The Vientiane Agreement
The two sides signed the peace agreement in Vientiane on February 21, 1973. A new coalition government was to be formed. Vientiane and Louangphrabang were to be neutralized by the arrival of Pathet Lao security contingents. A cease-fire was to take effect from noon on the following day. Unlike in 1962, however, there were no solemn guarantees by fourteen signatories of Laos's neutrality. The agreement was strictly between Laotians, with the ICC more powerless than ever to verify its execution.
By the time of the cease-fire, United States aircraft had dropped almost 2.1 million tons of bombs on Laos, approximately the total tonnage dropped by United States air forces during all of World War II in both European and Pacific theaters. Most bombs were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which had grown into a major transportation route for the North Vietnamese. The cessation of United States bombing allowed the North Vietnamese-Pathet Lao supply convoys to move with impunity, enabling them to initiate armed actions that they camouflaged with accusations of cease-fire violations by RLG forces. The United States, in protest against some of the most flagrant cease-fire violations, sent its planes back into action on limited missions. This enabled the Pathet Lao to claim that the United States had violated the Vientiane Agreement.
An uneasy lull settled on the Hmong country north of Vientiane. Air power had allowed the Hmong to maintain a tenuous balance of force with their adversaries. However, the air strip at Longtiang was empty, and the Royal Lao Air Force T-28s, on which General Vang Pao had often relied, had been pulled back to Vientiane on orders from Souvanna Phouma. The United States air armada that had operated from bases in Thailand was withdrawn. With the loss of air cover, no area in Hmong territory was safe from artillery bombardment. Although their CIA advisers remained temporarily at Longtiang, the Hmong were beginning to feel deserted. With the war winding down in Vietnam and the military government in Thailand overthrown in a student revolt in October 1973, United States interest in Laos waned.
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