Phoumi Nosavan (1920-1985) was a Lao military and political figure of the Second Indochina War.
Shortly after Kong Le's neutralist coup, he sought help from Sarith Thanarath to establish a competing capital in Savannakhet. He attacked Vientiane on September 18th but the neutralists with the help of the Pathet Lao and the Soviets, repulsed the attack. A tripartite coalition government was formed between neutralists, communists and rightists on November 18th, 1960. On December 8th, Souvanna Phouma relieved Kong Le from his command, but the next day Kong Le deposed Souvanna Phouma (who went to Cambodia) and the leftist minister Quinim Pholsena was appointed premiere. On December 13th, Phoumi began the Battle of Vientiane and victorious, installed Boun Oum as premier.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy's administration opted for a neutralist coalition rather than risk an armed confrontation with the Russians over Laos, and Phoumi was ordered to merge his right-wing government into a tripartite coalition under the leadership of Souvanna Phouma. When he refused despite personal appeals from President Kennedy and the assistant secretary of state, his CIA handler was transferred out of Laos and in February 1962 aid was cut to his government and army. Determined not to give in, he ordered General Ouane Rattikone to start trafficking opium to make up for the shortfall in revenue. At the same time, he ordered the central bank to print more money. As a result the kip lost a third of its value and inflation in the capital increased 20%. Of the countries from which he sought aid only South Korea made an offer. When his troops suffered a disastrous defeat at Nam Tha in May 1962, he acknowledged his failure and in June merged his government into a neutralist coalition headed by Souvanna Phouma.
Though Phoumi yielded some of his political power, he demanded economic concessions to make up for it. He retained control over the Ministry of Finance and won the right to monopolize much of the capital's consumer economy. He established a variety of monopolies over the vice trades as well as legitimate commercial activities. He opened gambling and opium dens and his bank had a monopoly on the import of gold. All of this led to jealousy and rage among his right-wing competitors. On April 19, 1964, a coup led by Generals Kouprasith Abhay, Ouane Rattikone and Siho Lamphouthakoun toppled him from power.
With the help of Col. Bounleut Saycocie, at the beginning of February 1965 he attempted a coup to regain power. They managed to seize the radio station but not much else. Within five days, he gave up and went into exile in Thailand.
- Text initially based on The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia