The Exiled Lao Royal Family

                          and the Vangtao Incident

July 24, 2000

The attack by an armed group against the Lao border checkpoint at Vangtao coïncided with Prince Sauryavong Savang's tour in the United States, where he was seeking congressional support for his activities, and raising funds from sympathetic Lao communities.

Twenty-four hours after the incident, Prince Sauryavong Savang, the regent of the Kingdom of Laos living in exile in France, interrupted his U.S. tour to make a statement through Radio France International. He gave a positive response to the Vangtao raiders' appeal for the restoration of the constitutional monarchy.

Though the head of the exiled Lao royal family did not claim at any moment in his statement direct responsibility for the bloody Vangtao clash in which six members of the armed group were killed, how could one not interpret the royal statement as hasty and careless? Was it not equivalent to lending support to the Vangtao raiders? Such support is contradictory to the exiled Lao royal family's stated policy, which now more than ever seems hollow, of restoring liberty, democracy and national reconciliation through "peaceful means."

Any good analyst of Lao overseas political affairs should have deduced that Prince Sauryavong Savang himself was behind the Vangtao raid. Furthermore, the Thai army, based on the documents seized from the 27 armed group members who escaped into Thai soil, also accused him of backing the bloody attack.

Since 1997 when he created in Seattle his "Council of the Lao Overseas Representatives," Prince Sauryavong Savang has issued to about two thousand people belonging to different groups documents certifying them as "representatives" within his political organization.

Apparently placed in an embarrassing position by his own statement and the documents seized by Thai authorities, the exiled regent was hurried to make a strong denial.

In a communiqué issued through his lawyers two days after his radio broadcasting statement, Prince Sauryavong Savang claimed that the Lao royal family was never implicated in the Vangtao attack and that it had no information or knowledge about it prior to its release in the public international press.

Even this statement reiterated the royal family's long-standing policy of restoring democracy to Laos through "peaceful means." The royal family's credibility is called into question, because it had at least twenty-four hours to see that there were six people killed in the Vangtao clash before it decided to make its radio broadcasting statement that was favorable to the armed attack.

His 180-degree U-turn within forty-eight hours made inevitably doubtful the royal family's influence on the members of the "Council of the Lao Overseas Representatives," which considers itself the overseas body with which the Lao government should negotiate.

From the disastrous Vangtao incident, it is apparent that the different members of this Council, and perhaps the Council itself, have been out of the royal family's control or influence. This gives the Lao government another reason to ignore the royal family's appeal for negotiations.

                                                      David Thanadabouth

                                                 Radio France Internationale

                                                   (Lao language section)