A new coalition government has assumed power in Laos and is faced with the immediate task of uniting the nation after 20 years of civil war.
LV Palaca at Luang Prabang and CU flag over entrance (2 shots)
SV Palace troops and Pathet Lab soldier on guard (2 shots)
GV New Government (Souphanouvong in centre) posing for photographers
SV ON right of picture Souvanna Phouma
SCU Palace guard
SV PAN & MV Souphanouvong and members of government leaving palace and inspecting guard of honour (3 shots)
MV Guard of honour
SV Souphanouvong into car and away
Initials BB/1842 BD/DW/BB/1854
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A new coalition government has assumed power in Laos and is faced with the immediate task of uniting the nation after 20 years of civil war.
The coalition was formed on Saturday (6 April) in King Savang Vatthana's Royal capital of Luang Prabang, following the resignation of Prince Souvanna Phouma's Vientiane Government. The formation of the coalition government followed tough negotiations between Prince Souvanna's side and the pro-communist Pathet Lao after their agreement on a ceasefire last year.
Prince Souvanna Phouma was named Prime Minister of the new Government. The composition of the coalition was announced after the Prime Minister and his half-brother, Pathet Lao leader Pincer Souphanouvong, had presented members of the Government and a new 42-member political council to the King.
Prince Souphanouvong is not a member of the Government, but heads the Political council which is to advise the government and prepare for elections. Apart form Prince Souvanna Phouma, there are five members form the vientiane side in the Government, five form the pathet Loa and tow neutral members.
Prince Souphanouvong, 11-years younger than his 73-year-old half-brother, flew in form Hanoi in North Vietnam for the ceremony. The new Government faces mammoth economic and social problems left by the war. One major issue it will have to consider is the presence of foreign troops. Under the peace accord, all foreign forces must leave Laos within 60 days of the forming of the coalition.
There are an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 North Vietnamese troops still in Pathet Laos area. Laos' three million people have been plagued by internal conflict since the country achieved full independence form france in 1953.
At the time of the ceasefire the Pathet Lao was estimated to be in control of two-thirds of the country, while the Vientiane Government controlled two-thirds of the population. Two previous coalition attempts have failed.