Laos: Breaking the Rules

When the Geneva accords established Laotian neutrality seven years ago, hope flickered briefly that they would also bring an end to fighting between Communist and non-Communist forces and take the kingdom out of the cold war. No such thing happened, of course: the treaty-stipulated tripartite regime, composed of rightist, neutralist and leftist factions, collapsed in short order. Laos' Communists, the Pathet Lao, walked out of the government; the fighting resumed, and has been going on in desultory if often deadly fashion ever since.

Through the years, however, both sides observed certain tacit rules. The Pa thet Lao, backed by seasoned...

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