Kong Le

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Kong Le, August 1960 in Laos

Kong Le (also Kongl (a) e , Laotian ກອງ ແລ ; * 1932 , 1933 or March 6, 1934 , but maybe several years earlier, in Phālan , Savannakhet Province , Laos (then in French Indochina ); † January 17 2014 in Paris ) was a paratrooper officer in the Royal Lao Army. During the First Lao Civil War , he became army chief after a coup he led in 1960. A large part of the army did not recognize him and fought him. From his initially left-neutral political position and willingness to cooperate with the communist Pathet Lao , he moved closer to the right-neutralist forces in the course of the Second Lao Civil War from 1963. From 1966 he was politically sidelined and exiled.

Life path

Kong Le was born into a poor family of farmers and timber collectors in southern Laos. Some of his ancestors belonged to the indigenous ethnic groups ( Lao Theung ), who were disparagingly referred to by the Lao as Kha (“slaves”) and who were long considered inferior. This origin, also recognizable by the darker skin color, made his military career difficult for him. He was 1.55 m tall.

Kong Le first joined the French colonial army and was accepted into the Royal Laotian army when French Indochina became independent . He fought against the Pathet Lao in Northern Laos between 1954 and 1957 and was trained in Thailand and the Philippines as part of the SEATO cooperation. In 1958 he became captain and deputy commander of the 2nd Paratrooper Battalion. This unit had been disguised as an elite force by the CIA , contrary to the corresponding prohibitions in the resolutions of the Indochina Conference of 1954 .

1960 coup

Disgusted by the obvious fraudulent election in 1959 and the American intrigue during the formation of the government of the reactionary Phoumi Nosavan , he sat at the head of the 2nd Paratrooper Battalion, which mutinied on August 8, 1960. At first sight it was a mutiny because of the two months outstanding wages, but it turned into a coup. As of August 9, the unit had Vientiane and the connections between the capital and the royal residence in Luang Prabang under control. Kong Le forced Prime Minister Somsanith Vongkotrattana to resign on August 14 and urged the king to reappoint the neutralist Prince Suvanna Phūmā . He made peace with the Pathet Lao. Defense Minister Phoumi Nosavan, who fled to Bangkok, did not accept this and agitated for a counter-attack. His cousin, the then Thai Prime Minister and Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, supported him, as did the USA from the beginning of October. Colonel Kong Le was formally army chief under the neutralist government. However, a majority of the Royal Lao troops did not recognize him, but instead followed Phoumi Nosavan, who, together with Prince Boun Oum, formed an opposing government based in Savannakhet. In November 1960, Kong Le became vice-president of the Comité de Neutralité et d'Unité , founded by Souvanna Phouma , which united the neutralist parties. The coup was followed by intrigues that lasted for months until Suvanna Phūmā escaped on December 9th. At that time, Kong Le received Soviet weapons aid in the form of four howitzers.

With massive American help, Phoumi Nosavan, who was appointed prime minister on December 12, set about "liberating" the capital from troops loyal to Kong-Le and began the bombardment on the 13th, which lasted three days and subsequently also the The American embassy, ​​located next to the Department of Defense, was badly hit.

With around 500 men under his command, Kong Le withdrew from December 16 and turned north to the economically important region around Xieng Khouang and the surrounding plain of the clay jugs . His troops now allied themselves with the communist Pathet Lao and Kong Le became chairman of the high mixed military committee of the two parties. Together they controlled the strategically important highways 7 and 13. At that time he was perceived as a threat by the newly-elected Kennedy administration. A Soviet machine photographed by an Air America spy plane on December 21 was used as a propaganda tool against him. He did not interfere in the regional drug trade, initially under the control of Corsican gangsters with their " Air Opium ", later by the American-financed Hmong guerrillas around Vang Pao and dominated by Defense Minister Ouane Rattikone .

The resolutions of the Geneva Laos Conference of July 1962 led to the establishment of a "neutralist" all-party government, but brought peace to the country only for a short time because of the incipient secret US intervention ( secret war ).


In the phase of the civil war that began in 1963 , when there were de facto two governments, on the one hand the American-sponsored “royal” coalition in Vientiane and that of the communist Pathet Lao (PL) in Sam Neua , which was supported by the North Vietnamese, Kong Le , meanwhile general, to a right-wing neutralist. In November 1962, his neutralist troops had split. Colonel Deuan Sounnarath formed the "Patriotic Neutralists" and went over to the Pathet Lao. In February 1963, Kong Les right-hand man, Colonel Ketsana Vongsouvanh, was murdered by a left-wing neutralist, making the separation of the two camps final. The troops loyal to him personally stayed with Xiang Khouang, some of them now cooperating with the Hmong. He received American arms aid. North Vietnamese fighters attacked these positions as early as April 1963. At the same time, numerous units of Phoumi Nosavan's "regular" army defected to Kong Le. In April 1964, however, he was forced to conform to the right and ultimately reintegrate his units into the official Royal Lao Army. In the following years there were several conspiracies and assassination attempts by his right-wing rivals against him.

As General Thao Ma on 22./23. October 1966 tried to put a coup against General Kouprasith Abbay with an air raid on Vientiane , Kong Le was in Bangkok for negotiations with American agents. Because his intentions were distrusted, he was placed under house arrest and arrested if he returned to Laos.

Mouvement Revolutionaire de la Resistance du Peuple Lao

Kong Le received political asylum in Paris. From this exile he led the movement Mouvement Revolutionaire de la Resistance du Peuple Lao, active in central Laos from 1976-79 , which wanted to overthrow the Laotian government of the former Pathet Lao , which was closely allied with Vietnam, but was unable to develop any significant political influence. In 1980 he visited Beijing, the Chinese government was at war with Vietnam at that time. In 1983 he is said to have led a 2–3,000-strong force in southern Yunnan that was preparing for an invasion of Laos.

After that he lived again until 1988 in France, where his political activities were no longer liked, then until the 1990s as a stateless illegal immigrant in the USA, who tried to deport him to France since 1995, which succeeded after court proceedings in 1998. He died on January 17, 2014 at the Hôpital Privé Gériatrique les Magnolias in a suburb of Paris .

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Kong Le in Munzinger Biographisches Archiv 33/1968.
  2. Donald F. Busky: Communism in History and Theory. Asia, Africa, and the Americas. 2002, p. 40.
  3. Stuart-Fox: Historical Dictionary of Laos . 2008, p. 167.
  4. a b ອະ ດີດ ນາຍ ພົນ ກອງ ແລ ເຖິງ ແກ່ ມໍ ລະ ນະ ກຳ ທີ່ ປະ ເທດ ຝຣັ່ງ , Voice of America Lao News, Jan. 23, 2014.
  5. Saowapha Viravong: The colonel from Savannakhet . In: The New Mandala , Australian National University College of Asia & the Pacific, January 24, 2014.
  6. Laos: Dollar stands out . In: Der Spiegel . No. 35 , 1963, pp. 44 ( online ).
  7. Under the aegis of USOM ( United States Operations Mission ) the competent front group consisted PEO ( Program Evaluation Office of the US Operations Mission in Vientiane ). Ahern (2006), p. Xii
  8. On the expansion of the army by the USA from 1955 cf. Arthur J. Dammen: Conflict in Laos . (Praeger), New York 1964, pp. 98-103.
  9. Ahern (2006), p. 12 f.
  10. As before under Eisenhower. The Pentagon Papers ; Pt. V 3b; P. 1340 ff.
  11. For the events and backgrounds (up to 1970) see: Fred Branfman: Laos: No Place to Hide . Bull. Of Concerned Asian Scholars , Vol. 2 (1970), No. 4
  12. ↑ In Feb. 1965 controlled about 40% of the country with 2/3 of the population (in almost all cities). Branfman (1970), p. 19
  13. ^ National Security Council Meeting in April, 1963, discusses Laos
  14. Wilfred G. Burchett: The Furtive War . New York 1963
  15. Interview with Kong Le on March 22, 1971 in Paris. Quoted in: Alfred W. McCoy: The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia; . New York 1991 (rev. Ed .; orig. 1972); ISBN 1-55652-126-X
  16. cf. Sino-Vietnamese War
  17. ^ Geoffrey C. Gunn: Resistance Coalitions in Laos . In: Asian Survey , Vol. 23, No. 3, March 1983, pp. 316-340
  18. ^ Decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit of January 23, 1998, Kongle v. US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), No. 97-2027 (4th Cir. 1998)