Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Laos MMFI cover
This cover, sent from Laos to France in early 1966 has a return address of 'MMFI'. The Mission Militaire Francaise d'Instruction assisted American Special Forces training Hmong troops in Laos and later flew them to the Vietnam border for fighting. The MMFI reportedly left Laos in 1962, but I noted accounts of MMFI operating between between 1964 and 1975, so the hiatus was apparently a short one.
Philippe Drillien responded to this post based on his personal experiences with the MMFI:
According to the Genova agreements in 1962, France was the only foreign country allowed to have soldiers in Laos. The aim of these soldiers (MMFI) was to help the Laotion Government in instructing the Laotian soldiers.
When I arrived in Laos, in 1969, the MMFI was still operating in Laos. If I remember well, only 6 French military instructors helped instruct the Laotians: one (or two) in Paksé, two or (three) in Luang Prabang; the remaining were teaching French and mathematics in the military Chinaimo school (near Vientiane).
Besides these six instructors, the MMFI included at least 30 or 40 other military personnel because the MMFI ruled a Bureau Postal Militaire (BPM), a hospital for the French living in Laos, a mini supermarket and even a place for movies. This mission was housed in Wat Tay (close to the airport).
In 1975, the MMFI was asked to close by the Laotian Government. To the best of my memory, the communique that has been published stated, "The situation has changed; the MMFI does not correspond to the new situation. Laotian and French Governments agree to make an end to the mission. The end of the mission does not alter in any way the excellent relationships between the two countries."
The mission definitively closed in October 1975 (I shall try to find the exact date in my archives). The same day, Soviet people (civilian? militarians? KGB? I do not know) entered Wat Tay (ex-French campus) and replaced the MMFI. The merchandise of the mini-supermarket was sold within a few days to the members of the different Embassies. I remember that I met there, for the first time, the American "Charge de Mission" as there was no longer a US Ambassador.