Kingdom of Laos

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Kingdom of Laos

ພຣະຣາຊອານາຈັກລາວ  (Lao)
Royaume du Laos  (French)
1953–1975
Anthem:  Pheng Xat Lao
Laos (orthographic projection).svg
StatusFrench protectorate
(1947–1953)
Independent state
(1953–1975)
Capital Vientiane (administrative)
Luang Phabang (royal)
Largest city Vientiane
Common languages Lao
French
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy (1953-1959; 1960-1975)
Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy under military dictatorship (1959-1960)
King  
 1953–1959
Sisavang Vong
 1959–1975
Savang Vatthana
Prime Minister  
 1947–1948 (first)
Souvannarath
 1962–1975 (last)
Souvanna Phouma [lower-alpha 1]
Legislature Parliament of the Kingdom of Laos
Royal Council
National Assembly
History 
11 May 1947
22 October 1953
  Recognized
21 July 1954
14 December 1955
23 August 1975
2 December 1975
Area
 Total
236,800 km2 (91,400 sq mi)
Population
 
3,100,000
Currency Kip
Driving side right
Calling code +856
ISO 3166 code LA
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of French Laos.svg French Protectorate of Laos
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg French Indochina
Lao People's Democratic Republic Flag of Laos.svg
Royal Lao Government in Exile Flag of Laos (1952-1975).svg
Today part of Flag of Laos.svg Laos
  1. Held the position several times.

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, Savang 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. [1]

Contents

Given self-rule with the new Constitution in 1947 as part of the French Union and a federation with the rest of French Indochina, [2] the 1953 Franco-Lao Treaty finally established a sovereign, independent Laos, but did not stipulate who would rule the country. In the years that followed, three groups led by the so-called Three Princes, contended for power: the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right-wing party under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao under Prince Souphanouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane.

The Pathet Lao would eventually emerge victorious in the Laotian Civil War and establish the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975.

History

The Kingdom of Laos was officially proclaimed when the new Constitution was promulgated in 1947, as part of the colonial French Union, [2] and obtained full independence in 1953.

Government

Following the Franco-Lao Treaty of 1953, which gave Laos independence, the Royal Lao Government took control of the country. This treaty established a constitutional monarchy, with Sisavang Vong as King and Prince Souvanna Phouma as Prime Minister.

Many attempts were made by the Three Princes and King Sisavang Vatthana to establish a coalition government. The First Government of National Unity was established in 1958 under Prince Souvanna Phouma, but collapsed after two months. The Prime Minister, who under the constitution appointed his ministers and received advice from the King, made a deal with his brother Prince Souphanouvong.

Souvanna Phouma gave the Communists two seats in the Cabinet, and in return Souphanouvong would integrate 1,500 of his 6,000 Communist troops into the royal army. Prince Souphanouvong was given the post of Minister of Planning, Reconstruction and Urbanization, while another member of the Communist Party was named Minister of Religion and Fine Arts.

The legislature of the Kingdom was bicameral.

Military

The Kingdom of Laos was divided into five military regions. The Royal Lao Armed Forces were responsible for the defense of the country, comprising three branches of service: the Royal Lao Army, the Royal Lao Navy, and the Royal Lao Air Force, which was under the control of the Ministry of Defence in Vientiane.

The United States supplied the Royal Lao Navy with twenty river patrol boats and sixteen amphibious landing craft. Between 1962 and 1971, the United States provided Laos with an estimated US$500 million in military assistance.

Foreign relations

The Royal Lao Government had close relations with the United States, which gave the country aid and assisted it in the campaign against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Communist movement. During 1957, the United States spent more per capita on foreign aid for Laos than it had on any other nation. That worked out as US$150 per Laotian, twice the average person's annual income. Some of the money went to support pro-American candidates in an election, while other money went to a program to support the local currency, the kip. [3]

King Savang Vatthana visited the United States in 1963 to meet with President Kennedy.

Laos was also supported by France, Australia, Burma, Thailand and Japan.

North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and Civil war

North Vietnamese troops march through Laos, 1967 Nvamarch.jpg
North Vietnamese troops march through Laos, 1967

In 1960, amidst a series of rebellions, fighting broke out between the Royal Lao Army and the Soviet Union-backed, communist Pathet Lao, a second Provisional Government of National Unity formed by Prince Souvanna Phouma in 1962 proved to be unsuccessful, and the situation steadily deteriorated thereafter as the conflict in Laos became a focus for superpower rivalry. During the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos, the Pathet Lao were backed militarily by the NVA and Vietcong.

Laos was also dragged into the Vietnam War since parts of Laos were invaded and occupied by North Vietnam for use as a supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese positions, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos, including those led by Hmong General Vang Pao, and supported South Vietnamese incursions into Laos. It also provided supplies, training and funding to the central government.

In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack to help the Pathet Lao fight the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing, leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

Massive aerial bombardment against Pathet Lao and NVA forces was carried out by the United States. It has been reported that Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 million bombs that rained down, particularly on Xiangkhouang Province on the Plain of Jars, some 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. [4]

Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. Because it was particularly heavily affected by cluster bombs during this war, Laos was a strong advocate of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to ban the weapons and assist victims, and hosted the First Meeting of States Parties to the convention in November 2010.

In 1975, the Pathet Lao, along with Vietnam People's Army and backed by the Soviet Union, overthrew the royalist Lao government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died in captivity.

Fall of the government

A ceasefire was finally attained in February 1973, following the Paris Peace Accords between the United States and North Vietnam. In April 1974, another Provisional Government of National Unity was established, with Prince Souvanna Phouma as Prime Minister. However, by this time, Pathet Lao forces controlled large areas of the country, and following the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh to communist forces in April 1975, removed any chances of a coalition government forming in Laos. [5] Following the communist victories in both countries, they advanced on to Vientiane.

On 2 December 1975 in Vientiane, Prince Vong Savang submitted the letter of abdication of King Savang Vatthana to the Pathet Lao. The Lao People's Democratic Republic was established with Prince Souphanouvong as President. Kaysone Phomvihane acted as Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

Aftermath

About 30,000 to 40,000 [6] citizens and members of the old government, including the royal family, were taken to re-education camps in remote areas of Laos after the coup. Many of the prisoners, including the royal family, did not survive.

See also

Related Research Articles

Kaysone Phomvihane

Kaysone Phomvihane was the first leader of the Communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party from 1955 until his death in 1992. After the Communists seized power in the wake of the Laotian Civil War, he was the de facto leader of Laos from 1975 until his death. He served as the first Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic from 1975 to 1991 and then as the second President from 1991 to 1992.

Souphanouvong

Prince Souphanouvong was, along with his half-brother Prince Souvanna Phouma and Prince Boun Oum of Champasak, one of the "Three Princes" who represented respectively the communist (pro-Vietnam), neutralist and royalist political factions in Laos. He was the figurehead President of Laos from December 1975 to August 1991.

Souvanna Phouma

Prince Souvanna Phouma was the leader of the neutralist faction and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos several times.

Sisavang Vatthana Last monarch of the Kingdom of Laos (reigned 1959-75)

Sisavang Vatthana or sometimes Savang Vatthana was the last king of the Kingdom of Laos and the 6th Prime Minister of Laos serving from 29 October to 21 November 1951. He ruled from 1959 after his father's death until his forced abdication in 1975. His rule ended with the takeover by the Pathet Lao in 1975, after which he and his family were sent to a re-education camp by the new government.

Major General Phoumi Nosavan was a military strongman who was prominent in the history of the Kingdom of Laos; at times, he dominated its political life to the point of being a virtual dictator. He was born in Savannakhet, the French Protectorate of Laos, on 27 January 1920. Originally a civil servant in the French colonial administration of Laos, during the last year of World War II he joined the resistance movement against the Japanese occupiers. Exiled from 1946 to early 1949 for his opposition to French return to colonizing Laos, he returned to his native soil to begin a military career in 1950 after the collapse of the anti-French Lao Issara government. By 1955, he was Chief of Staff of the brand-new Royal Lao Army. While in that position, he was largely responsible for appointing senior officers into command positions in the Military Regions of Laos. Following that, in 1957 he was the first Lao officer to be schooled in France at the École de Guerre. While in France, he became acquainted with Central Intelligence Agency operative John F. "Jack" Hasey. Phoumi returned to Laos to become a founding member of the Committee for the Defence of National Interests on 17 June 1958. On 25 December 1959, he took control of the capital of Vientiane and of the nation in a bloodless coup.

Pathet Lao Left-wing national liberation movement of Laos

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The Three Princes was a name given to Princes Boun Oum, Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong who represented respectively the royalist, neutralist and leftist factions in the Kingdom of Laos in the post-WWII period. The trio were named by King Sisavang Vatthana to form a coalition government following the independence of Laos.

Soulivong Savang

Crown Prince Soulivong Savang, grandson of the last King of Laos Savang Vatthana, is the pretender to the Lao throne. Laos was a monarchy until 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao seized control of the nation, causing Savang Vatthana to abdicate his throne. Soulivong Savang lives in exile in Paris.

Laotian Civil War 1959–1975 civil war in Laos

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 veterans of the conflict.

Royal Lao Government

The Royal Lao Government was the ruling authority in the Kingdom of Laos from 1947 until the communist seizure of power in December 1975 and the proclamation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The Franco-Lao Treaty of 1953 gave Laos full independence but the following years were marked by a rivalry between the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right wing under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, Lao Patriotic Front under Prince Souphanouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane. During this period, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to establish coalition governments.

Royal Lao Government in Exile

The Royal Lao Government in Exile (RLGE) is a Lao government in exile opposed to the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It purports to seek to institute a constitutional monarchy in Laos that ensures freedom, justice, peace, and prosperity for the Lao people.

North Vietnam supported the Pathet Lao to fight against the Kingdom of Laos between 1958–1959. Control over Laos allowed for the eventual construction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that would serve as the main supply route (MSR) for enhanced NLF and NVA activities in the Republic of Vietnam. As such, the support for Pathet Lao to fight against Kingdom of Laos by North Vietnam would prove decisive in the eventual communist victory over South Vietnam in 1975 as the South Vietnamese and American forces could have prevented any NVA and NLF deployment and resupply if these only happened over the 17th Parallel, also known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a narrow strip of land between North and South Vietnam that was closely guarded by both sides. It also helped the Pathet Lao win the Kingdom of Laos, although the Kingdom of Laos had American support.

Lao Issara

The Lao Issara was an anti-French, non-communist nationalist movement formed on 12 October 1945 by Prince Phetsarath. This short-lived movement emerged after the Japanese defeat in World War II and became the government of Laos before the return of the French. It aimed to prevent the French from restoring their control over Laos. The group disbanded in 1949.

The 1960 Laotian coups brought about a pivotal change of government in the Kingdom of Laos. General Phoumi Nosavan established himself as the strongman running Laos in a bloodless coup on 25 December 1959. He would be himself overthrown on 10 August 1960 by the young paratrooper captain who had backed him in the 1959 coup. When Captain Kong Le impressed the American officials underwriting Laos as a potential communist, they backed Phoumi's return to power in November and December 1960. In turn, the Soviets backed Kong Le as their proxy in this Cold War standoff. After the Battle of Vientiane ended in his defeat, Kong Le withdrew northward to the strategic Plain of Jars on 16 December 1960.

The following lists events that happened during 1975 in Laos.

The 1964 Laotian coups were two attempted coup d'etats against the Royal Lao Government. The 18 April 1964 coup was notable for being committed by the policemen of the Directorate of National Coordination. Although successful, it was overturned five days later by U.S. Ambassador Leonard Unger. In its wake, Neutralist Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma forged a fragile coalition with the Pathet Lao communists. On 4 August 1964, Defense Minister Phoumi Nosavan attempted to take over Vientiane with a training battalion. This coup was quickly crushed by the local Royal Lao Army troops, as the police sat out the conflict.

Operation Xieng Dong was a successful defensive strike by the Royal Lao Army (RLA) against an invasion by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). In early February 1971, PAVN forces swept RLA defenders from a line of hilltop positions guarding the royal capital of Luang Prabang. The city's perceived invulnerability to attack was shattered. King Sisavang Vatthana refused to leave his capital. Other Military Regions of Laos hastily forwarded to Luang Prabang's Military Region 1 any troops that could be spared from the rest of the Laotian Civil War. On 7 April, the resulting patchwork force of RLA battalions, Forces Armee Neutraliste half regiment, and Central Intelligence Agency-backed Special Guerrilla Units managed a three-pronged offensive supported by tactical aviation that surrounded and defeated the invading PAVN 335th Independent Regiment, which had gotten within eight kilometers of Luang Prabang. By 5 June 1971, the 335th was in full retreat.

References

  1. "About this Collection - Country Studies". loc.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  2. 1 2 "Library of Congress - Laos - The Kingdom of Laos". loc.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  3. John Holt (2009). Page 110. Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture.
  4. MacKinnon, Ian (3 December 2008). "Forty years on, Laos reaps bitter harvest of the secret war". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. "Laos". state.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2012-04-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Coordinates: 17°58′N102°36′E / 17.967°N 102.600°E / 17.967; 102.600