275. Telegram From the Delegation to the Conference on Laos to the Department of State0

Confe 1073. From Harriman.

I called on Souvanna Phouma this afternoon at 4.1 He said he was encouraged at results of yesterday’s meeting between 3 Princes. Souvanna said no personalities were discussed and he agreed Phoumi’s reserve on Defense and Interior on grounds necessity consulting his followers was valid provided he sincere in advancing it. He said Phoumi had made important concession in considering possibility two key portfolios [Page 592] going to center provided Vientiane had two out of 3 Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Information.2 As soon as Phoumi mentioned Information Souphanouvong asked for it. This prompted Souvanna to believe Information should be in center, which he could easily accomplish by saying Quinim had occupied this post before and could continue in it. I agreed it desirable Information be in center rather than PL although idea of Quinim in this post contrary to what Souvanna had said to Falaize. Quinim being present, however, I did not comment on this point.

I stressed extreme importance of having competent men in neutral group and preventing sensitive ministries such as Education, Finance, Religion or others with presumptive impact on elections from falling to NLHX. Souvanna assured me this would cause no difficulty. He also said he hoped US and other Ambassadors would pressure Phoumi to yield Defense and Interior to center and send his reply as soon as possible. Ambassador Brown asked if Souphanouvong would come to Luang Prabang. Souvanna said he did not know but that he would certainly come if necessary, to which I replied it would make bad impression if he did not come.

I asked why 4–5–1–5–4 formula which I understood he had proposed at Vientiane had been superseded by formula of 18. He replied this compromise between formula of 19 and earlier proposal of 16 had evolved in course yesterday’s discussions. I said I hoped in settling difference between Souphanouvong’s proposal to divide center in 7–3 ratio and Boun Oum’s proposal for 6–4 ratio, which had been left up to him, Souvanna would make sincere effort to find equal balance between neutrals since this would facilitate task of mobilizing US public support for his government.

Prince asked Ambassador Brown to take greatest care prevent any FAR attacks and instruct all US officers to this effect. He said he had heard US officers were coming to Muong Sai to rally Phoumi’s troops. I joined with Brown in assuring him all our military and strictest orders to prevent any FAR offensive action, although obviously FAR would defend themselves if attacked.

[Page 593]

Souvanna said he was returning to Laos via Paris,3 Rome and Rangoon at end of week beginning January 22 and would cable Vientiane to suggest date for Luang Prabang meeting immediately after his return.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–2062. Secret; Priority. Repeated priority to Bangkok, London, Moscow, New Delhi, Paris, Saigon, and Vientiane.
  2. A longer memorandum of conversation of this meeting indicates that it took place at the Hotel Beau-Rivage. (USMC/173; ibid.)
  3. In telegram 3961 to Paris, January 22, Harriman, who had returned to Washington, instructed Ambassador Gavin to explain to Souvanna Phouma, who was in Paris en route to Laos, that in order to bring Phoumi around, Souvanna must give the RLG two of the following ministries: Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Information. Gavin should try to obtain Foreign Affairs and Finance or at least another ministry satisfactory to the RLG. (Ibid.)
  4. In telegram 3585 from Paris, January 25, the Embassy reported that it had raised this issue with Souvanna who responded that both Souphanouvong and Phoumi had asked for the Ministries of Information and Foreign Affairs and that he had decided to keep them for the center. Souvanna stated he would follow this procedure when both wings wanted the same post. When asked to consider Phoumi’s and Boun Oum’s difficult situation, Souvanna launched into a violent attack on them for their personal aggrandizement of power in Laos. (Ibid., 751J.00/1–2462)