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Sibling Rivalry

About the Article

This research note presents research into nearly forty letters contained

in the private diaries of Souvanna Phouma held at the Library of

Congress. The newly uncovered letters, covering 1964–70, offer

unprecedented insight into a divisive and volatile chapter in relations

between princely half-brothers Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong,

leading figures on opposing sides in Cold War Laos. As the largest

bombing campaign per capita in history unfolded, these letters show

how the fraternal link between the two leaders did not ameliorate

the conflict, as in the past, but contributed to a breakdown in their

correspondence. To the degree that they had influence over events,

the squabbling half-brothers, each entrenched in his own ideological

belief, prolonged the Second Indochina War in Laos by failing to

negotiate. More broadly, this note argues that the Royal Lao Government

(RLG) played a major role in the US bombing of Laos. Souvanna,

as RLG prime minister and minister of defence, was a central figure

in this collaboration, which also contributed to the interruption of the

correspondence between the two princes.

The Author(s)

Ryan Wolfson-Ford

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