Three Princes

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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. [1] The trio were named by King Savang Vatthana to form a coalition government following the independence of Laos. [1]

Boun Oum Laotian politician

Prince Boun Oum was the son of King Ratsadanay, and was the hereditary prince of Champassak and also Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos from 1948–1950 and again in 1960–1962.

Souvanna Phouma Prime Minister of Laos

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

Souphanouvong Laotian politician

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.


Background and Representatives

The Three Princes represented three different political views held during the Laotian Civil War.

Laotian Civil War 1963-1975 civil war in Laos

The Laotian Civil War (1959–75) was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government, 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 Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.

Prince Boun Oum Na Champasak

Right-wing Prince Boun Oum, cousin to the other two princes, overthrew the Phouma Government in 1960. Supported by Phoui Sananikone, General Phoumi Nosavan and the Hmong Leader, General Vang Pao. [2]

Phoui Sananikone was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos on two occasions in 1950 to 1951 and again from 1958 to 1959, and also served as Foreign Minister on multiple occasions.

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.

Vang Pao Laotian-American soldier

Vang Pao was a major general in the Royal Lao Army. He was a leader in the Hmong American community in the United States.

Prince Souvanna Phouma

Pro-western Prince Souvanna Phouma was supported by Kong Le and the Royal Lao Government.

Kong Le Lao Army officer

Captain Kong Le was a paratrooper in the Royal Lao Army. He led the premier unit of the Royal Lao Army, Bataillon Parachutistes 2, which campaigned relentlessly during 1959 and 1960. The idealistic young American-trained Lao Theung officer became known worldwide when on 10 August 1960 he and his mutinous paratroopers overthrew the Royal Lao Government in a coup d'état. He declared he aimed at an end to government corruption; to the shock of American officials, he declared U.S. policies were responsible for the ongoing fraud.

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.

Prince Souvanna Phouma Souvanna Phouma.jpg
Prince Souvanna Phouma

Prince Souphanouvong

Half brother of Souvanna Phouma, Prince Souphanouvong, a staunch communist and the leader of the Pathet Lao, was supported by Kaysone Phomvihane (later Prime Minister and President of the LPDR) and the North Vietnamese. By 1972, the Pathet Lao found it unacceptable to form a coalition with rightist members, mostly military generals and the rich and powerful Na Champassak and Sananikone families. [3]

Pathet Lao communist political movement and organization in Laos

The Pathet Lao 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. They fought against the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Eventually, the term became the generic name for Laotian communists.

Kaysone Phomvihane Lao politician

Kaysone Phomvihane was the leader of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party from 1955 until his death in 1992. He also served as the first Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic from 1975 to 1991 and then as President from 1991 to 1992.

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  1. 1 2 "Laos: The Three Princes". TIME Magazine. December 15, 1961. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-19. Retrieved 2014-03-17.