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Britain and the Neutralisation of Laos

Nicholas Tarling

Publication Year: 2011

The Geneva conference on Laos of 1961-1962, which Britain helped initiate and bring to a conclusion, throws light on Britain's policy in Southeast Asia during what in some sense may be seen as the last of the decades in which its influence was crucial. This book is the first to make full use of the British archives to explore the conference, but it also bears on the history of Laos, of Vietnam, and of Southeast Asia generally. The core of the Geneva settlement was the neutralisation of Laos, the United States to strengthen its commitment to Thailand and Vietnam. North Vietnam could accept this result only if it allowed continued use of the Ho Chi Minh trail, which sustained resistance in South Vietnam. Under these circumstances, the agreement on neutralisation, though elaborately negotiated, had little chance of success. In the longer term, however, the agreement played a part in developing the concept of a neutral Southeast Asia advanced by ASEAN. The book is important for scholars in the various fields it touches, including modern Southeast Asian history, the history of Laos, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and international relations. It will be of expecial interest to those studying British policy at a time when Britain was seeking to reduce its commitments while continuing to avert the escalation of the Cold War.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title page

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pp. vii-ix

List of Abbreviations

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pp. x-xi

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pp. xiii

The introductory chapter to this book points to the intrinsic interest of the topic and its wider significance. Those are the factors the author hopes will sustain readers. But he has a more personal reason for his engagement with the topic. Starting off his career by examining British policy in the Mala ...

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Chapter One. Introduction

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pp. 1-42

This study focuses on the Geneva conference on Laos of 1961–2, which Britain played a role in bringing about and bringing to a conclusion. The public documents and newspaper reports formed the basis of George Modelski’s book, published soon after the conference was held. Documents ...

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Chapter Two. The Return of the Control Commission

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pp. 43-89

What was British policy? Essentially the British had accepted American policy, but only with deep reservations. In September 1959 the US Embassy in London referred to an ‘essentially undimmed British desire to get back to some kind of modus vivendi in Laos such as Geneva agreements provided ...

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Chapter Three. The Agreement on a Conference

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pp. 90-142

Sending instructions to Caccia for a further talk late in January, the FO promised a further paper on a political solution. That was drafted at the end of the month by SEAD and the Planning Section of the Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department after a preliminary discussion with MacDermot, who ...

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Chapter Four. The Co-Chairmen’s Message

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pp. 143-187

In Kuznetsov’s absence Roberts had carried out his instructions with Georgi Pushkin, the deputy minister responsible for Southeast Asia, who had just returned from India and Ceylon. He made over the draft texts, offering to include dates, but leaving ‘no doubt about our position on verifying the ...

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Chapter Five. The Opening of the Geneva Conference

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pp. 188-231

The conference had finally opened in Geneva on the evening of 16 May, though neither the RLG, South Vietnam nor Thailand was represented. Sihanouk ‘arrived in time, rather to everyone’s surprise, made a general opening speech and retired’.1 He recalled his proposal for a neutral zone, including Cambodia and Laos, greeted with scepticism, he said, but Suvanna ...

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Chapter Six. The Zurich Agreement

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pp. 232-279

From 19 June the three princes, along with Phumi, met in Zurich, together with Cambodian representatives. Steeves, who went to Zurich on 20 June, brought back ‘gloomy reports’, borne out by the information received by the British delegation. The Cambodians had prepared draft provisions on the ...

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Chapter Seven. The Future Role of the Co-Chairmen

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pp. 280-324

At the first restricted session of the Geneva conference, discussion focused on the kind of documents required for an international guarantee of Laotian neutrality, ‘with general emphasis’, as Modelski puts it, ‘on the need not to dictate to or interfere with the future Laotian National Government’,1 or, it might be ...

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Chapter Eight. The Princes’ Meeting in Geneva

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pp. 325-363

If the practice of the current ICC was seen as an indication of the prospects of the future ICC, it was not encouraging. There had been no agreement on visiting ‘sensitive areas’, nor over the attendance of Commission members at the Ban Namon meetings. The ceasefire was, however, generally being ...

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Chapter Nine. The Involvement of the Thais

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pp. 364-400

Phumi and Boun Oum might be able to hold up further negotiations, SEAD observed, by delay or by arguing that their colleagues or their King did not agree with what was decided in Geneva. They had gone to Bangkok and might be seeking Thai support for that.1 If the King could ...

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Chapter Ten

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pp. 401-448

On 3 May — the anniversary of the Xiang Khuang response to the Co-Chairmen’s appeal — Muong Sing passed from Viang Chan to Xiang Khuang control.1 Early on 6 May news of an attack on Nam Tha reached Washington: an artillery barrage had been followed by an infantry attack ...


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pp. 449-502


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pp. 503-508


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pp. 509-516

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695866
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695033

Page Count: 532
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New