Historical Dictionary



The birth of the Associated States of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in 1949 was due to several factors: the French failure to create a viable Indochinese Federation after World War II; pressure from non-communist Vietnamese nationalists to unify Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina into one national entity; strong resistance from Lao and Cambodian nationalists to the idea of sharing a colonial state of an Indochinese kind with the Vietnamese; international pressure from the United States on the French to accommodate nationalist independence aspirations in order to combat more effectively the communist threat; and the Chinese Red Army’s march towards southern China from mid-1948 and the possible Sino-Soviet support for the communist-minded Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). In March 1949, following arduous negotiations with the former Emperor Bao Dai, an accord was reached creating the Associated State of Vietnam, followed by an accord for Laos on 19 July and another on 8 November for Cambodia doing the same.

As Associated States, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia acquired greater internal independence within the French Union and some external liberty. However, they still remained legally subordinate to the French via the ministry in charge of relations with the Associated States of Indochina and were subject to other limits on their full national sovereignty, especially in military, diplomatic, and monetary matters. For example, the Associated States were only allowed to establish diplomatic relations with a limited number of foreign capitals, mainly Washington, London, Rome, and Bangkok.

Disappointed by the French, local leaders pushed harder for full independence during the rest of the Indochina conflict. In 1953, for example, Norodom Sihanouk launched his famous royal crusade for Cambodian independence and won French recognition of Cambodia’s independence. In July 1953, under burgeoning financial pressures and commitments to European defense, the Joseph Laniel government agreed to “complete” (parfaire) the independence of the Associated States and began transferring sovereignty to the three states even before the Geneva Accords affirmed the transformation of all the three Associated States into independent nations. The minister in charge of the Associated States was downgraded to state secretary in 1953 before the entire ministry disappeared for good in 1955. See also ARMY, ASSOCIATED STATE OF LAOS; ASSOCIATED STATE OF CAMBODIA; ASSOCIATED STATE OF VIETNAM; BAO DAI SOLUTION; CAMBODIAN RESISTANCE GOVERNMENT; LAO RESISTANCE GOVERNMENT.