Although peace was officially imposed in Laos on February 21, there are few signs that the 20-year "forgotten war" is really over.
Although peace was officially imposed in Laos on February 21, there are few signs that the 20-year "forgotten war" is really over. Refugees have been unable to return to their homes because of continual fighting.
Borth Vietnam has openly intervened with armed assistance to the Pathet Lao and the United States has stepped in on behalf of the Laotian Government. Neither the US nor North Vietnam signed than February 21 peace treaty, so neither side could be accused of breaking it.
The North Vietnamese assistance came in the form of an artillery barrage to help the Pathet Lao recapture the town of Paksong. The US flew three B-52 bomber raids in that area, a response to a plea by the Government, officials said.
Meanwhile the two sides have been meeting. But the government is becoming split, with right-wing officers angry that Prince Souvanna Phouma agreed to a case-fire -- although there is no question of a coup because the US has said it would immediately withdraw all aid in such a situation. The Pathet Lao seem strengthened by the government's difficulties, but their leader, Prince Souphanouvong, has expressed no objection to his half-brother, Prince Souvanna Phouma, continuing as Prime Minister. The likely coalition which will rule until a general election can be held, is expected to be dominated by the Pathet Lao.
SYNOPSIS: In Laos life goes on as usual in the refugee villages. Although a peace treaty was signed between the Government and the Pathet Lao more than a Week ago, there's been no move for people to return to homes they left during the bitter fighting.
The conflict had lasted twenty years. It earned the nickname "Asia's forgotten war," because it was so often overshadowed by the Vietnam struggle. Now it looks as if it's the peace that's forgotten.
While the refugees continue their simple life, the complications of Laos politics have led to each side claiming the other has broken the peace treaty.
To the refugees, catching fish for the next meal is a more pressing matter than the squabbles of politicians. But the smoke in the distance reminds them that there are still battles going on, that they're still better off where they are.
At the Education Ministry in Vientiane, talks between the two sides continue. The Pathet Lao seems likely to dominate the temporary government, which is expected to be formed soon.
The government side, however, seems to be undergoing a time of trauma. There are strong reports that right-wing members of the government are angry with the Prime Minister, Prince Souvanna Phouma, for signing the treaty with the Pathet Lao. But there's little likelihood of a coup against the Prime Minister, as the United States has warned it would withdraw all aid in such a situation.