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Laos Table of Contents


The Kingdom of Laos

On December 15, 1946, in the face of guerrilla raids from across the Mekong, forty-four delegates to the Kingdom of Laos's first popularly elected Constituent Assembly were chosen. Under French supervision, the delegates worked on a constitution promulgated by Sisavang Vong on May 11, 1947. This constitution declared Laos an independent state within the French Union. On November 26, 1947, the thirty-three deputies to Laos's first National Assembly invested a government headed by Prince Souvannarath, another half-brother of Phetsarath. By the terms of a confidential protocol of February 25, 1948, Boun Oum was allowed to keep his title of Prince of Champasak but renounced his suzerain rights to this former kingdom. In return he was made inspector general of the kingdom, the third-ranking personage of Laos after the king and crown prince.

Under a successor government headed by Boun Oum, the Franco-Lao General Convention of July 19, 1949, gave Laos greater latitude in foreign affairs. Over the following months, France transferred its remaining powers. A Royal Lao Army was created, which by the end of 1952 comprised seventeen companies, in addition to a battalion entirely commanded by Laotian officers. On February 7, 1950, the United States and Britain recognized Laos. Later that year, the United States opened a legation in Vientiane.

Meanwhile, contacts had been made in Bangkok between the French and moderates in the Lao Issara government-in-exile. A coup d'état in Thailand ushered in a government much less sympathetic to the anti-French resistance in Laos than its predecessor and deprived the hardliners among the Lao Issara of precious support. A conflict developed between Phetsarath and Souphanouvong over the issue of the Lao Issara's ties to the Viet Minh. This conflict led to Souphanouvong's dismissal from the government-in-exile. When France offered an amnesty, the government decreed its own dissolution in October 1949 and returned to Vientiane in a French plane. Phetsarath was left in Thailand. Souphanouvong, vowing to continue to fight, headed for Vietnam. The Lao Issara was a spent force, although it lived on in legend.

Data as of July 1994