Sisavang Vatthana

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Sisavang Vatthana
Savang Vatthana.jpg
King of Laos
Reign 29 October 1959 – 2 December 1975
Predecessor Sisavang Vong
Successor Monarchy abolished; Prince Souphanouvong becomes President in 1975
Born (1907-11-13)13 November 1907
Luang Phrabang, Laos
Died 13 May?, 1978 or as late as 1984
Sam Neua, Laos
Spouse Queen Khamphoui
Issue Crown Prince Vong Savang
Princess Savivanh Savang
Princess Thala Savang
Prince Sisavang Savang
Prince Sauryavong Savang
House Khun Lo Dynasty
Father Sisavang Vong
Mother Kham-Oun I

Sisavang Vatthana (Lao: ເຈົ້າສີສະຫວ່າງວັດທະນາ) or sometimes Savang Vatthana (full name Samdach Brhat Chao Mavattaha Sri Vitha Lan Xang Hom Khao Phra Rajanachakra Lao Parama Sidha Khattiya Suriya Varman Brhat Maha Sri Savangsa Vadhana) (13 November 1907 – 13 May (?) 1978; or perhaps as late as 1984) was the last king of the Kingdom of Laos. He ruled from 1959 after his father's death until his forced abdication in 1975. Savang Vatthana proved unable to manage a country in political turmoil. His rule ended with the takeover by the Pathet Lao in 1975, after which he and his family were sent to a re-education camp by the new government.[1]

Early life

Prince Savang Vatthana was born on 13 November 1907 at the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang, the son of King Sisavang Vong and Queen Kham-Oun I. He was the second of five children, the others being Princess Sammathi, Prince Sayasack, Prince Souphantharangsri and the oldest princess Khampheng. He was also a distant cousin of Prince Souvanna Phouma and Prince Souphanouvong. At the age of 10, Prince Savang was sent to study in France. He attended a lycée in Montpellier, got a degree from Paris's École Libre des Sciences Politiques (now called Sciences Po), where French diplomats were trained. After graduating from school, the young heir continued his studies in France. After a decade out of the country, he returned and could no longer speak Lao, and had to be instructed by a palace functionary for years.

On August 7, 1930, he married Queen Khamphoui and they had five children, Crown Prince Vong Savang, Prince Sisavang Savang, Prince Sauryavong Savang, Princess Savivanh Savang, and Princess Thala Savang. Like other Asian royal families, the family played tennis together, and liked to attend major tournaments on their travels abroad. He was also a devout Buddhist and became an authority on the sangkha and took his role as protector of the state religion seriously.

French General Salan and Prince Savang in Luang Prabang, 4 May 1953

During World War II, he represented his father with the Japanese forces. His father sent him to the Japanese headquarters in Saigon, where he vigorously protested about the Japanese actions, when they invaded Laos and forced them to declare independence from France.

King of Laos

Savang Vatthana on 3 November 1959, shortly after his informal ascension to the throne upon the death of his father on 29 October.

In 1951, he served as Prime Minister, and when his father became ill on 20 August 1959, he was named Regent. On 29 October 1959, he informally ascended the throne upon the death of his father. He was, however, never officially crowned and anointed king, deferring his coronation until the cessation of civil war. During his reign, Savang Vatthana visited many countries on diplomatic missions. In March 1963, he toured 13 countries, including the United States, where he stopped at Washington, D.C. to meet with President Kennedy. It was the second stop on a tour of 13 of the nations signatory to the Geneva Pact that guaranteed the "neutrality" of the Kingdom of Laos. The first stop had been Moscow, and the Russians showered gifts, including Chaika limousines. He was also accompanied by his Prime Minister, Souvanna Phouma.

Styles of
King of Laos
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style His Majesty
Alternative style Sir

He was active in Lao politics, trying to stabilise his country after the political turmoil started with the Geneva Conference of July 1954, which granted full independence to Laos but did not settle the issue of who would rule. Prince Souvanna Phouma, a neutralist, operated from Vientiane, claiming to be Prime Minister and being recognized by the USSR; Prince Boun Oum of Champassak in the south, right-wing, pro-US, dominated the Pakse area, recognized as Prime Minister by the US; and in the far north, Prince Souphanouvong led the leftist resistance movement, the Pathet Lao, drawing support from North Vietnam, also claiming to be Prime Minister with the backing of the communists. To avoid argument over whether Souvanna or Boun Oum was the "legitimate" Prime Minister, both sides would deal through the pro-western King Savang Vatthana.

In 1961, a majority of the National Assembly had already voted Boun Oum into power and King Savang Vatthana left Luang Prabang, visiting the capital to give the new government his blessing. But he wanted the Three Princes to form a coalition government, which happened in 1962 but then the coalition government collapsed.

In 1964 series of coups and counter coups resulted in the final alignment of the Pathet Lao on one side with the neutralist and right wing factions on the other. From this point the Pathet Lao refused to join any offers of coalition or national elections and Laotian Civil War began.

Abdication and death

On 23 August 1975, Pathet Lao forces entered Vientiane, the last city to be captured. The Phouma Government became effectively powerless for the next few months. On 2 December, Vatthana was forced to abdicate the throne by the Pathet Lao, abolishing the 600-year-old monarchy, and was appointed to the meaningless position of "Supreme Advisor to the President".[2] He refused to leave the country and in 1976 he surrendered the royal palace to the Lao Government, which turned it into a museum, and moved to a nearby private residence where he was later placed under house arrest. In March 1977, fearing Vatthana might escape to lead a resistance, the Communist authorities arrested him along with the Queen, Crown Prince Vong Savang, Prince Sisavang, and his brothers Princes Souphantharangsri and Thongsouk and sent them to the northern province of Viengxai.[3] He was transported to Sam Neua and imprisoned in "Camp Number One," which held high-ranking officials from the former government.[4] During his time in the camp, the royal family was allowed to move freely around in their compounds during the day and were often visited by members of the politburo and Sopuhanouvong himself. He was the oldest prisoner in the camp and turned 70 during the earlier months of imprisonment, whereas the average age of prisoners was around 55.[5]

In 1978, the government reported that Vatthana, Queen Khamphoui, and Crown Prince Vong Savang had died from malaria.[6] More recent accounts suggest that the King died in mid-March 1980. However, according to Kaysone Phomvihane, Vatthana died in 1984, at the age of 77.[7] With Vatthana and the Crown Prince's deaths, the King's youngest son Sauryavong Savang became the head of the Laotian royal family, acting as regent to his nephew Crown Prince Soulivong Savang.


The children of Savang Vatthana and Khumphoui as follows:

Name Birth Death Notes
Crown Prince Vong Savang 27 September 1931 January 1980 married Mahneelai
Princess Savivanh Savang 1933 4 January 2007 married Mangkhala Manivong
Princess Thala Savang 10 January 1935 14 April 2006 married Sisouphanouvong Sisaleumsak
Prince Sisavang Savang December 1935 1978
Prince Sauryavong Savang 22 January 1937

See also


External links

Sisavang Vatthana
Cadet branch of the 1984?
Born: 13 November 1907 Died: March 1978?/13 May
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sisavang Vong
King of Laos
29 October 1959 – 2 December 1975
Monarchy abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Sisavang Vong
as King of Laos
Head of State of Laos
as King of Laos

29 October 1959 – 2 December 1975
Succeeded by
Prince Souphanouvong
as President of Laos
Preceded by
Phoui Sananikone
Prime Minister of Laos
15 October 1951 – 21 November 1951
Succeeded by
Prince Souvanna Phouma
Titles in pretence
New title — TITULAR —
King of Laos
2 December 1975 – March 1978?/13 May 1984?
Succeeded by
Vong Savang