The Laotian government has mobilised all its soldiers, police and even civil servants as hopes rise an end to what has been called Indo-China's "forgotten war".
The Laotian government has mobilised all its soldiers, police and even civil servants as hopes rise an end to what has been called Indo-China's "forgotten war". The conflict which has disrupted Laos for 20 years earned its nickname because it was overshadowed by the Vietnam hostilities. It arose from a quarrel between two half-brothers. Prince Souvanna Phouma, 71, leads the Royal Lao Government in Vientiane; Prince Souphanouvong, 60, heads the pro-communist Pathet Lao, which is backed by North Vietnam.
The brothers different on the best policy for Laos during the struggle for independence from the French after the Second World War, and the quarrel grew into a bitter guerrilla struggle.
In October last year, talks began between the two factions, and last week the government suddenly issued a complete news black-out on discussions. The reason was said to be that the peace talks were reaching a critical stage. Dr. Henry Kissinger, the United States presidential envoy who negotiated the Vietnam peace, has been in Laos discussing the possibility of extending the cease-fire.
The government's mobilisation order involved troops, who were moved to front-line positions, and the country's 6,000 policemen, who were ordered to co-operate with military authorities. Laos's 4,000 civil servants were also armed and told to guard their offices day and night. The Government said the moves are a precaution against a possible mass onslaught by the Pathet Lao similar to that of the Viet Cong immediately before the Vietnam truce.
SYNOPSIS: The bustling streets of Vientiane show no sign that Laos is at war. Cinema posters dominate the streets instead of government notices. But, Laos is fighting what's been called "the forgotten war" - a bitter struggle between two half-brothers, over-shadowed by the bigger events in Vietnam. Government leader, Prince Souvanna Phouma, who's 71, and Prince Souphanouvong, 60-year-old leader of the pro-communist Pathet Lao, have been fighting since the Forties.
In Vientiane the Royal Lao government proudly displays weapons captured from the Pathet Lao, who are backed by North Vietnam.
To the children they are objects of curiosity. To the government they are evidence that they have been hitting hard at the Pathet Lao guerrillas.
The war developed when the two Royal brothers differed over the best course for Laos when they were fighting for freedom from the French after the Second World War.
But there are signs that peace may be near. Talks which began in October have suddenly progressed, according to the government.
All Laotian troops have been mobilised, and the country's 6,000 policemen have been put under military authority.
Life goes on in the streets and markets of Vientians - despite the government's news blackout. People see troops in the streets and they've been told the peace talks have reached a critical stage. But they don't know how the talks are progressing.
Pathet Lao soldiers can also be seen in the markets. While they wander the streets, four thousand Laotian civil servants have been armed and told to guard their offic???. The government fears a last-minute offensive to gain ground, as happened in Vietnam.
The Pathet Lao have their own temporary headquarters while the talks go on towards ending the forgotten war.