Souvanna Phouma, Prince [key], 1901–84, government official of Laos. Of royal descent, he was trained as an engineer. From 1950 he held a variety of key government posts, including the premiership (1951–54, 1956–58, and 1960). Caught between U.S. and Vietnamese attempts to control Laos from 1954–75, he attempted to foster compromise. He led the neutralist government from 1960 to 1962, and after the Geneva Conference on Laos he assumed (1962) the offices of premier and minister of defense in the short-lived coalition with the Communist Pathet Lao. Continuing as premier, he later took on additional cabinet posts. In 1973, despite right-wing opposition, he signed an agreement to end fighting between government and Communist Pathet Lao troops. Continuing as premier, he later took on additional cabinet posts. In 1974 he formed a new coalition government with the Pathet Lao, in which his half-brother Souphanouvong, leader of the Pathet Lao, was included. He retired after the 1975 takeover by the Pathet Lao, although he remained an adviser to the new government.
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