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Laos Table of Contents


Expansion of Pathet Lao Influence

There were thus two rival royal governments in Laos from the beginning of 1961, the Boun Oum-Phoumi Nosavan government at Vientiane and the Souvanna Phouma government at Khang Khay. The Pathet Lao, protected by the presence of thousands of North Vietnamese troops, constituted a third faction in what became a rightist-Neutralist-leftist division.

The idea of neutralism had been expressed by Kong Le in his earliest speeches in Vientiane, which described the goals of his coup d'état as stopping the fighting among the Laotians and enacting a policy of friendship with all foreign countries, especially Laos's neighbors. At Khang Khay, Soviet diplomats mingled with officials of missions from Beijing and Hanoi, with which relations had been established on May 5. Kong Le's troops readily adopted the unofficial name Neutralist Armed Forces. Souvanna Phouma seized the opportunity of having a sizeable number of adherents on hand at Khang Khay, including many Lao students returned from abroad, to form the Neutralist Party, (Lao Pen Kang-- known as the Neutralists). He was confident the party would outpoll the Pathet Lao's LPF in a free election.

Although publicly deferring to Souvanna Phouma on matters of government policy, the Pathet Lao secretly extended their influence at the grassroots level, using their proven methods of propaganda and organization. In villages under their control, the Pathet Lao installed their own personnel alongside the existing administration--for example, a khana muang (liberated district) alongside a chao muang (district chief), a khana seng (liberated subdistrict) alongside a pho tasseng (subdistrict chief), and a khana ban (liberated village) alongside a pho ban or nai ban (village chief). Access to the Pathet Lao-administered areas was forbidden to outsiders, even after the formation of the coalition government.

A hierarchy of politico-military participation and responsibility tied the villagers to a chain of command. All resources in villages under Pathet Lao control were mobilized into both a horizontal and a vertical structure that included organizations of women, youth, and monks. Villagers were easily susceptible to Pathet Lao control, making a Pathet Lao village a world unto itself. Children acted as couriers and lookouts; young people joined the village self-defense units, the lowest level of guerrilla organization; adults acted as porters for the regular guerrilla units; and women made clothing, prepared food, and looked after the sick and wounded.

Data as of July 1994