22. Situation Report No. 11


The Laotian summit meeting on April 18 failed because of a Pathet Lao demand that the conservatives make on the spot decisions regarding the neutralization and demilitarization of Luang Prabang, the royal capital. In wake of this event, Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma announced on April 18 that he would submit his resignation to the King.

During the early morning hours of April 19, local time, forces of the Laotian National Army under General Kouprasith, Commander of the Fifth Military Region which includes Vientiane, and General Siho, Chief of the conservative security forces in Vientiane (Directorate of National Coordination) arrested the neutralists, including the Prime Minister, and seized power in the name of the National Army Revolutionary Committee (NARC). In a communique issued shortly after the take-over, the NARC announced that it had found it necessary to stage a coup d’etat to bring about national reconciliation. It listed General Kouprasith as chief of the NARC, General Siho as deputy chief and most of the other military leaders as functionaries or members.

As of 5 a.m. (EST) April 19, the situation in Laos appears calm. A curfew has been imposed and martial law has been declared. A statement, allegedly by Souvanna Phouma, has been broadcast containing his resignation and relinquishment of power to the NARC. According to a CAS report, General Phoumi was advised early of the coup and telephoned his congratulations to General Siho. There is at this time no firm information on the place where Souvanna Phouma is being held. General Phoumi’s position is unclear and he is not listed as a member of the NARC.

We have issued a strong statement reaffirming our support of the Government of National Union and urging the immediate release of all neutralists.2 Ambassador Unger, who had been in Saigon for consultation with the Secretary, has returned to Vientiane.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Laos, Vol. II, 4/16/64–4/30/64. Secret. No drafter indicated, but it was prepared in the Operations Center of the Department of State.
  2. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, p. 932. At 6:57 p.m. on April 19, Harriman also sent personal messages to Souvanna Phouma and King Savang deploring the coup and pledging U.S. resolve to restore the situation. (Telegram 879 to Vientiane, April 19; Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 LAOS)