Formation of the Third Coalition
The Provisional Government of National Union (PGNU), Laos's third experiment with coalition government, was finally constituted on April 5, 1974, following one last desperate coup attempt by rightist officers in exile against Souvanna Phouma. Cabinet posts were assigned, with a vice premier and five ministers from each side plus two chosen by mutual consent. Under each minister was a vice minister from the other side. The makeup of the National Political Consultative Council, an unelected pseudo-National Assembly, was similarly balanced.
Paragraph 14 of the September 14, 1973, protocol provided for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Laos within sixty days of the PGNU's formation, the same deadline as for prisoner exchanges. Once again the United States met the deadline. Although it terminated the mission of Group 959 after the cease-fire, North Vietnam did not withdraw its estimated 38,500 regular troops from Laos. Among other provisions that occupied the Joint Central Commission to Implement the Agreement was the demarcation of the cease-fire line and the neutralization of the two capitals.
Because of the Pathet Lao ministers' opposition, the PGNU barred the traditional opening of the National Assembly on May 11, Constitution Day. The king voiced his displeasure over the PGNU's decision to circumvent the constitution and not convene the National Assembly, elected in 1972. The dissolution of the National Assembly and the holding of new elections, matters that had not been specifically included in the Vientiane Agreement or its protocol, embroiled the PGNU in endless argument. The king did not attend the session of the National Political Consultative Council in Louangphrabang, which, under the chairmanship of Souphanouvong, adopted a far-ranging eighteen-point political program. One of the points in the National Political Consultative Council's program was a demand that the United States pay reparations for war damages.
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