LAOS: The Awaited Coup

In the dead of night last week, 60 Laotians stealthily cast off from the Thailand shore of the Mekong River in motor-powered pirogues. They were led by General Thao Ma, 42, onetime commander of the Royal Lao Air Force, who has lived in Thai exile since his 1966 abortive attempt to overthrow the Laotian government. After disembarking at the outskirts of Vientiane, the rebels rendezvoused with about 60 more sympathizers. A coup against Laos' neutralist leader, Prince Souvanna Phouma, had begun.

The rebels rapidly captured the airport, radio station and central bank...

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