Prince Souphanouvong Tiao


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(b. 13 July 1909, d. 9 Jan 1995).

President of the Laos People's Democratic Republic 1975–86 One of the nephews of King Sisavang Vong (r. 1904–59), he studied engineering in Paris and then worked as an engineer in Laos (1938–45). Upon the Japanese surrender in 1945, he agreed to become head of a Communist movement against the French colonial forces, with the strong support of Ho Chi Minh's Vietminh forces. Disunity with the leadership of other anti‐French movements led him to create the Pathet Lao, and to engage independently in the anti‐colonial struggle. Following Laotian independence, agreed at the Geneva Agreements of 1954, he joined the two short‐lived coalition governments of his half‐brother Souvanna Phouma (1957, 1962), in an effort to resolve peacefully the differences between the various factions. After repeated arguments, he resumed the fight against Souvanna Phouma, with the help of the Vietnamese Vietcong. He led the Pathet Lao into a coalition government in 1974, though without taking up a government post himself. It was the fall of Saigon and Communist victory in the Vietnam War that enabled him to take over government in 1975, and declare the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. He consolidated his power with Vietnamese help, in return for which he found himself more dependent on Hanoi's counsel than he wished. He was forced to retire through ill health.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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