The pressures of increasing pro-Communist Pathet Lao strength are building up on Laotian Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma.
The pressures of increasing pro-Communist Pathet Lao strength are building up on Laotian Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma. On Saturday (12 July) he appealed to his countrymen to remain calm. He promised ? the government would not take action against any of the thousands of laotians who have fled their country in the cake of rising Pathet ? influence and want to return.
Thailand officials estimate that more than 20,000 Laotian refugees have fled to seek sanctuary in Thailand.
The rising strength of the Pathet Lao can be seen everywhere. Many bars, nightclubs and brothels have been forced to close--their shuttered doors a reminder of the attractions that gave Vientiane, the capital, a reputation an one of the most permissive cities in Asia. The stern Pathet Lao morality has also been directed at gambling, and provincial leaders and police have cracked down in an effort to restore traditional values and instill a new moral code.
But the shift to the left is also threatening an economic pillar of the country. Bitter demonstrations against the U.S. presence in Laos led the United States to cut back on its staff there and to close its aid mission. Congress is oven considering withdrawing all its aid from Laos. Last year the U.S. contributed about half of the GBP14.5 million pounds sterling (32 million U.S. dollars) provided by the six nation Foreign Exchange Operation Fund.
In an effort to replace the United States as a source of financial aid, Laos has been courting assistance elsewhere. The Vientiane airport reflects a lively traffic from China and from North Vietnam. Laos has also sought aid from the Scandinavian countries.
In view of the economic pressures, western diplomats say Laotians will see even more drastic changes in their life style. They predict that the cars still visible in the city will become rare as petrol imports decline. They also predict that shops handling luxury imported items will be forced to close their doors.
Many of these moves--while they may not have been planned by the Pathet Lao--fit its scheme for the country. The Pathet Lao would like to see Laos as a predominantly agrarian society independent of outside cultural influences. They've been urging citizens to stop using such things as cosmetics, to make their own cloth and to go to work on the land.
The fortunes of the Pathet Lao changed rapidly in the wake of Communist successes in neighbouring South Vietnam and Cambodia. Increasingly, hard-line Pathet Lao pro-communists have come to replace more moderate members of the country's delicately balanced government headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma. The Prince has explained that recent cabinet changes enhancing the Pathet Lao influence are in line with the new situation.
But despite the turmoil, some leaders remain optimistic that recent moves to nationalise key industries and claim that there is a good potential for the production of sugar and peanut oil. Fruit and vegetable canning are also considered feasible and officials are enthusiastic over a newly discovered potash source.