NIE 63.3-55 PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS TO JULY 1956

Created: 7/26/1955

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65

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

(Supersedes portions ofn Laos)

PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS TO6 .

'i:by the

DIRKCTOtt OF CENTRAL

The. following :inteTligence organizations participated in the preparation o/ thishe Central intelligence Agency and. the intelligence organisations o/ the Departments of Staie.theArmy, the Navy, the Air Force,and The Joint Staff. Concurred in by the INTELLIGENCE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

on_-t(S. Concurring weft the .Special Assistant. Intelligence. Department of State; the Assistant Chief Of Staff, -Department of the Army; the Director of Naval Intelligence; ihe Director of Intelligence, USAF; and the Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Jointhe Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the 1AC, and the.Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.

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ASSISTANT DIRECTOR,ON'E

PROBABLE DEVELOPMENTS IN LAOS TO6

THE PROBLEM

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

CONCLUSIONS

rimitive, sparselykingdom which emergedolitical and administrative unit only after World War II.3 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 popularand rudimentary communications and transportation, and because of long dependence on the French for mostadministration and security functions. (Paras.

The Pathetmall group ofI.ao nationalists taken over andby the "Democratic Republic of

'Thin esUinatc supersedes portions of7n Laos.

Vietnam"oses the immediate Communist threat to Laos. At Geneva, the Pathet Lao was afforded recognition and was permitted to regroup its forces in the two northern Lao provinces of Phong Saly and Sam Neuaolitical 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.

athet Lao, in its negotiations with the Lao government, will continue toarticipationoalition government for all of Laos. It will probably alsoits proi>aganda to have its area and candidates included in the nationalscheduled forhe Pathet Lao is unlikely to accept any

posal which weakens its control of Phong Saly and Sam Neua. Unless directed to do so for reasons of Bloc strategy, the Pa-thet Lao is unlikely to launch attacks southward from its present areas or togeneral guerrilla warfareLaos during the period of thisHowever, the Pathet Lao possibly reinforced by infiltrated DRV regulars, will probably continue its military efforts to force tlie small isolated Royal Lao Army garrisons to withdraw from Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

The Laotian government will probably continue efforts to counter the Pathet Lao by improving Lao military andforces and by seeking to obtain full support of the major non-Communist powers. We believe that during theof this estimate, the Lao government will probably continue to excludePathet Lao influence in the other ten provinces. Furthermore, we believe the major non-Communist politicalwill probablyubstantialin the national elections scheduled for

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. In 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 be 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, the best that the Lao government can hope tois to increase its military and police effectiveness and popular supportto prevent the spread of Pathet Lao influence. The long-range prospects for achieving this limited objective appear slightly better than even if Laos receives timely economic, technical, and military assistance. The chances would bereduced if South Vietnam fell under DRV control.

DISCUSSION

INTRODUCTION

he Kingdom of Laos is an underdeveloped, underpopulated, and primitive country, even in comparison with other areas in Southeast Asia. It emergedolitical andunit only after World War n, and its political and economic institutions arerudimentary. ew hundred

French-educated individuals participate in government and politics,arge portion of the population ofs illiterate, primitive, and politicallyense of nationalism is limited to the few active leaders, and only respect for the Crown and general adherence to Buddhismemblance of popular identification with the state.

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of its strategic locationthe long and undefended frontiers ofCambodia, and Thailand, Laosan important target for theof the DRV. DRV regular forcesmajor operations in Laos duringtwo years of the Indo-Chinese war anda Lao Communist movement, theUnder the terms of the Genevathe Pathet Lao was instructed toits forces in the two northernSam Neua and Phong Saly, but theacknowledged governmentthese provincesoliticalHowever, the Pathet Lao hasthe government's efforts toIts control over these areas.

Royal Lao government and itspoorly equipped to cope with thethreat to Laos. To retain itsin the long run, Laos willdiplomatic support, technical,and military assistance, and possiblysupport of foreign armed forces.

AND POLITICS

ollowing the end of World War n, the French consolidated their former holdings in the area between Cambodia and northwest Tonkin under the nominal control of tlieof Luang Prabang and proclaimed the existence of the Kingdom of Laos.was granted its first measureonstitutional monarchymall elected assembly was established. With the transfer of French reserved powers to the Lao governmentaos was accorded the status of "complete independence within the Frencht this time, the Lao government assumed the responsibility for all functions of government except command of its military forces, which remained part of the French Union Forces fighting inHowever, the Lao government felt that the French at the Geneva Conference failed to defend Lao interests with sufficient vigor. Since that time, Laos has sought lo limit its former complete dependence on France for security by the development of independent relations with other nations and bythe withdrawal of some Frenchand advisors.

The Crown, with its power to promulgate the laws and designate the Prime Minister and Cabinet,ominant role in theKing Sisavang Vong is aged andand lives in virtual retirement, but his powers have been effectively assumed by the capable Crown Prince, Savang Vathana. He is strongly pro-Western and anti-Communist and liasrincipal 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, exists among non-Communist factions in Laos.9 most of the "Free Laos" leaders who had taken refuge in Thailand6rotest against French rule, made their peace with the Crown and the French and returned to Laos. Inyears, political divisions, whichhave appeared severe, have resultedfrom personal antagonisms among the educated, related, ruling families, and not from basic differences on policy.

The present government of Premier Katay Sasorith, like its predecessors,oalition of the major non-Communist political factions. Premier Katay is the nominal leader of the Progressive Party, the faction with thenumber of seats in the National Assembly. Prince Souvanna Phouma, premieros the principal challenger to Katay's leadership within the Progressive Party. The other principal non-Communist political grouping represented in the Cabinet, the newly organized Independent Parly, is lead by Foreign Minister Phouy San-anlkone.

The 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-vannavong family, Bong's party does notto have any significant support.

The political scene is subject to someby the maneuvers of Prince Petsarath,

a former Free Lao leader still residing inHis shadowy intrigues to gain poweros appear to involve some support from Thai elements. He appears to have little real influence, but his activities occasionallythe highly personal political alliances in Laos.

Premier Katay's government will probably remain in office at leastew assembly is convened following national elections now scheduled fornfor these elections, Katay and Phouy, with the encouragement of the Crown Prince, havecoalition" of their two parties in order toolid anti-Communist front and to insure the defeat of any Pathet Lao member or sympathizer who might stand for election in the provinces not undercontrol. In tlie past, political parties have not played an important part in theaf fail's of Laos, but In the forthcoming elections they will assume critical importance in government efforts to hand thea decisive electoral defeat. Throughefeat, the government hopes toparticularly to the ICC, both the absurdity of Pathet Lao claimspecial status and the government's right to control and administer all of Laos.

The government, unless it regainscontrol in the two Pathet Laoprobably will not attempt to holdthere, and non-Communist candidates in tlie remaining ten provinces will probablyarge majority of seats in the National Assembly. However, if the majorgroups fail to cooperate. Communists or Communist sympathizers may win some seats. In any event, we believe that thegovernment will be controlledoalition similar to the present Cabinetand that it will follow similar foreign and domestic policies.

III. THE PATHET WO

principal internal threat to thegovernment is theLao movement. It began9 asof the Free Laos movement whenof the more radical nationalists led by Prince Souphanouvong joined the Vict Minh in Tonkin. The Prince was probablyby ambition for the throne and an intense hatred for the French. Although this Laomovement had virtually nosupport among Laotians, the Viet Minhthis group into the DRV united front1 as the "Neo-Lao Itsala Front" The 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 Lao" 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 toIn the two 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 establish effective control over all Sam Neua and Phong Saly, except for several small isolated pockets held byegular troops of the Royal Army. The Communists have sincemaintained this control insisting that such was tho 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 propagandize the Lao population of Sam Neua and Phong Saly, the movement probably has won few willing adherents and for the present at least has little popular support. There have been reports of widespread confiscation of land and 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 other prov-

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inccs when the Pathet Lao troops regrouped in the north, have apparently generated little popular support for their cause ln the other Lao provinces. The Vietnamese taintwith the Pathet Lao movement has hampered Communist efforts becausegenerally fear and dislike Vietnamese, whether Communist or non -Communist. Moreover, the aggressive tactics of tliemovement are substantially more alien to the Lao people than to the

Using the respite afforded them by the Geneva Agreements and by the subsequent negotiations with the Lao government, the Pathet Lao lias strengthened its military forces. With direct Viet Minh aid Inand advisory personnel <bellcvcdto all Pathethe Pathet Lao has built up an estimated armed strengthrganized into twelve infantryand one heavy weapons battalion. Four infantry battalions are deployed in Phong Saly and the remainder in Sum Neua.

Tlie effectiveness of these forces hasincreased 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 Its regroup-menl in Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

Government Relations with the Pathet Lao

the Geneva Conference, Iaorelations 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 arc at

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Faced with its own military inadequacies2 and with the threat ol DRV reinforcement of the Pathet position if the Royal Lao Armyto assert its control over the two provinces, the Katay government has sought by negotiation to reach some compromise settlement. Although Premier Katay has probably become Increasingly aware of the Communist motivation and allegiance of the Pathet Lao, he apparently Is still willing to continue negotiations in the hope that if DRV control of the Pathet Lao can be eliminated these "wayward brothers" can be brought back into the fold. Moreover, he probably hopes that by demonstrating theof the present Pathet Lao position, the ICC will be influenced to support the Royal Lao government. Ihc Pathet Lao's ultimate objective is the formationoalitionthroughout Laos. In the mostrenewal of intermittent political talks between the government and the Pathet Lao, the government has finally acceded to Pathet Lao demands to discuss election procedures prior to settlement of tlie problem of restoring royal administration in the two provinces.

The Lao government has considered 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 now Installed themselves ln the small areas of Sam Neua and Phong Saly stillby the Lao government.

We believe that the Lao government will continue toesolution of the Pathet Lao problem by negotiation, perhaps accompanied by the covert activation and support of anti-Pathet Lao guerillas In Sam Neua and Phong Saly, It ls unlikely thato government

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will attempt to seize Sam Neua and Phong Saly by force, particularly so long asove is deterred by the presence of the ICC, is actively discouraged by France and the UK. and lacks the full support of the us.

In the absence of direct military action by the lao government, the Pathet Lao will probably tighten its control over Sam Neua and Phong Saly. The capability of Pathet Lao security forces will probably be improved, primarilyesult of DRV material and advisory assistance. Moreover, sizeable DRV military units readily available to support the Pathet Lao will continue to be stationed on the Laos-Tonkin border. Elements of these units might be Infiltrated to support the Pathet Lao if the Communists consider that their control of the provinces Is threatened.

The Pathet Lao will probably continue to .seek to develop popular support and guerrilla basesos, and to weaken and discredit the Lao government and its leaders. Although It will probably have some success in these efforts, theo almostwill not develop sufficient popularor military strength during the period of this estimate to gain control of Laos

Pathet Lao in its negotiations with the Lao government, will continue to seekin some manner,oalitionfor all ot Laos. It will probably also continue its propaganda to have its area and candidates included in the national elections scheduled forhe Pathet Lao will not be willing to accept any proposal which weakens its control of Phong Saly and Sam Neua. Unless directed to do so for reasons of Bloc strategy, the Pathet Lao is unlikely to launch attacks southward from its present areas or to initiate general guerrilla warfarei i. during the period of this estimate However, the Pathet Lao. possibly reinforced by infiltrated DRVwill probably continue Its militaryto force the small isolated Royal Lao Army garrisons to withdraw from Sam Neua and Phong Saly.

The Lao government almost certainly will not be able to solve tho Pathet Lao problem by

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force during the period of this estimate. In the unlikely event that the 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 the Pathet Lao. Although the Lao 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

the longer run, if the Pathet Lao isby force, the best that thecan hope to accomplish is toits military and police effectivenesssupport sufficiently to preventof Pathet Lao influence. Theprospects for achieving thisappear slightly better than evenreceives timely economic, technical,assistance. However, thebe greatly reduced if Southunder DRV control.

IV. CIVIL AND SECURITY FUNCTIONS

In the past, the Lao government has been fairly effective In maintaining internaland performing the normal functions of governmentprimarily because of theof any baste social or economicamong the population and because of the apparent docility and carefreeof the Lao people. However, theis poorly equipped to meet the new tests presented by Communist infiltration and subversion and by increased Independence. The government has only been partiallyin exercising tho responsibilitiesheld by French officials. Theof French personnel Is particularly damaging to the effective administration of the Interior and Defense ministries, public works, higher education, public health, and the treasury.

Tlie Lao Army,otal strengthational Guard, is poorly trained, loglstically weak, and badly led. The regular forces includenfantry

arachutermedcompanies, and approximatelyommando companies. Tlie embryonic Laotian air force does not have and, during the period of this estimate, will notombat capability.

Since the Geneva Agreements, theof Uic army has beenesult of the partial withdrawal of French cadres from Lao combat units, and the general transfer of command authority and responsibility at all levels to Loatians. The army ls understaffed, and its ability to plan and execute military operationsis directly dependent on the ability and willingness of the French military mission to influence and direct such operations.

The French Military Advisory Mission to Laos, whose strength is limitedy the Geneva Agreement,urrent strength of. Approximatelyercent of the French mission personnel are engaged lninvolving command and staff functions, primarily in technical and logistical services. The feeling of independence afforded the Lao Army by the relinquishment of Frenchin4 has ledendency by Lao officers to disregard tlie advice of Frenchand to resent the presence of French officers in positions oferious morale problem has apparently arisen among French personnel who find themselvesin an unfriendly atmosphere. Thisaggravates the weakness of the Lao Army.

In addition to the Advisory Mission, the French arc also permitted toorceombat troops at two bases in Iaos for the defense of that country. At present the French have onlyroops (one battalion plus necessary .service troops)one base at Seno in central Laos. This force could be readily reinforced by air to the authorized strength, but even at full strength this small contingent could not be considered an effective deterrent to any strong invading force.

Given Franco-Lao cooperation Intogether with French logistic support of operations, the Lao Army probably has the capability either to defend Laos against an attack by Pathet Iao forces or to attack and seize the major population andcenters in Phong Saly and Sam 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 seize Phong Saly and Sam Neua provinces or defend Laos.

army will remain totallyforeign assistance during the period ofProgress in increasing thewill require an improvementbetween French and Laothe army cannot operatethe French supply sufficient airliftand supply the units Involved

V. ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

The economy of Laos is essentially sub-slstent In nature. The small, predominantly rural population, using 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 to Laos are primitive. Timber resources remain largely unexplofted, and known mineral resources are small.

Total government revenues do not cover even the nonmilitary 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 balance thebudget and international paymentsand to equip and support its army. Since this date, the US has assumed the French role. At present, the anticipatedlevel of foreign aid, mostly provided by

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US,ncluding moreor the military budget.

Thereurrent serious shortage of rice in Laos, estimated0 metric tons. It is the result of two successive droughts and the lingering effects of the Viet3f arrangements for the triangular Japanese-Thal-US rice deal are soon completed, Thai rice will be distributed in Laos to alleviate this shortage.

Imports of consumer goods remainow level, although some improvements in trading and financing facilities have recently been made. In recent trade negotiations with Thailand, the Laotians gained agreement to the free transit of goods through Thailand. Moreover, completion of Thai rail facilities to link up with the Mekong River ferry near to Vientiane willoute withlower freight costs than the present one through Saigon, and will decrease the present dependence of Laos on the Mekong River route for the transport of its foreign trade.

VI. FOREIGN RELATIONS

Until the Geneva Conference, Franco-Lao relations were in general friendly. Laos was almost completely dependent on France for military and economic assistance, and foragainst Viet Minh incursions.most of the unfavorable aspects ofdid not develop in Laos,thereumber of Lao leaders who desired independence lor their people. The collapse of French military power in Indoclii-na and the US decision, following the Geneva Conference, to grant assistance directly to Laos, initially encouraged these nationalists to seek to reduce French influence radically. However, at present, Lao nationalistarc tempered by awareness of theof the French military, economic, and cultural contribution to the country. There arc no Indications that Laotians desire to leave the French Union, and one of the objectives of tlie Kalay government is to strengthen its friendly relations with France.

At the present time. France almostdesires to keep Laos within the French

Union in order to bolster claims of France to great power status and to ensure itsin the making of 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 Franco or that would risk the involvement of its military forces in renewed hostilities.it has advised the Lao government to refrain from using military force to break Pathet Lao resistance in the two provinces, and indicated that French troops would not participate in such an operation.

Although limited by the Genevarestrictions on military trainingthe US hasonstantlyrole in Laos. Accordingly, Lao policy on all basic issues has been considerablyby Its desire to receive US support.

Within the restraints set by US and 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 forceful Communist action.Katay has reportedly Indicated hisof the Chou-Nehru "Fivet the instance of the Indians and theChinese at the Bandung Conference, Katay joinedeclaration with DRVMinister Pham van Dong, upholding "good neighborly relations" between the two countries. There is, however, no indication that Katay intends toeutral position or that he 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-Communist Asia states. Its tics are closer with the pro-Western Asian nations than with the neutralist states. Several of the latter, howeverBurma, Ceylon, India, and Indonesiahave now afforded Laosde jure or de facto recognition.

The Lao government has sought and achieved closer economic and politicalwith Thailand. Although considerable resentment and suspicion of Thai meddling in Lao affairs beclouds to some extent the lat-ter's attitude toward Thailand, relationsthe two countries have improved. An economic agreement, favorable to Laos, has recently been concluded. Tlie Thaihas also offered to assist In the training of Lao police. We believe relations between the two countries will continue to improve during the period of this estimate.

Indian-Lao relations have developed chiefly in the period since theargely under the stimulus af Indian chairmanship of the ICC. Failure to extend de jure recognition to Lao is due in part to Pathet Lao control in the twoprovinces 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 policyetermination to avert hostilitiesesire to maintain an impartiality in keeping with the Indian position on the ICC.esult of Indian attitudes, the politicalof the Pathet Lao has been strengthened, the Communists 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 aggressorenewal of hostilities.

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