166. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Laos 1

665. Although events have certainly not run their course, we are assuming at this juncture that Phoumi and Siho have been eliminated for foreseeable future from any effective role in Laos. Their departure from the scene plainly changes situation drastically and we await with interest your analysis of implications for US policy.

We here are very much in doubt as to the effects. We would of course agree with Australian Ambassador’s view (Embtel 1219)2 that departure of Phoumi and Siho removes disruptive elements but we wonder whether he has given adequate weight to dangers which have simultaneously been enhanced. While we are far from concluding that it is inevitable, it is certainly possible that the Sananikones and Kouprasith, seeing their opposition evaporate, may move swiftly to undermine Souvanna, the GNU and the Geneva settlement and to establish undivided control of legitimate and illegitimate business in Vientiane. A second danger, [Page 335] related to the first, is that the leaders in southern Laos may refuse to cooperate with Vientiane and/or fragment after failing to find a rallying point to replace Phoumi, with all that this would mean in terms of resist-ance to PL and our support for it. A third element in the equation is the reaction of Vang Pao to what has transpired.

While we shall no doubt have to leave the working out of these affairs to the Lao and especially to Souvanna, US influence on developments will be substantial. It is therefore important that we come to a common assessment of the situation and agreed broad lines of action as soon as possible.

For Bangkok: Would welcome any comments you may have on Thai reaction.

Ball
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–9 LAOS. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Trueheart, cleared by Barbis, and approved by Green. Repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, London, Paris, Phnom Penh, Saigon, and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Dated February 4. (Ibid.)