The Diplomat’s Akhilesh Pillalamarri speaks with His Excellency Professor Khamphoui Sisavatdy, Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government in Exile. He represents the claimant to the Lao throne, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Soulivong Savang, who lives in exile in Paris. The Lao Royal Family, which was overthrown in 1975 by the Communist Pathet Lao with the support of Vietnam, has been working for the restoration of the Kingdom of Laos for the past three decades.
Can you tell us a little about the Royal Lao government-in-exile and what it is currently doing?
The Royal Lao Government in Exile (RLGE) was proclaimed on May 6, 2003 and is a Lao government-in-exile opposed to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). The Royal Lao government-in-exile is an interim democratic government consisting of eighty representatives from Lao political organizations and associations elected by the Lao people inside Lao PDR and abroad.
The primary goal of the RLGE is to reunite all Lao citizens, both inside the Lao PDR and those abroad. The RGLE aims to “institute in Laos a Constitutional Democratic Monarchy,” which will ensure freedom, justice, the rule of law, and equal rights for all citizens regardless of class and ethnic origin.
The RLGE platform is:
- To end the Communist dictatorial regime in the Kingdom of Laos;
- To end Vietnamese Communist colonialism and present Vietnamization in the Kingdom of Laos;
- To restore the national territorial integrity and national independence of the Kingdom of Laos;
- To promote freedom, democracy, rule of law, human rights, and human dignity for all Lao citizens;
- To end the illegitimate and Communist orientated Lao-Viet special Brotherhood Treaty of July 18, 1977.
The position of the RLGE is to call upon the Government of the United States of America, the United Nations, and the international community to reach out to all the participating members of the Paris Peace Agreement Treaty Accords signed on January 27, 1973, the Geneva convention Agreement Accords on Neutrality of the Kingdom of Laos signed on July 23, 1962, and the Geneva Peace Agreement Treaty Accords on Indochina in 1954. These accords are to all be revived because these peace treaties were violated by the North Vietnamese Communist and Lao People’s Revolutionary Party’s Regime of the Lao PDR. Furthermore, we would like the international community to enforce United States Congress Resolutions No. 169, 240, 309 and 318, and the European Community Parliamentary Resolution from February 15, 2002 condemning the Lao PDR Regime for violating the human rights of the people of Laos. These resolutions call for the immediate withdrawal of all the occupying Vietnamese armed forces in Laos, the return of all Vietnamese immigrants and settlers, and the return all the subsidized farm land to the Lao people that has been unlawfully confiscated.
Recently, we established the Association of the Envoys Extraordinary of the Royal Lao Government in Exile Worldwide (AEERLGE), which is the premier diplomatic network institution of the Royal Lao government-in-exile. The Association has a worldwide network of representatives and is registered in the Transparency Register of the European Union. Through this Association, we organize peaceful campaigns to protect freedom of expression, spread the word about our positions using social media channels, organize conferences all over the world, and inform people about the monarchy.
H.M. Sisavang Vatthana, King of Laos, H.M. Khamphoui, Queen of Laos, H.R.H. Vong Savang, Crown Prince of Laos and many others were sent to camps (to die). H.R.H. Soulivong Savang, current Crown Prince of Laos, H.R.H. Sauryavong Savang, current Prince Regent of Laos, and many others, including yourself, escaped from captivity. Can you tell us a bit about this experience and how it shaped your views towards the present regime?
The experience is something that I need to live with for the rest of my life. I see the Lao PDR’s present regime as a puppet government of Vietnam, who wants to swallow and control Laos forever, as was stated in the Lao-Vietnamese Special Treaty signed on July 18, 1977.
Why do you believe that the Laotian monarchy should be restored?
I trust that the best form of the government is a constitutional monarchy. I believe that the Lao people in the 21st century can hope to create the type of administration of their choice. This means the restoration of the monarchy under a new constitution. To unite all the Lao people and to bring them under one umbrella, we need to have a father of the nation, a King, as we have always had.
Laos has historically been culturally similar to Thailand. Is the Lao concept of a monarch similar to that of Thailand, where a highly revered monarch rules in accordance with Buddhist principles? Is this the form you believe it ought to be restored to, or should the monarchy take a more modern approach?
Laos and Thailand have always been culturally similar throughout history and I do believe that the monarch should rule in accordance with Buddhist principles as we are a Buddhist nation. However the world we live in is not only more connected than ever before, it is also more competitive and in many ways more chaotic than ever before. Therefore, I think it would be wise to add some modern twist to the monarchy.
Do you foresee a post-communist restoration of the monarchy in Laos, similar to what happened in Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge?
Yes, absolutely. We are patient, as we have waited for this moment for almost 40 years. A society in which critical thinking is a crime against the state has lost its ability to create anything new and is bound to survive only by spending the intellectual and technological capital created by previous generations. Once this capital reserve is drained, the only possibility for such a society to preserve itself, or to renew and modernize itself, is by spending the capital of its neighbours. This is exactly what is happening now in the Lao PDR. People inside the Lao PDR live in an isolated society and behind this curtain, they are isolated from the reality of the world. Sooner or later they will want to see the light and become free.
Are you hopeful that the monarchy will be restored in the near future?
Yes, absolutely. Fulfilling the dream of the Lao people is the sole purpose of my life. My own identity and dignity are bound to this quest. Someday soon we shall have our monarchy back.