LAOS: Battle for Vientiane

Warfare is not in character for Laotians, a gentle people given to indolence, rice wine and frequent Buddhist festivals. But one noon last week civil war broke in the administrative capital of Vientiane, the City of Sandalwood. Tanks rolled through the streets firing in all directions. Mortar shells thudded down on hotels, embassies and shops. At a temple, 100 monks in saffron robes fluttered about like a flock of birds, seeking shelter behind big stone images of Buddha.

The fight for Vientiane was the long-postponed showdown between armies of the left and right in Laos. Ever since his coup...

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