PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS TO JULY 1956

Created: 7/26/1955

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

{supersedes portions ofn loot)

PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN. LAOS TO6

DDUtCTOS OF CENTRAL INTDXIOI>'CB

Tkt toDowMa KKmjWf orpanfeationt pcrtfcipcJuf inc Central Intelligence Aaenty and tht IntetUgtneeeparlmanls of Ctatv. Uu irnV. UuOt* Airnd Tht Joint Staff.

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PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS TO

THE PROBLEM

To analyze the present strengths and weaknesses of Laos; and to estimatefuture develop nents and trends to

CONCLUSIONS

rimitive, sparselykingdom whkh emergedolitical and administrative unit only after World War IL3 Laos realized itswithin the French Union. Sincehe US has providedessential to balance the Laotian budget and international paymentsand to maintain its armed forces. (Paras.)

Therearge measure of unity in non -Communist political circles in Laos. Except for the current rice shortage, there are few pressing economic and social problems which are readily exploitable by the Communists. Nevertheless, theIsoor position to deal with the Communist threat because of popularind rudimentary communications and transportation, and because of long dependence on the French for mostadministration and security functions. (Paras.)

The Pathetmall group ofLao nationalists taken over andby the "Democratic Repubtc of

'Tbtt cMJnulc mpmeati porUooi ofT-M

aalase.

Vietnam"oses the immediate Communist threat to Laos. At Geneva, the Pathet Lao was afforded recognition and was permitted to regroup lis forces in the two northern Lao provinces of Phong Saly and Stun Heuaolitical settlement Since then it hasthe Lao government fromadministrative control over these two provinces. The Pathet Lao, with DRV support, is using the time gained from prolonged negotiations with the Laoto strengthen its armed forces and its political control in the northern area of Laos. However/the Pathet Lao military forces, without reinforcement by DRV units, will probably not developthe period of this estimate theto seize Laos by force.

1 Pathet Lao, in its negations wid the Lao government, will continue to seek participationoalition government for all ol Laos. Il will probably alsoits propaganda to have its area and candidates included in the nationalscheduled forhe Pathet Lao is unlikely to accept any pro-

postu which weakens its control of Phong Saly end Sam Heua. Unless directed to do so for reasons of Bloc strategy, theLao Is unlikely to launch attacks south yard from its present areas or togeneral guerrilla warfareLaos during ihe period of thisHowever, the Pathet Lao possibly reinforced by infiltrated DRV regulars, will probably continue its military efforts to force the small isolated Royal Lao Army garrisons to withdraw from Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

e Laotian government will probably continue efforts to counter the Pathet Lao by Improving Lao military and eecu-rity forces and by seeking to obtain full support of the major non-Communist powers. We believe that during thenod of this estimate, tie Lao government will probably continue to excludePathet Lao influence in the other ten provinces- Furthermore, we behave the major non-Communist politicalwlli probablyubstantialin the national elections scheduled for December

The Lao government almost certainly will not be able to solve the Pathet Lao problem by force during the period of this estimate. Despite its numerical strength, the Lao Army does not have the logistic and command capabilities toa large-scale military operation. Moreover, the French are unlikely tosuch support Zn any case, in theevent that the Lao government should attempt to regain control of the two northern provinces by force, the DRV would probably covertly provide military units sufficient to prevent theof the Pathet Lao Although the Lao government may bo able by covert means to develop an anti-Communist resistance effort in Pathet Lao territory, suchwill probably not weaken Pathet Lao forces significantly or threatencontrol of the northern provinces.

n the longer run, if the Pathet Lao is not suppressed by force, tho best that the Lao government on hope tois to inctcase its military and police effectiveness and popular support mffl-ciently to prevent the spread of Pathet Lao influence. The long-range prospects for acli iering this limited objective appear slightly better than even if Laos receives timely economic, technical, and military assistance. The chances would hereduced If South Vietnam fell under DRV control

discussion

INTRODUCTION

ft. The Ko.fdom ofir an underdeveloped, untieri*oulated, end primitive country, even in com portion with other areas In Southeast Asta. It rmrrgvdndr unit only alter Worldnd its political and economic institutions arerudimentary. ew hundred

French-educated individuals participate in government and politico,uge portion of the population ofs Illiterate, primitive, uid politicallyense of nationalism is limited to the few active leaders, and only respect for the Crown and general adherence to Buddhismemblnnce of popular Identification with the Stat*.

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i. Bicauae o! its s'.-alegtc location adjacent to ttw Jongnlet ended fxontkra ofetnr.m, Cambodia, and Thailand. Lacs has been an Important target for the CommunistitheRV regular forcesmajor operations In Laoshe tost two rears of the Indcchinese war anda Leo Coromiinw* ntoranent. the Pathet Ino. Under lhe terms of the Generathe Pa that lao was instructed tohs forces in the two northern provinces ot Sam JTtuR ur.ii. Phong Saly, but theacknowledged government sovereignty in thee* provincesolitical settle-tneci. However, the Pathet Lao has since frustrated the government's eflorU toIta control over these areas.

he Royal Lao government end Its forces arc poorly equipped to cope with thethreat to Laos. To retain ItsIn the long run, Laos will require strong diplomatic support, technical,and mHHsry assistance, and possibly the direct support a? foreign armed forces.

OVERNMENT AND POLITICS

oltowlng the end of World War II, the French consolidated their former holdings In Lhe area bet wean Cambodia and northwest Tonlda underominal control of thecn Luang Prabang and proclaimed the existence of the ittngnecn of Laos.wrs granted its first measureonstitutional monarchymall elected rsserob'y was established. With ifce transfer ol French reserved powers to the Leo government inLaos was accorded the status of "complete Independence within itie Frencht this time, the Lao government assumed the responsibility for ah functions of government except command of its militaryen remained part of the FreocU Union Farces fighting InHowever, the Uo government felt that the French at Uw Geneva Conference failed to drfend Loo interests with sufficient vigor. Knee that time. Laos has sought lo limit Its former complete cU(cndeoce on France for security by the devetoptnent of independent relations .nth other nations and bythe withdrawal of some French techn1-dans and advisors.

Crown, with Its power tolaws and designate the Primeominant role In theKing Sisavang Vong is aged andand lives in virtual retirement, buthave been effectively assumed byCrown Prince. fUvang Vathana. He

Strongly pro-Western and anti-Communist and hasrincipal force In maintaining cooperation with the US and France.

A large measure of basic political unity, attributable In considerable degree to theof the Crown Prince,mong non-Communist factions in Laos.3 most of the "Free Laos" leaders who had taken refuge In Thailand In IMSrotest against French rule, made their peace with the Crown and toe French and returned to Laos. Inyears, political divisions, which occasion-any hove appeared severe, hate resultedfrom personal antagonisms among the educated, related, ruling families, and not from basic differences on policy

Tbe present government of Premier Kalay Sasorith, like its predecessors,oalition of the major non-Communist political facdons. Premier Katay Is the nominal leader of the Progressive Party, the faction with thenumber of seats In the National Assembly. Prince Souvanna Phouma. premier fromtos the principal challenger to Katay's leadership within the Progressive Party. The other principal non-Communttt political grouping represented In the Cabinet, the newly oeganned Independent Party, Is lead try Foreign Minister Phony San-anikone.

Tho legal non-Communist opposition to the government is limited to Bong Souvanna-vong and his Laos National Union Party which, is represented by four deputies Inmem-ber National Assembly. Despite his personal prestigeember of the influential Sou-vannavona. tamlly. Bong's party does notto have any significant snpport

The political scene Is subject to someby Iho maneuvers of Prince Pelsarath,

a tenner Free Lso leader OBI residing Ina ihadouy intxirnes lo gain power in Laos appear to Involve some topped from Thai eteroente. He appear* to bare HUle real influence, but his activities occasionallythe nighty personal political allianees in Laos,

Premier Rater's government will probably remain In office at leastew assembly is convened following national elections now scheduled fornfor these elections, Satey and Pnouy. with the encourugemeat cl the Crown Prince, bare formed aof Uteti two parties to order toolid ailU-Ccauxuuus* front and to Insure the defeat of any Pathet Lao member or sympathiser who might stand for election in the provinces not undercontrol. In the post, political parties hire not played an important part In the po-UUem affairs of Laos, but tn the forthcoming elections they will assume critical Importance in government efforts to hand thea decisive electoral defeat. Throughefeat, the government hopes tovUcuhuty to <be ICC, both toe sbiurdity of Pathet Lao claims to astatus and theight to control and administer all of Laos,

The gewnment, unless It regains admin isLralive control in the two Pathet Laoprobably nill not attempt to holdthere, and non-Communist candidates In the remaining ten pro-nncss will probablyarge majority of .stats in the National Assembly. However, tt the nwdor non-Com-rounist groups fail to cooperate. Communists or Communist sympathisers may win tome seats. In toy event, we bedew that thegovernment will be controlledoalition simitar to <be present Cabinetand -hat It will follow similar foreign and domestic policies.

THE PAtHEf IAO

o'tnclps! fotenuu threat to thegovernment rs thef. began9 assr of theI-sos movement whenof the more radical nationalists ted by Prince Souphanouvong [oincd tee Viot Minh in Tonkin. The Prince was probablyby ambition for the throne and an intense hatred for the French. Although tins Laomovement had virtually nosupport amongthe Viet MinhUus group into the DRV united front1 as the "Neo-Lao Ibaiahe executive arm of this front was called the "Pathet Lao"

When substantial DRV regular forces entered Laos3 and again Inhey brought withmall number of Laotian military units and installed the"Resistance Government of Pathet Loo" In northern Laos. At the Genevathe Communists exaggerated Pathet Lao strength (at that time Pathet Lao forces numberedoorly armed men) and won the right for the Pathet Lao forces toto thctwo northern provincespoliticallthough atthe Lao government asserted its right to administer these two provinces and the conference "took note" of this declaration, the Pathet Lao has been able to Mtubilsh effective control over allia and Pltoog Saly, except for severaled pockets held byegular troops of the Royal Army. The communists have sincemain!nInert this control Insisting that such was the Intent of the Geneva accords. Long political negotiations between the two sides under the auspices of the international Control Commission (ICC) for Laos have produced no settlement.

Despite intensive efforts by the Pathet Lao, assisted by the DRV, to indoctrinate and propagandise the Lao population of Sam Neua and Phong Saly. the morrment probably has won few willing adherents and for the present at least has little popular tuppoit. There have been reports of widespread confiscation of land "mi property in these two provinces and of severe measures against local officials accused of being disloyal to the Communists. The small Communist cadres, which probably remained behind in some of the oilier

incM when the Pathet Lao troops regrouped In the north, have apparently generated little popular support (or their cause in the other Lao rrovinces. The Vietnamese taintwith the Pathet Lao movement has hampered Communist efforts becausegenerally fear and dislike Vietnamese, whether Communist or iron-Communist. Moreover, the aggressive tactics of Uwmovement are substantially more alien to the Lao people than to Uw

Using the respite afforded them by the Genera Agreements and by the subsequent negoliat-uns with the Lao government, the Pathet Lao has sbertgthened its militaryith direct Vket Mlnh aid inand advisory personnel (believedto all Pathethe Pathet Lao has bunt up an estimated armed strength, organised Into twelve Infantry bat-tahons and one heavy weapons baUalion. Foui infantry battalions are deployed In Phong Saly ard the remainder rn Bam Neua.

The effectiveness of these forces has ap-parenUy Increased In recent months as aof Intensive training and indoctrination.hortage of rice, coupledeneral lack of Ideological motivation, may have resulted in poor morale among some Of the units. Moreover, some of the troops are reportedly forced conscripts from areas which the Pathet Lao occupied prior to Ha regroup-ment in Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

Government Rotation* with the Pathet Lao

the Geneva Conference, Laorelations with the Pathet Lao haveand on several occasions actualhas occurred. Following repeatedtheease-fire was finallythe two sidessporadic small-scale fighting hasaround Royal Laotian Army postsNeua and Phong Saly. and politicalwhich began in January betweenand the Pathet Lao are at

aced with Its own! and with Uw threat of DRVhe Pathet position If the 1U, al Lac Arrayassert Its control over the two the Kaiay government nas sought ny negotiation to reach some compromise settlement. Although Premier Katay has probably Lecorae Increasingly aware of the Communist motivation and allegiance of the Pathet Lao, he apparently ts still willing to continue negotiations in Uw hope that it DRV control of Uw Pathet Lao can be eliminated these "wayward brothers" can be brought back Into Uw fold. Moreover, he probably bopea that by demonstrating Uwof Uw present Pathet Lao position, Uw ICC win be Influenced to support tha Royal Lbo government The Pathet Lao's ultimate objective fa the formationoalitionthroughout Laos. In the mostrenewal of intermittent political talks between the government and the Pa the* Lao, Uw government has finally acceded to Pathet Lao demands to discuss election procedures prior to settlement of the problem of restoring royal administration In the

The Lao government hasd other methods of regaining control of the twoPlans for covert stimulation ofuprisings in the Pathet Lao area have been made, but numerous Lao leaders,Prime Minister Katay, fear that success might Induce the DRV to intervene, or that failure might force the Lao government to commit its regular forces to defend the loyal partisans. Meanwhile, the government has appointed two high-ranking military officers as governors of the two provinces. Theseaccompanied by lower-level officials, have tm.tr Installed themselves in the small areas of Sam Neua and Phong Saly stillby the Lao goveinment-

Wo believe that the Lao government win continue toesolution of the Pathet Lao problem by negotiation, perhaps accompanied by the covert activation and support of anti-Patiict Lao guerillas In Sam Neua and Phong Saly. It is unlikely that Uw Lao government

will attempt to sehw Snm Reus end Phong Saly by force, particularly so long usore is deterred by Uw presence of the ICC, Is actirery discrmrajed by France and the UK, and tacks the full support of Ibe US.

In the absence of direct military action by the Lao goreinmool, the Pathet Lao will probably tighten its control over Sam Neua and Phong Saly. The capability of Pa ihci Lao security forces will probably be improved, primarilyesult of DRV material and advisory assistants. Moreover, atstable DRV military unite readily available to support the Pathet Lao will continue to be stationed on Ihe Laos-Tonkin border. Somen ta of these onite might be mtUbrated to support the Pathet Lao if tbe Comma/lists consider that their control of the provinces is threatened.

The Pathet Lao will probably continue lo seek to develop popular support and guerrilla bases Uaroughoot Laos, andnd discredit tbe Lao governmenteaders. Although It will probably have some success tn these efforts, tbe Palnet Lao almostwQI not develop eufOclant popularor rriiiitary strengtfl during the period of UuS estimate to gain control Cf Laos

Pathet Lao in its oejotipuons with the Leo government, win continue to set*,tn soma manner,oalitionfor 8ft of Laoa. It will proCuiMy also xmUnue its propaganda to have Its area and sindfdatee included tn theuled forheill not be wHUing to accept any proposal which weakens itsf Phony saly and 3am Neua. Unless directed to do to for veasoru of Bloc strategy, the Pathet Lao la srulkeiyaunch attacks zou Inward from its iresenl areas or to Initiate gtmend vuerriUa warfarea during tha periodttila estimate. However, the ra.het Lao, ooeSibly ftinTorced bj infiltrated DRVlars, will probably continue its military ef--orts to force the arrudl Isolated Royal Lao irmy garrisons to withdraw from Sam Neua md Phong Saly.

The Lao government almost certainly will sit be note to solve the Pathet Lno problem by force during the period of this estimate. In the unlikely event that Uw Lao government should attempt to regain control of the two northern provinces by force, the DRV would probably covertly provide military unitsto prevent the destruction of toe Pathet Lao. Although Uw Lro government may be able by covert means to develop anresistance effort in Pathet Laosuch resistance will probably notPathet Lao forces significantly or threaten Communist control of the northern

n the longer run. If 'he Pathet Lao Is not suppressed by force, the best that Uw Lao government can hope to accomplish is Inits mUilary and police effectiveness and popular support sufficiently to prevent the spread of Pathet Lao Influence. The long-range prospects for achieving this limited objective appear sllghUy better than even If Laos receives timely economic, technical, and military assistance. However, Uw chances would be greaUy reduced if South Vietnam fell under DRV control.

w. crvn. and security functions

n the past, the Lao government has been fairly effective in maintaining internaland performing Uie normal functions of governmentprimarily because of theof any basic social or economicamong the population and because of the apparent docility and carefreeof the Lao people. However, tbeis poorly equipped to meet the new tests presented by Communist ui/Utration and subversion and by Increased mJependence. Tbe government has only been partiallytn exercising Uw responsibdiUesheld by French officials. Theof French personnel Is particularly darnaging to the effective administration of the Interior and Defense ministries, public works, higher educe tion, public health, and the treasury.

he Lao Army,otal strength,ational Guard, is poorly trained, toglstlcnlly weak, and badly led. The regular forces Includenfantry

amchutcrmed re-connalssince ecoopanics, and approximatelyommando cGrnoaniae. The embryonictand. dunn* the period of this estimate, will notc-opat capability.

ince Uw Geneva Agreements, thet the army has beenesult of the partial withdrawal of French cadres from Lao combat units, and the genera] transfer of command authority and noporolctiUy at all levels to Loatlans. The array is understaffed, and Its ability to pian and execute military operationsis dlojelly (Wpondent on the ability and willingness; ot the Trench military mission to Snfiaence and direct such operations.

he French Military Advlnory Mission to Laos, whose strengthl tady the Geneva Agreement,urrent strength ofpproximatelyercent of toe French mission personnel arc engaged Ininvolving cocuaani. and staff functions, primarily In technicallogistical services. The feeling of trioependenot afforded the Lao army by the relinquishment of Frenchin4 has !u'endency by Lao otnesra to disregard the advice of French ad-Tisors and to resent the presence of French officers in positions oferious morale problem has apparently arisen among French personnel who find themselvesin en unfriendly atmosphere Thisaggravates the weakness of the Lao .Array.

n addition to the Advisory Mission, the French are also permitted toorceombat troops at two bases In Laos for the defense of that country. At present theave onlyroops (one battalion r'lus nec-ssarv service troops) main-timing one base at Seno In central Laos The force could be readily reinforced by ale co theirecgth. but even at fu3 strength this small otnUragtnt could ret be considered an eflectivo deterrent to any strong trnradiirg force

ivencooperation Intogether with French logistic support of operations, the Lao Army probably has the capability either to defend Laos against an attack by Pathet Lao forces or to attack and seize the major population andcenters In Phongd Scm Neua provinces. However, the army could notthe Infiltration of Pathet Lao guerrilla forces into other areas of Laos, or completely suppress the Pathet forces in the twoprovinces. If the Pathet Lao wasby substantial DRV forces, the Lao Army, even with full support of Frenchpermitted In Laos by the Genevacould not seise Phong Saly and Sam Neua provinces or defend Laos.

he army will remain totally dependent on foreign assistance during the period of this estimate. Progress In Increasing the army's .effectiveness will require an Improvement in relations between French and Lao personnel. Moreover, the army cannot operate effectively unless the French supply sufficient airlift to transport and supply the units involved in

V. ECONOMIChe economy ot Laos Is essenliaUy In nature. The small, predominantly rural population, rising primitive methods, normally produces only enough rice to meet its minimum requirements. In addition, small quantities of tin, coffee, and tobacco are available for export. Transportation andfacilities In Laos are primilive-Timber resources remain largely unexploited. and known rraneral resources aresmalL It. Total government revenue* do not cover even the nonmtlitary budget, which currently amountshronic deficitexists in the balance of payment position. Annual exports amount only to, while import requirements for textiles and other finished goodsach year. Prior tohe Frenchsufficient assistance to bnlance thebudgetnternational paymentsand to equip and support its army. Since this date, the UA baa assumed the French rote. At present, the anticipatedlevel of foreign aid. mostly provided by

US, approxiuin'tdncluding moreor thu military budget.

hereurrent serious shortage ofaos, estimated0 metric tons. It Is the result of, two successive droughts and tht lingering effects of the Viet3f arrangements for the triangular Jar^ese^TtaairUS rice deal are soon coracle ted. Tbsi tie? will be distributed in Laos to alleviate this shortage.

of consuroer goods remain atlevel, although some tmprovementsmg and financing facilities havemade. In recent bade negotiationsthe Laottans gained agreementfree transit of goods throughcomplillon of Thai rail facilitiesup with the Mekong River ferry nearwilluteght tosls tti ui the presentSaigon, and will decrease theof Laos on tho Mekongfor the transport of Its foreign trade.

VLR&AYIOMS

the Geneva Conference,Hons were In general friendly. Laoscompletely dependant on Franceand economic assistance, and foragainst Viet Minh incursions.most of the uniavon.Dle aspects ofdid net develop in Laos.Ihereumber of Lao leaders whomdeperidence for 'heir people.of Frei-Ch military power Inand the US decision, tollowtng theto grant ajMattnee directlyinitially encouraged theseseek to reduce French influenceat present. Lao nationalistare tempered by awareness of theof tho French military,cultural contribution to theare no indications that Laotiansleave the Prcneh Union, and one ofof the Katay government isits friendly relations with France.

t the present time. France almost cer-belniy desires to keep fnee 'dthin the French

Union In order to bolster claims ot France to great power status and to ensure itsIn the making ot Free World AsianHowever, French policy towards Laos, particularly with respect to the problem posed by the Pathet Lao, Is apparentlyasic aversion to any measures that would involve greater expense to France or that would risk the involvement of its military forces tn renewed hostilitiesIt has advised the Lao government to refrain from using military force to break Pathet Lao resistance in the two provinces, and indicated thai French troops would not participate in sucn an operation.

Although limited by the Genevarestrictions on military trainingthe US hasonstant:/role In Laos. Accordingly, Lao policy on ail basic Issues has been considerablyby its desire to receive US support.

Within the restraints set by US end other Western influences. Premier Katay, bydirectly with Communist China and the DRV at Bandung, has sought to Improve his positionis the Pathet Lao and to lessen the threat of forcefulunisi action.Katay has reportedly Indicated hisof the Cnou-Nehru Treet the 'nuance of the Indians and the. I'.'nese at Iho Bandung Conference, Katay joinedeclaration with DRVMinister Fham van Dong, upholding "good neighborlyetween the two countries. There Is, however, no indication that Katay in lends toeutral position or that be plans to establish formal relations with the DRV or Communist China. Wethe Lao government will continue tothese lines of policy during the period of this estimate.

Laos hasolicy of maintaining correct diplomatic relations with all thenon-Conununist Asia states. Its ties are closer with the pro-Western Asian nations than with the neutralist stales. Several of thehoweverBurma. Ceylon. India, and Indonesiahave now afforded Laosdc jure or do facto recognition.

Toe Wc goTi-.toiocvt has sought and BCtUered closer econorrlc and poUUcal reuv tioas vita Thailand. AKkWMfii eonsxteraUk) resentment and suspJcJoa ot Thai meddling in Loo aC&irs beclouds to some extent theattitude toward Thailand, relationsthe two countries hare improved. An eamarvr agreem'ir.t, favorable to Laos, has recently been concluded. The Thaihas also offered to assist In the training of Lao Tobee. We believe relations between the two countries will continue to improve during ffia period of this estimate.

ndso-Lao ndattom have developed chiefly inperiod sine* the Genera Con-feranceargely under the stimulus of Indian eruuro anshlp of the ICC. Failure to extend de jure recognition lo Lao.is due in part to Pathet Lao ceo till In the bfcoprovinces and in partuestion of the legitimacy of the Royal Lao government.the Indian government Is aware that the Pathet Lao is supported by the DRV. the principal factors shaping Indian policyetennination lo aver* hostilitiesesire to maintain an im /Uallty In seeping with the Indian position on the XCC.esult of Indian attitudes, the politicalof the Pathet Lao has been strengthened, the Cornmiuusts have had time to strengthen their military forces, and Lao government efforts to establish control over the twoprovinces have been hampered. The Indian government will probably not change substantially its present policy toward Laos during the period of this estimate unless the Pathet Lao should clearly be the aggressorencwul of hostilities.

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