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The Laotian Civil War (1953–75) was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao (including many North Vietnamese of Lao ancestry) and the Royal Lao Government, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. Among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict, it is called the Secret War.

The Kingdom of Laos was a covert theatre for other belligerents during the Vietnam War. The Franco–Lao Treaty of Amity and Association, signed 22 October 1953, transferred remaining French powers – except control of military affairs – to the Royal Lao Government, establishing Laos as an independent member of the French Union. However, this government did not include representatives from the Lao Issara anti-colonial armed nationalist movement.

The following years were marked by a rivalry between the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right wing under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing Lao Patriotic Front under Prince Souphanouvong and half-Vietnamese future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane. Several attempts were made to establish coalition governments, and a "tri-coalition" government was finally seated in Vientiane.

The actual fighting in Laos involved the North Vietnamese Army, U.S., Thai, and South Vietnamese forces directly and through irregular proxies in a struggle for control over the Laotian Panhandle. The North Vietnamese Army occupied the area to use for its Ho Chi Minh Trail supply corridor and as staging area for offensives into South Vietnam. There was a second major theater of action on and near the northern Plain of Jars.

The North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao eventually emerged victorious in 1975, as part of the general communist victory in all of former French Indochina that year.

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