Souvanna Phouma

Souvanna Phouma
/sooh vahn"nah pooh"mah/
Prince, 1901-84, Laotian statesman: premier 1951-54, 1956-58, 1960, and 1962-75.

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born Oct. 7, 1901, Luang Prabang, Laos
died Jan. 10, 1984, Vientiane

Premier of Laos (1951–54, 1960, 1962, 1974–75).

Nephew of King Sisavangvong of Laos, Souvanna did not support his uncle's decision to welcome back French rule after the end of World War II. With his half brother Souphanouvong, he joined the Free Laos movement and went into exile when the French reoccupied Laos. In 1949, when the French began to concede authority, he returned, and in 1951 he began his first term as premier. Civil war broke out between the communist Pathet Lao and rightist members of the government; Souvanna served as premier sporadically during that period. He tried to maintain Laotian neutrality during the Vietnam War but came to depend on U.S. military aid; Laos stabilized after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Souvanna remained an adviser to the government until his death.

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▪ prime minister of Laos
born Oct. 7, 1901, Luang Prabang, Laos
died Jan. 10, 1984, Vientiane
 premier of Laos known for having sought, throughout several terms in office, to maintain Laotian neutrality in Southeast Asian affairs.

      Souvanna was the nephew of King Sisavangvong of Laos. He studied architectural engineering in France and then entered the Public Works Service of French Indochina on returning to his country in 1931. When his uncle welcomed the return of French rule after the defeat of the Japanese, who had occupied Laos at the end of World War II, Souvanna and his half brother Souphanouvong joined the Lao Issara (Free Laos) movement and its provisional Vientiane government (1945–46). When the French reoccupied Laos, Souvanna fled to exile in Bangkok, but returned to Laos in 1949 as France began conceding autonomy to Laos. In 1951 he was elected premier and held that office until 1954.

      He returned to the premiership in 1956 as the head of a coalition government that included both rightist representatives and members of the Communist Pathet Lao, which Souphanouvong headed. The coalition collapsed in 1958, and civil war broke out between the two groups. Souvanna served briefly as premier in 1960 and again returned during a brief truce in 1962. During the 1960s and early 1970s Souvanna struggled to retain a neutral position; with the proximity of the war in Vietnam, his efforts were in vain, and he came to depend upon U.S. military assistance. After the United States began to withdraw from that struggle, however, the Vientiane government and the Pathet Lao agreed on a cease-fire (February 1973), and in April 1974 a coalition government was formed. Souvanna retained the premiership until December 1975, when the People's Democratic Republic of Laos was established. He remained an adviser to the government until his death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Souvanna Phouma — /suˌvænə ˈpumə/ (say sooh.vanuh poohmuh) noun Prince, 1901–84, prime minister of Laos 1951–54, 1956–58, 1960, 1962–75 …  

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