The Second Coalition
Souvanna Phouma reaffirmed his position that his was the legal government of Laos. In an interview, he spoke bitterly about his nemesis, Parsons, and said that "the Savannakhét group" was committed to the policy of military confrontation that had failed in the past. He believed Laos should conserve its ancient traditions and monarchy and urged a political settlement along the lines negotiated in 1957.
Phoumi's failure to advance on the Plain of Jars made a deep impression on the new administration of United States president John F. Kennedy. If Phoumi had his difficulties with Kong Le's outnumbered battalion, he was no match for the North Vietnamese. The North Vietnamese-Pathet Lao counteroffensive that opened in January drove Phoumi's poorly motivated troops and their United States military advisers back--a retreat that irrevocably changed the balance of forces in Laos.
The United States embassy in Vientiane had accurate intelligence of the numbers and movements of North Vietnamese military units in Laos, as opposed to the alarming reports emanating from Phoumi's headquarters. Central Laos and the entire length of the road from the Sala Phou Khoun junction south to Vangviang was in North Vietnamese-Pathet Lao hands by mid-March.
Contact between emissaries of the two sides was finally made by officers under a truce flag at the village of Ban Hin Heup on the Vientiane-Louangphrabang road. Tripartite truce talks opened in the nearby village of Ban Namone, with the ICC, reconvened by the cochairmen of the Geneva Conference, Britain, and the Soviet Union, present. The three negotiators were Nouhak, Pheng Phongsavan, and General Sing Ratanassamay. A cease-fire declared on May 3 did not prevent the Pathet Lao from capturing Xépôn, an important crossroads on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or put an end to the fighting in the Hmong country. As part of the plan to find a settlement, an enlarged Geneva Conference convened on May 16.
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