|Insurgency in Laos|
|Part of the Third Indochina War|
| Vietnam |
North Vietnam (until 1976)
Soviet Union (until 1989)
|Commanders and leaders|
| Choummaly Sayasone |
|Casualties and losses|
The insurgency in Laos was a sporadic military conflict between the Lao People's Army, and Vietnam People's Army opposed primarily by members of the former "Secret Army" or the Hmong people as well as various other ethnic lowland Lao insurgencies in Laos, who have faced governmental reprisals due to Royal Lao and Hmong support for the American-led, anti-communist campaigns in Laos during the Laotian Civil War—which is an extension to the war itself. The North Vietnamese invaded Laos in 1958-59 and supported the communist Pathet Lao. It continued on the day after the end of the civil war with the Pathet Lao's capture of the Laotian capital Vientiane, who overthrew the Royal Kingdom of Laos and established a new government known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
While severely depleted, the remnants of an early 1980s-era, and 1990s-era, Royalist insurgency has been kept alive by an occasionally active guerrilla force of several thousand or so successors to that force. In June 2007 Vang Pao was arrested in the United States for an alleged plot to overthrow the Laotian communist government. His arrest led to an end of various attempts to overthrow the Laotian Government by the Hmong People, the Royalists, and right-wing rebellions.
A right-wing insurgency with foreign support has appeared to have continued into at least 2008, and thus the Laotian and Hmong insurgency remains by far the most active of the historical post-1975 trio of insurgencies known as the Hmong, Laotian and Lao Royalist-in-exile against the Pathet Lao, and Vietnamese People's Army which traces its origins from World War II. The running time for the Insurgency in Laos has outlasted the previous Second World War, First Indochina War, Laotian Civil War, as well as the current for a time Vietnam-Cambodia War combined.
Vietnam and Laos have a complicated past. After Vietnam invaded and destroyed Laos during the Vietnamese–Laotian War, the Vietnamese didn't interfere into Laos for more than 200 years. However, Vietnamese influence had grown radically since the conquest, and played a major role on absorbing Laos into Vietnamese foreign policy. The Hmongs at the time had yet to be touched, owning by its neutrality to the Vietnamese and Laotians. The Hmongs had maintained a degree of autonomy with respect from Imperial Vietnamese Government, and on the same time the Hmongs demonstrated its role on developing Laos in the aftermath of the disastrous war of 1470s with Vietnam. So while Vietnam kept interfering on Laotian affairs, the Hmongs were mostly left alone until the French conquest. It was the French rule that saw Hmongs converted in majority to Christianity, though large segments remained Buddhists, and allied with the French while maintaining its tie with Laos. This would put up the future conflict between Vietnam, the Laotian communists and Laotian insurgents.
The conflict stems from three events prior to Laos independence: a failed coup attempt by the "Red" Prince Souphanouvong, Hmong aiding the French in Xieng Khoung against Lao and Vietnamese forces, and the French giving Hmong rights in Laos as equal to the Lao.[ citation needed ]
In 1946, with the end of the Japanese occupation, Prince Souphanouvong and his half-brothers Prince Souvanna Phouma and Prince Phetsarath formed two separate independence governments, briefly overthrowing the Laos King Sisavang Vong who wanted to hand the country back to the rule of imperial France. The Hmong people had, for over half a century been closely allied with the French, who treated them as equals of the Lao people. Touby Lyfoung, an important Hmong leader was decorated by the French administration for leading a combined French, Lao, and Hmong force to relieve the Village of Xieng Khoung from a combined Communist force of Laotians and Vietnamese and saving the French representatives in the village. This action was part of larger First Indochina War.
When the French withdrew from Indochina shortly after their defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Americans became increasingly involved in Laos due to the threat of Communist insurgents in Indochina. They saw Laos as one of dominoes in their Domino Theory. Under the leadership of the General Vang Pao, Hmong forces with US support prevented the Pathet Lao and their Vietnamese backers from toppling the Kingdom of Laos. They also rescued downed American pilots, and helped the US, from their base in the "Secret City" of Long Tieng to coordinate bombing missions over Vietnam and Laos.
By 1975, with the collapse of the South in the Vietnam War and loss of American support, the Pathet Lao was able to take control of the government. Hmong people, especially those who had participated in the military conflict were singled out for retribution.
Of those Hmong people who remained in Laos, over 30,000 were sent to re-education camps as political prisoners where they served indeterminate, sometimes life sentences. Enduring hard physical labor and difficult conditions, many people died.Thousands more Hmong people, mainly former soldiers and their families, escaped to remote mountain regions - particularly Phou Bia, the highest (and thus least accessible) mountain peak in Laos. At first, these loosely organized groups staged attacks against Pathet Lao and Vietnamese troops. Others remained in hiding to avoid conflict. Initial military successes by these small bands led to military counter-attacks by government forces, including aerial bombing and heavy artillery, as well as the use of defoliants and chemical weapons.
Today, most Hmong people in Laos live peacefully in villages and cities, but small groups of Hmong people, many of them second or third generation descendants of former CIA soldiers, remain internally displaced in remote parts of Laos, in fear of government reprisals. As recently as 2003, there were reports of sporadic attacks by these groups, but journalists who have visited their secret camps in recent times have described them as hungry, sick, and lacking weapons beyond Vietnam War-era rifles.Despite posing no military threat, the Lao government has continued to characterize these people as "bandits" and continues to attack their positions, using rape as a weapon and often killing and injuring women and children. Most casualties occur while people are gathering food from the jungle, since any permanent settlement is impossible.
Faced with continuing military operations against them by the government and a scarcity of food, some groups have begun coming out of hiding, while others have sought asylum in Thailand and other countries.In December 2009 a group of 4,500 refugees were forcibly repatriated to Laos from camps in Thailand despite the objections of, amongst others, the United Nations and the USA.
Some Hmong fled to California in the United States after the U.S. military withdrew from Vietnam and Laos, ending its wars in Indochina. In June 2005 as part of "Operation Tarnished Eagle" U.S. FBI and anti-terrorism officials allegedly uncovered a "conspiracy to murder thousands and thousands of people at one time" and violently overthrow the government of Laos. The alleged plot included ex-U.S. Army Rangers, former Green Berets and other guns for hire.The plotters were accused of attempting to use rifles, FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank rockets and other arms and munitions smuggled from the U.S. via Thailand to "reduce government buildings in Vientiane to rubble", said Bob Twiss, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harrison Ulrich Jack, a retired California National Guard officer who reportedly served in covert operations during the Vietnam War (in Laos in co-ordination with the Hmong and other tribal groups) and former General Vang Pao were named as the probable ringleaders of the purported coup plot. Vang Pao had reportedly built up a strong network of contacts within the U.S. government and corporate circles sympathetic to his cause.Some speculated that the proposed new government would be much more accepting of large foreign business and may also lead to an explosion of the drugs trade as has been the case in Afghanistan.
The defendants' lawyers argued that the case against all of their clients was spurious at best. "The case cannot proceed [because] the process has been so corrupted by the government's misconduct that there can never be any confidence in the validity of the charge," said Mark Reichel, one of the defense attorneys involved in the case. "[W]hile the [prosecution] tries to portray the 'conspiracy' as a dangerous and sophisticated military plan, it cannot refute the extensive evidence demonstrating otherwise - from the agent's informing the so-called conspirators that they would need an operational plan; to his providing a map of the region when they couldn't procure a useful one; to his explanation of what GPS was (including that it requires batteries); to the so-called conspirators' inability to finance the operation."
On September 18, 2009, the Federal Government dropped all charges against Vang Pao, announcing in a release that the "continued prosecution of this defendant is no longer warranted," and that the federal government was permitted to consider "the probable sentence or other consequences if the person is convicted.”
Beginning in 1980, the anti-Communist, pro-Royalist forces organized under the so-called Lao National Liberation Front (LNLF) carried out their own insurgency in southern Laos; such of which had been initiated by a series of reasonably successful guerrilla warfare attacks upon its seizure of weapons from the militaries of Laos and Vietnam. In 1982, the LNLF succeeded in briefly establishing the Royal Lao Democratic Government(proclaimed in exile in Bangkok on August 18, 1982 earlier that year) in a collection of southern Lao provinces largely due to support and aid from the People's Republic of China, which despite being a communist state like Laos, maintained rather hostile relations with Laos (largely due to Laos' staunch alignment with and unequivocal support for Vietnam.).
During this time, Laos was allied with the Soviet-backed communist Vietnamese government. The Lao government had referred to China's ruling clique as "the direct enemy of the Lao people" and further stated that relations could potentially be improved between itself and Thailand as well as with the United States, but gave no mention of a possibility for diplomatic amends with China.Despite allying itself formally in writing with Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge; also communist) during the Third Congress of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, allegations would surface that the Khmer Rouge (closely allied to China, and vehemently anti-Vietnamese and anti-Soviet) had also been funding and allotting supplies to the anti-communist Royalist insurgents for use in their insurgency against the government of Laos, while the majority of purported support would be divulged during the forever displaced regime's exile along the Thai border and perhaps to a lesser degree, in Thailand itself during the 1980s.
The Royalists had also cooperated and were involved to a limited degree in the attempts to overthrow the Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea alongside the Khmer Rouge.During the early 1980s, the Khmer Rouge had largely abandoned (or perhaps halted) communist ideals and were instead focused primarily on exuding Cambodian nationalist fervor and an increase in anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.
The Royalist insurgency gradually fell into disrepair and in terms of its 1970s and 1980s-era form, it has almost entirely vanished militarily as well as ideologically. A correlated movement of sporadic insurgents succeeded the LNLF and while divided into the congruent style of multiple minimally-proportioned bands of insurgents, have been estimated to contain a strength nearing 2,000 to 3,000 men as of the early 1990s.
An insurgency politically correlative to the Royalist insurgency led by the United Front for the Liberation of Laos(LPNLUF) and minor allied similar groupshad also transpired around the same time period, and reportedly was equipped with a strength of 40,000, Chinese and Khmer Rouge funded and trained right-wing insurgents who placed their desire to expel Vietnamese political and military standing in Laos above any other goal. While the movement managed to proclaimed their own provisional or "liberation" government (speedily disbanded by the Lao military), this insurgency proved to be as by chance less effective than the lesser-trained Royalist-focused insurgency.
This insurgency has no reported standing in terms of force within Laos today. While its claims have never been verified nor widely accepted, the LPNLUF claims to have put some one-third of Laotian territory under its provisional jurisdiction before it was put down by the Lao government.
The insurgents of the LNLF were largely former Royalist government officials who had fled into exile after the Kingdom of Laos' demise in 1975 in the conclusion of the Laotian Civil War and Vietnam War. The LNLF proved successful in recruiting fair numbers of rural militiamen from Champassak and Savannaket provinces. Individual units varied from as few as ten men to as many as 50,and all of these operated with little coordination.
During the insurgency, human rights of Hmong people were not respected.Around half of the 300,000 Hmong in Laos were forced to flee, becoming refugees and settling in countries such as the United States.
The Hmong people are an ethnic group which mainly lives in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. They have been members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) since 2007. In China they are classified as a subgroup of the Miao people.
The Kingdom of Laos was a constitutional monarchy that served Laos beginning with its independence on 9 November 1953. The monarchy survived until December 1975, when its last king, Sisavang Vatthana, surrendered the throne to the Pathet Lao, who abolished the monarchy in favour of a Marxist–Leninist state called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which has controlled Laos ever since.
The Pathet Lao, officially the Lao People's Liberation Army, was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power in 1975, after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists. During the civil war, it was effectively organized, equipped and even led by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). They fought against the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Eventually, the term became the generic name for Laotian communists.
Vang Pao was a major general in the Royal Lao Army. He was a leader of the Hmong American community in the United States.
The Laotian Civil War (1959–1975) was a civil war in Laos which was waged between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government from 23 May 1959 to 2 December 1975. It is associated with the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Center and Hmong and Mien veterans of the conflict.
This article details the history of Laos since 1945.
The International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos is an international agreement signed in Geneva on July 23, 1962 between 14 states, including Laos, as a result of the International Conference on the Settlement of the Laotian Question, which lasted from May 16, 1961 to July 23, 1962.
The Hmong and Lao Memorial, or Lao Veterans of America Monument, is a granite monument, bronze plaque and living memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. Dedicated in May 1997, it is located in Section 2 on Grant Avenue between the path to the JFK memorial and the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, in the United States. The Laos–Hmong memorial commemorates the veterans of the "Secret War" in Laos who fought against invading Soviet Union-backed North Vietnam Army forces of the People's Army of Vietnam and communist Pathet Lao guerrillas. Approved by the U.S. Department of Defense, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Department of the Army, but designed and paid for privately by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the Lao Veterans of America Institute, and The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, the memorial stands as a tribute to the Hmong, Lao, other ethnic groups, and American clandestine and military advisers who made up the Secret War effort during the Vietnam War. The Lao Veterans of America, Inc. is the nation's largest ethnic Laotian- and Hmong-American veterans organization.
Operation Barrel Roll was a covert U.S. Air Force 2nd Air Division and U.S. Navy Task Force 77, interdiction and close air support campaign conducted in the Kingdom of Laos between 14 December 1964 and 29 March 1973 concurrent with the Vietnam War.
Relations between Laos and the United States officially began when the United States opened a legation in Laos in 1950, when Laos was a semi-autonomous state within French Indochina. These relations were maintained after Lao independence in October 1953.
CIA activities in Laos started in the 1950s. In 1959, U.S. Special Operations Forces began to train some Laotian soldiers in unconventional warfare techniques as early as the fall of 1959 under the code name "Erawan". Under this code name, General Vang Pao, who served the royal Lao family, recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers. The Hmong were targeted as allies after President John F. Kennedy, who refused to send more American soldiers to battle in Southeast Asia, took office. Instead, he called the CIA to use its tribal forces in Laos and "make every possible effort to launch guerrilla operations in North Vietnam with its Asian recruits." General Vang Pao then recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers to ally with the CIA and fight against North Vietnam. The CIA itself claims that the CIA air operations in Laos from 1955-1974 were the "largest paramilitary operations ever undertaken by the CIA."
The Military history of Laos has been dominated by struggles against stronger neighbours, primarily Thailand and Vietnam, from at least the 18th century.
Jerrold B. Daniels or Jerry Daniels was a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer (PMOO) in their Special Activities Center who worked in Laos and Thailand from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. He was known by his self-chosen CIA call-sign of "Hog." In the early 1960s, he was recruited by the CIA as a liaison officer between Hmong General Vang Pao and the CIA. He worked with the Hmong people for the CIA's operation in Laos commonly called the "Secret War" as it was little known at the time. In 1975, as the communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army advanced on the Hmong base at Long Tieng, Daniels organized the air evacuation of Vang Pao and more than two thousand of his officers, soldiers, and their families to Thailand. Immediately after the departure of Daniels and Vang Pao, thousands more Hmong fled across the Mekong river to Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps. From 1975 to 1982 Daniels worked among Hmong refugees in Thailand facilitating the resettlement of more than 50,000 of them in the United States and other countries.
Operation Pigfat was a crucial guerrilla offensive of the Laotian Civil War; it lasted from 26 November 1968 to 7 January 1969. Launched by Hmong tribal soldiers backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, it was based on the usage of overwhelming air power to clear the path for the guerrillas. The guerrillas were faced with the largest concentration of Vietnamese communist troops stationed outside Vietnam, and hoped to spoil that imminent attack.
Campaign Toan Thang was the first communist wet season offensive of the Laotian Civil War. Launched on 18 June 1969 and successful by the 27th, the assault by People's Army of Vietnam troops from the 312th Division and sappers of the 13th Dac Cong Battalion captured Muang Soui. Although the defenders outnumbered the assailants by three to one, the only hard surfaced airfield near the Plain of Jars would fall to the communists, depriving the defending Royal Lao Government of its only forward fighter-bomber base.
The Battle of Ban Pa Dong was fought between 31 January and 6 June 1961 in Ban Pa Dong, the Kingdom of Laos. Troops from the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the Pathet Lao attacked Hmong recruits being trained as Auto Defense Choc guerrillas via Operation Momentum. Although the Hmong made the tactical error of defending a fixed position, their eventual escape from the communist invaders left their fledgling L'Armee Clandestine intact and able to wage war for the Royal Lao Government. However, they abandoned four howitzers and two mortars to the victorious Vietnamese communists. The partisans had also set a deleterious precedent for themselves with their defense of a fixed position.
Forces Armées Neutralistes was an armed political movement of the Laotian Civil War.
Kou Kiet was a major Laotian Civil War victory for the anti-communist troops of the Kingdom of Laos. Patterned after prior Operation Raindance, it depended upon extensive air strikes blasting communist units and clearing them from the path of the Royalist offensive. Powered by 150 daylight and 50 night sorties daily, with 50 to 80 day strikes directed by Raven Forward Air Controllers, Kou Kiet ran from 6 August to 30 September 1969. It was successful beyond expectations. After the Royal Lao Government troops achieved their objectives, General Vang Pao insisted on pushing forward while they had the initiative. As a result, the Royalists regained control of the entire Plain of Jars while also capturing a huge stock of munitions from the communists. Their triumph came at a cost. However successful the Royalists were, by battle's end their battle-worn forces had exhausted their pool of potential recruits, while the Vietnamese could easily replace their personnel losses.
Campaign 139 was a major military offensive of the People's Army of Vietnam, launched against its Royalist enemies during the Laotian Civil War. Larger than previous invading forces, Campaign 139 was also a combined arms expedition containing tanks, artillery, engineers, and Dac Cong sappers. As such, it was a decided escalation in the war. It was also an exceptional rainy season offensive by PAVN, which usually withdrew during the wet season.
Unity was the code name for Thailand's covert supply of mercenary soldiers to the Kingdom of Laos during the Laotian Civil War. From 4 July 1964 until March 1973, battalions of Thai volunteers fought Communist insurgents on the Plain of Jars in Military Region 2. As the Hmong L'Armée Clandestine was sapped by ongoing casualties and a limited basis for replacements, Unity battalions replaced them.