18 MAY 1962, Page 4

Laos T HE news that America and Russia have reached agreement

on the necessity of re- storing the cease-fire in Laos is reassuring. In fact, the situation was never quite as dramatic as it looked—the forces engaged on both sides were minute—and the landing of American marines in Siam seems to have been carried out more with the object of reassuring the Government of that country than with any intention of intervening in Laos. The situation which led to the crisis was simply a variant on the usual Laotian pattern by which both the forces headed by the right-wing General Phoumi Nosavan and those of the Pathet Lao carry out small-scale provocations against each other. This time the Royal Laotian army overdid it and incurred a serious defeat, thereby giving Prince Boum Oum and his party another occasion to invoke US intervention. However, the disaster at Nan Tha may also have robbed them of some of their power of resistance to the idea of a neutralised Laos under a govern- ment headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma, which is the aim towards which British and American policy has been working. These events may therefore hasten a settlement in Laos.