17 October. On orders from Lt. Col. Murray, Allied Supreme Commander for Cambodia, Japanese troops in Phnom Penh disarm the Green Shirts, a nationalist militia formed three months earlier. The same day, the king’s uncle, Prince Sisowath Monireth, replaces the detained Son Ngoc Thanh as prime minister. Two days later, a new six-man cabinet is sworn in with very few changes in its make-up but with an informal mandate to negotiate with the French.
25 October. King Sihanouk receives Lt. Col. Murray in audience for the first time. By now, with the king safely under French guidance, there is no suggestion of the British establishing quasi-diplomatic relations with a self-styled independent state.
4 November. Despite the presence of Chinese occupation forces in the city, a small force of local officials and Lao Issara troops seizes control of the royal armoury and royal treasury in Luang Prabang, thus enforcing the ousting of the king and transfer of central authority from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The Lao Issara government follows up on the 10th by formally deposing Prince Savangvatthana as crown prince. The loss of face suffered by the royal family embitters relations and has long-lasting effects in subsequent decades.
30 October. Although local Lao Issara activists are gaining ground in some areas, often with Viet Minh support, elsewhere Franco–Lao forces are successful. Moreover, the French have now re-established themselves in Cochinchina and Cambodia. As part of a military agreement between Lao Issara and Viet Minh, Prince Phetsarath now agrees to an enlarged defence force that integrates Prince Souphanouvong’s Committee of Independent Laos with the Lao Issara Army. The new army will be commanded by Souphanouvong.
31 October. On the same day that more French reinforcements disembark in Saigon, Admiral Thierry d’Argenlieu arrives in the city and assumes formal leadership of the French administration. En route to Indochina, he has stopped over at SEAC headquarters in Kandy, lobbying for inclusion of Cambodia’s lost province of Battambang within General Gracey’s southern Indochina command area. He is unsuccessful; Battambang will remain part of the separate British remit in Thailand.
11 November. Ho Chi Minh has been under growing pressure from Chinese generals to accept members of the Nationalist Party and Revolutionary League into his government, and an accord in late October between the Viet Minh and two northern nationalist parties has not been enough; nationalist criticism remains intense. In a move designed to allay American, Chinese and also domestic fears of a communist takeover in Vietnam, Ho calls together a meeting of the ICP and instructs its leaders to announce voluntary dissolution of the party. Vietnam’s opportunity to gain complete independence should not be jeopardized by differences of class or political party, the closing resolution declares. In reality, the ICP returns to operate in the shadows, though now protected rather than hounded by the police. The dissolution of the party nonetheless raises doubts among French, Chinese and especially Soviet communists as to the ideological commitment of the ICP in general and the ideological mettle of Ho Chi Minh in particular.
On 13 November 1945, 100 tumultuous days had passed since the dropping of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. One thousand days later, on 9 August 1948, the forces that had been set in train by Japan’s defeat and surrender continued to shape the face of Asia.
The withdrawal of token Chinese forces from Laos in March 1946 enabled French forces to return and drive the Lao Issara government into exile. In line with their efforts to construct a moderate coalition in Vietnam, French authorities in Laos then constituted the territory as a kingdom, with the former king of Luang Phrabang as constitutional monarch. Elections were held in April 1947, but politics lay in the hands of around twenty interconnected elite families. It was clear that the future of Laos would be hostage to developments elsewhere in Indochina. Cambodia, too, was fragile. Under King Sihanouk the former protectorate obtained formal autonomy in January 1946, and national elections were held in September, resulting in an absolute majority for the moderate nationalist Democratic Party. In the countryside, however, a variety of armed groups fought under the general name Khmer Issarak (‘Free Khmer’), some of them sponsored by conservative Thai forces and others with Vietnamese communist connections. (Read Cribb and Li’s pan-Asian aftermath by clicking the link below)
20 October. After its repeated calls on King Sisavangvong to abdicate are ignored, the Lao Issara national assembly formally deposes the king. However, with Luang Prabang in Chinese hands and disarmed French personnel also in the city, the king and his son, Crown Prince Savangvatthana, remain defiant.
4 November. By order of Regent Pridi Phanomyong, the abundant supply of Allied weaponry held by the now-disbanded Seri Thai movement is to be siphoned off to help Indochinese nationalist groups in their struggle to end French colonial rule. Support is not just for the Lao Issara but also the Viet Minh.