International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos

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The International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos is an international agreement signed in Geneva on July 23, 1962 between 14 states including Laos. It was a result of the International Conference on the Settlement of the Laotian Question which lasted from May 16, 1961 to July 23, 1962.

Burma, Cambodia, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, France, India, Poland, the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed a Declaration which together with the statement of neutrality by the Royal Government of Laos of July 9, 1962, entered into force as an international agreement on the date of signature July 23, 1962.[1]


After a brief occupation by the Japanese at the end of World War II, which followed in a declaration of independence by Lao nationalists, the French reoccupied Laos and the rest of French Indochina, which included Vietnam and Cambodia. In the following insurgency, the Indochinese Communist formed the Pathet Lao, a Laotian nationalist movement, ally of the Vietnamese in the struggle against France. After the French defeat, the Geneva Accords of 1954 established Laos sovereignty. In 1960, civil war broke out between the Royal Lao Army, supported by the United States, against the Pathet Lao insurgents, supported by the Communists in North Vietnam.

John F. Kennedy proposed a negotiated settlement with the Soviet Union and other interested parties. In 1962 a peace conference in Geneva produced a Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos and a three-part coalition government divided between pro-American, pro-Communist and neutral factions.[2]

The 14 signatories pledged to respect Laotian neutrality, to refrain from interference — direct or indirect — in the internal affairs of Laos, and to refrain from drawing Laos into military alliance or to establish military bases in Laotian territory. The Laotian government pledged to promulgate constitutionally its commitments which would have the force of law.[3]

However, the agreement was contravened almost immediately by the United States of America's secret war in Laos where 'two million tons of ordnance' were dropped 'during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years' [4]. This exemplified the USA's covert war in Southeast Asia which involved heavy bombing over a prolonged period while seeming to comply with peace agreements.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam later established a supply line through "neutral" Laotian territory for supplying the Viet Cong insurgency against the government of South Vietnam.[5]

More specifically, during the Second Indochina War the North Vietnamese obtained the cooperation of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Pathet Lao) in constructing and maintaining the Ho Chi Minh Trail which passed through the length of Laos. Thousands of Vietnamese troops were stationed in Laos to maintain the road network and provide for its security. Vietnamese military personnel also fought beside the Pathet Lao in its struggle to overthrow Laos' neutralist government. Cooperation persisted after the war and the Lao communist victory.


  1. ^ Czyzak, John J.; Salans, Carl F. (1963-01-01). "The International Conference on the Settlement of the Laotian Question and the Geneva Agreements of 1962". The American Journal of International Law. 57 (2): 300–317. doi:10.2307/2195983. JSTOR 2195983.
  2. ^ "In 1961, the deteriorating political situation in Laos posed a serious concern in US foreign policy when President John F. Kennedy took office". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  3. ^ Gharekhan, Chinmaya R; Ansari, Amid (24 December 2003). "Another approach to Afghanistan". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Geer, Jeff (30 March 2005). "Neutrality not the answer". Taipei Times. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2017.

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