The First Coalition

The First Coalition

It was thus as a fully sovereign country that Laos sent a delegation headed by its foreign minister, Phoui Sananikone, to the Geneva Conference on Indochina that put an end to the First Indochina War in July 1954. The armistice agreement for Laos, signed by a French general on behalf of French Union forces and a Viet Minh military official, provided for a cease-fire to take effect at 8:00 A.M. on August 6. Viet Minh forces were to be withdrawn from Laos to North Vietnam within 120 days. The Viet Minh delegation had brought Nouhak and another Pathet Lao member, Ma Khamphitay, with them to Geneva on Viet Minh passports, intending to have a Pathet Lao delegation seated, but they were not recognized by the conference. A provision in the armistice agreement for Laos was nevertheless inserted providing for the "fighting units of Pathet Lao" to be regrouped in Houaphan and Phôngsali provinces pending a political settlement. The RLG pledged to take steps to integrate all Laotian citizens into the political life of the kingdom.

The representatives of the other powers at Geneva signed no conference documents but instead subscribed to the Final Declaration taking note of the armistice agreements. United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles lobbied hard to ensure that the Laotians made no unnecessary concessions to the communists. At the final session, the United States delegation declared that it would refrain from the threat or use of force to disturb the armistice agreements and that it would view any violations of them as a threat to peace and security. Chinese premier Zhou Enlai stressed the advisability of a coalition government to the Laotians, urging an early meeting between princes Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong. He seemed prepared to offer an exchange of diplomats, his main concern being that Laos be free of United States military bases.

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