Kong Le

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Not to be confused with Cung Le.
Kong Le
Allegiance Laos
Service/branch Royal Lao Army
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg

Kong Le (1933[1] or 1934[2] — 17 January 2014[3]) was a paratrooper officer in the Royal Lao Army. He became known during the First Laotian Civil War when in 1960 he overthrew the government in a coup d'état. After the coup, he became commander of the army, but was not accepted by most of the troops, who fought against him. In the Civil War, he was part of the neutralist party, ready to co-operate with the pro-communist Pathet Lao. During the Second Lao Civil War in 1963 however he allied with the rightist anti-communist forces. In 1966 he was politically shunned and went into exile.

Coup of 1960[edit]

On August 9, Kong Le led the Second Paratroop Battalion in a nearly bloodless coup. In taking over Vientiane, the paratroopers had unwittingly chosen a moment when the entire cabinet was in Luang Prabang conferring with King Sri Savang Vatthana. They informed their compatriots and the outside world by broadcasting their communiqués on the radio. In a rally at the city football stadium on August 11, Kong Le expanded on his goals: end the fighting in Laos, stem corruption, and establish a policy of peace and neutrality. Recalling the experience of the first coalition when the country was temporarily at peace, Kong Le asked for the nomination of Souvanna Phouma as prime minister.

On August 11, General Ouane Rattikone, as the cabinet's envoy, arrived in Vientiane from Louang Phrabang. After negotiations with Kong Le and Souvanna Phouma, Ouan returned to Louang Phrabang with a document in which the coup leaders requested the cabinet to return. Fearing violence in Vientiane, the premier, Prince Somsanith Vongkotrattana, resigned, and the King named Souvanna Phouma prime minister. The new government was invested by thirty-four deputies on August 16. The next day, Kong Le declared his coup over and vacated the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

Neutralist government to coalition[edit]

General Phoumi Nosavan then went to Thailand and with the help of its dictator, his mentor Sarit Thanarat, returned to Laos to establish a competing capital in Savannakhet. Phoumi proceeded to attack Vientiane, weakened by a Thai blockade, on September 18 but the neutralists with the help of the Pathet Lao and the Soviet Union, repulsed the attack. A coalition government was formed between neutralists, communists and rightists on November 18, 1960. On December 8, Souvanna Phouma relieved Kong Le from his command, but the next day Kong Le deposed Souvanna Phouma (who flew to Phnom Penh with Prince Boun Om and his other ministers) and the leftist minister Quinim Pholsena was appointed premier. A few days later Phoumi took Vientiane and installed Boun Oum (Boun Om's brother) as premier. After more than a year of negotiations a coalition government was formed under the leadership of Souvanna Phouma.

On November 27, 1962 Kong Le was appointed chief of the new army (nominally the merged armies of the neutralist, communist and rightist factions).

Renewed conflict[edit]

The neutralist group was soon divided between right-leaning neutralists (headed by Kong Le) and left-leaning neutralists (headed by Quinim Polsena and colonel Deuane Sunnalath). On February 12, 1963 Kong Le's second in command, Colonel Ketsana, was assassinated. Shortly afterwards Quinim Polsena and his deputy were also assassinated. Fearing for their lives, the left wing ministers fled to Khang Khay, capital of the Pathet Lao zone. The Pathet Lao and neutralist-leftists attacked the Plain of Jars but Kong Le now allied with Phoumi, repulsed the attack. The neutralist government was deposed by the right-wing generals Kouprasith Abhay and Siho Lamphouthakoun April 19, 1964, but following international pressure, Souvanna Phouma was reinstalled as premiere.

On January 31, 1965 Phoumi and Siho led a coup, but Kong Le's troops defeated them by February 4. Phoumi and Siho fled to Thailand.

The right wing parliament was dissolved by Souvanna Phouma on October 7, 1966. There was a strong reaction from the right wing faction of the army. The struggle lasted until November 15 when Kong Le was dismissed as army chief and left the country. The mainly neutralist sector of the army went to the Pathet Lao controlled zone.

Beginning in the late 1970s, and continuing into the 1980s and 1990s, Kong Le led neutralist political and military resistance against the Lao PDR government, initially with support from the government of China.

In the late 1980s and part of the 1990s Kong Le lived in the USA. He then lived in exile in France until he died, in January 2014.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donald F. Busky (2002), Communism in History and Theory: Asia, Africa, and the Americas, p. 40 
  2. ^ Martin Stuart-Fox (2008), Historical Dictionary of Laos (Second ed.), p. 167 
  3. ^ "ອະດີດ ນາຍພົນກອງແລ ເຖິງແກ່ ມໍລະນະກຳ ທີ່ປະເທດ ຝຣັ່ງ". Voice of America Lao News. 23 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Saowapha Viravong. "The colonel from Savannakhet". New Mandala. Retrieved 2014-01-27.