15 September. At the invitation of Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, French troops enter Pakse, the main centre in the southern British zone; several weeks will pass before their hold here is secure. The same day, Prince Phetsarath reiterates his proclamation of Laotian independence and announces the integration of all the country’s provinces (including Champassak). About this time, he also detaches Lao government services from the rest of Indochina and establishes a new currency and tax regime. Two days later, King Sisavangvong rejects these measures. He is well aware that, despite their early setback in Savannakhet, Franco–Lao forces are making their way up the middle Mekong.
23 September. Soon after they enter Luang Prabang (and within days also Thakhek, Savannakhet and Vientiane), Chinese forces disarm the French in the royal capital but leave Prince Phetsarath as head of government. This tilts the balance of power back in the viceroy’s favour. As in northern Vietnam, the Chinese are regarded as a pest but their forces do hinder a French return above the 16th Parallel.
7 October. Prince Souphanouvong arrives in Savannakhet from Hué with a Viet Minh escort. He is warmly welcomed by the Viet Kieu militia forces but less enthusiastically by local Lao Issara forces; they seek to preserve their own political control. Next day he proceeds to Thakhek, where he creates the Liberation and Defence Army. A Committee of Independent Laos is created on the same day with the Red Prince as President and Phetsarath as honorary chairman.
3 October. After a long voyage, the main body of SEAC forces docks at Saigon’s harbour. Included are the first contingents of the French Expeditionary Corps, about 1,000 men in total. Two days later, General Philippe Leclerc, the ‘liberator of Paris’, arrives at Tan Son Nhut airbase to command all French forces in the region. He is vested with full military and civilian powers to act on behalf of incoming French high commissioner, Admiral Thierry d’Argenlieu. Leclerc’s stance is that France can only negotiate with the Viet Minh from a position of strength.
7 October. During a cabinet meeting In Phnom Penh, Son Ngoc Thanh supports armed resistance and suggests the evacuation of Phnom Penh if the French return in force. At this point, if not before, his cabinet loses confidence in his judgment
10 October. Prompted by De Gaulle, King Sisavangvong dismisses Prince Phetsarath as prime minister of Luang Prabang and strips him of the viceroy title. The move is two days after Lao Issara leaders informed the king of their intention to establish a constitutional monarchy and a day after an informal parliament was created by the Lao-penLao in Vientiane. Nationalists respond to the sacking by forming a revolutionary government, which in turn appoints a provisional national assembly and invites the king to dissolve his royal government. On the 12th, it proclaims the country’s independence under its authority. A provisional constitution, national flag and anthem are also approved. Meanwhile, young Lao loyal to Phetsarath and his Lao Issara allies begin to take over the old colonial administration. On the 15th, Phetsarath formally accepts his vice-regal demotion; the prince is confident of his ability to govern without a royal mandate.
15 October. The commander of French forces in Indochina, General Leclerc, flies to Phnom Penh and arrests Son Ngoc Thanh, who is flown immediately to prison in Saigon. By accident or design, King Sihanouk is absent from Phnom Penh on a religious pilgrimage.
21 September. Although Cambodia has recognized the newly established Democratic Republic of Vietnam since its inception and allowed it to open a mission in Phnom Penh, a more formal anti-French agreement is now mooted between the two countries. However, talks between Cambodian premier Son Ngoc Thanh and representatives from Saigon’s Southern Provisional Administrative Committee quickly break down. The reason is Thanh’s unexpected demand that the Cochinchinese provinces of Tra Vinh and Soc Trang, which have high concentrations of Khmer, be ceded to Cambodia. (Thanh himself is a Khmer Krom from the region.) Demands for annexation or at least greater autonomy have also been aired across the lower Mekong delta in recent weeks by local Khmer. Tension is high and sometimes flares into violence between Khmer and Vietnamese communities in both Cochinchina and Cambodia.
4 October. In a memorandum to Chinese occupation authorities, Prince Phetsarath rejects the French protectorate. His aim is to broaden support from neighbouring states. Contacts are also made with Thailand through the Seri Thai, Cambodia through the Khmer Issarak, and Vietnam through the Viet Minh.
9 October. Lt. Col. E. D. Murray is sent to Phnom Penh by General Gracey to release Allied prisoners of war, disarm the Japanese and re-establish order. He is accompanied by a platoon of Gurkhas and some support personnel. Members of the Cambodian cabinet soon convince him that Prime Minister Son Ngoc Thanh should be removed from office. Shortly after his arrival, French officials are released from detention and other civilians from house arrest. Hailed as a ‘liberator’ by the semi-official newspaper Cambodge, two days later Murray flies back to Saigon where he convinces Gracey that Thanh should be arrested by the French. Their recently arrived commander, General Leclerc, agrees.