On December 15, 1946, in the face of guerrilla raids from across the Mekong River, forty-four delegates to Laos's first popularly elected Constituent Assembly were chosen. Under French supervision, the delegates worked on a constitution promulgated by Sisavang Vong on May 11, 1947. This constitution declared the Kingdom of Laos an independent state within the French Union. On November 26, 1947, the thirty-three deputies of the first National Assembly invested a government headed by Prince Souvannarath, a half-brother of Phetsarath. By the terms of a secret protocol of February 25, 1948, Boun Oum was allowed to keep his title of Prince of Champassack but renounced his suzerain rights to this former kingdom. In return he was made inspector general of the Kingdom of Laos, the third-ranking personage of Laos after the king and crown prince.
Under a successor government headed by Boun Oum, the Franco-Lao General Convention of July 19, 1949, gave Laos greater latitude in foreign affairs. Over the following months, France transferred its remaining powers. A Royal Lao Army was created, which by the end of 1952 comprised seventeen companies, in addition to a battalion entirely commanded by Laotian officers. On February 7, 1950, the United States and United Kingdom recognized Laos. Later that year, the United States opened a legation in Vientiane.
Immediately thrust into the broader conflict of the Second Indochina War, the Kingdom of Laos would survive coup d'etats and civil war until 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao assumed power, forced the abdication of the king and declared the birth of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Symbols of the Kingdom of Laos
- Initial text adapted from The Library of Congress Country Studies