led by him. I could assure him that I would do my utmost to bring about a genuine discussion. As to the merits of his position, he would understand if I were to reserve my decision until I had seen and considered it. He said he fully understood this. I said that the principles which Ambassador Harriman had outlined to him were still the position of the US. These were that the center of the government should be truly neutral and representative of different parties and regions in the country. Souvanna said he had this definitely in mind. The figure of 16 was not a fixed figure. He was quite prepared to add “three or four” neutrals from Vientiane. But he must maintain “five or six or seven” of his own people. I said that the six people he had in mind from Xieng Khouang were all from the north. In view of north/south feeling in Laos and the importance of unity in the country it would understandably be desirable if his group could be so constituted as to bridge gap. Souvanna said he also had this in mind. Souvanna’s idea of procedure was for the three Princes to meet, since they were the three major forces in the country, to put forward their different propositions and then refer various aspects of them to sub-committees as had been done at Ban Hin Heup. In view of Boun Oum’s refusal to discuss, it was not possible. However, he promised to try anew in the morning. He said he was quite prepared to go out to lunch anywhere but did not want to go out at night. I also told Souvanna that I had heard he had spoken to journalists about divided counsels in the US Government. I could assure him that these reports were not true and that the US was speaking with a united voice. He said he was comforted to hear this.

Comment: Souvanna was personally very cordial. He gave no impression of anger, but rather simply of frustration and disappointment. I got the impression that he was willing to go a little further with respect to the composition of the center than he has previously indicated. I made it clear to him that we could not really help him until we had a proposal from him that we could wholeheartedly support. As I left I told him that I was at his disposal for further discussions at any time.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/12–2761. Secret; Niact. Repeated priority to Geneva for Fecon, priority to London and Paris, and to Bangkok, Saigon, Phnom Penh, New Delhi, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. In telegram 890, December 27, the Embassy reported that the three Princes’ Meeting in Vientiane got off to a shaky start. Souvanna and Souphanouvong met with Boun Oum at his residence on December 27 at 3:15 p.m. Boun Oum denigrated the three Princes’ meeting concept and said it was time to get to work and stop talking. He reiterated demands for RLG control of half the “neutrals” in the future Souvanna government and also claimed the Defense and Interior Ministries. Souphanouvong claimed these two ministries for the NLHX and threatened to leave the Vientiane that evening. Boun Oum replied that was fine with him. Souvanna tried to calm both sides down, but with little success. The meeting adjourned and the quarrel continued in press conferences. (Ibid.)