Sisavang Vatthana

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Sisavang Vatthana
Savang Vatthana 1959.jpg
Sisavang Vatthana on 3 November 1959, shortly after his accession upon the death of his father on 29 October.
King of Laos
Reign29 October 1959 – 2 December 1975
Predecessor Sisavang Vong
SuccessorMonarchy abolished;
Prince Souphanouvong as President
Prime Ministers
Born(1907-11-13)13 November 1907
Luang Phrabang, French Laos
Died13 May 1978(1978-05-13) (aged 70)
Sam Neua, Laos
Spouse Queen Khamphoui
IssueCrown 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
Religion Theravada Buddhism
Prime Minister of Laos
In office
15 October 1951 21 November 1951
Monarch Sisavang Vong
Preceded by Phoui Sananikone
Succeeded by Souvanna Phouma

Sisavang Vatthana (Lao : ພຣະບາທສົມເດັຈພຣະເຈົ້າມະຫາຊີວິຕສີສວ່າງວັດທະນາ) or sometimes Savang Vatthana (full title: Samdach Brhat Chao Mavattaha Sri Vitha Lan Xang Hom Khao Phra Rajanachakra Lao Phengdara Parama Sidha Khattiya Suriya Varman Brhat Maha Sri Savangsa Vadhana; 13 November 1907 – 13 May 1978) was the last king of the Kingdom of Laos and the 6th Prime Minister of Laos serving from 29 October to 21 November 1951. He ruled from 1959 after his father's death until his forced abdication in 1975. 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.[ citation needed ]


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 along with Princess Khampheng, Princess Sammathi, Prince Sayasack, and Prince Souphantharangsri. 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 and obtained a degree from École Libre des Sciences Politiques (now called Sciences Po) in Paris, where French diplomats were trained. The young heir continued his studies in France, and after a decade overseas, he could no longer speak Lao. Upon his return, he had to be instructed by a palace functionary for years.

On 7 August 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. The family played tennis together, and liked to attend major tournaments on their travels abroad. The prince was also a devout Buddhist and became an authority on the Sangha, and would later take his role as protector of the state religion seriously.

French General Salan and Prince Savang in Luang Prabang, 4 May 1953 FrenchLaos1953.png
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

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 acceded 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 the GAZ-13 Chaika limousines. He was also accompanied by his Prime Minister, Souvanna Phouma.

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 Sisavang Vatthana.

In 1961, a majority of the National Assembly had already voted Boun Oum into power and King Sisavang 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 the 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". [1] 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. [2] He was transported to Xam Neua and imprisoned in "Camp Number One," which held high-ranking officials from the former government. [3] During his time in the camp, he and other members of the royal family were allowed to move freely around their compounds during the day, and were often visited by members of the politburo, including Sopuhanouvong himself. Vatthana was the oldest prisoner in the camp and turned 70 during the earlier months of his imprisonment, whereas the average age of prisoners was around 55. [4]

In 1978, the government reported that Vatthana, Queen Khamphoui, and Crown Prince Vong Savang had died from malaria. The World Press Review reported that they had suffered from the effects of forced labor and starvation. [5] More recent accounts suggest that the King died in mid-March 1980.[ citation needed ] However, according to Kaysone Phomvihane, Vatthana died in 1984, at the age of 77. [6] Following the deaths of Vatthana and the Crown Prince, the King's youngest son, Sauryavong Savang, became the head of the Laotian royal family, acting as regent for his nephew Crown Prince, Soulivong Savang, until the regent died in Paris in 2018.


The children of Savang Vatthana and Khumphoui as follows:

Crown Prince Vong Savang 27 September 19312 May 1978 (?)married Mahneelai
Princess Savivanh Savang 19334 January 2007married Mangkhala Manivong
Princess Thala Savang 10 January 193514 April 2006married Sisouphanouvong Sisaleumsak
Prince Sisavang Savang December 19351978
Prince Sauryavong Savang 22 January 19372 January 2018married Dalavan

See also

Related Research Articles


Prince Souphanouvong was, along with his half-brother Prince Souvanna Phouma and Prince Boun Oum of Champasak, one of the "Three Princes" who represented respectively the communist (pro-Vietnam), neutralist and royalist political factions in Laos. He was the figurehead President of Laos from December 1975 to August 1991.

Kingdom of Laos Southeast Asian constitutional monarchy from 1953 to 1975

The Kingdom of Laos was a constitutional monarchy that served Laos beginning with its independence on 9 November 1953. The monarchy survived until December 1975, when its last king, Sisavang Vatthana, surrendered the throne to the Pathet Lao, who abolished the monarchy in favour of a Marxist–Leninist state called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which has controlled Laos ever since.

Souvanna Phouma

Prince Souvanna Phouma was the leader of the neutralist faction and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos several times.

The Three Princes was a name given to Princes Boun Oum, Souvanna Phouma and Souphanouvong who represented respectively the royalist, neutralist and communist factions in the Kingdom of Laos in the post-WWII period. The trio were named by King Sisavang Vatthana to form a coalition government following the independence of Laos.

Khamphoui was the Queen of Laos and consort to Sisavang Vatthana, the second King of Laos. She was arrested with the rest of her family and reportedly died in a re-education camp in 1982.

Crown Prince Soulivong Savang, grandson of the last King of Laos Savang Vatthana, is the pretender to the Lao throne. Laos was a monarchy until 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao seized control of the nation, causing Savang Vatthana to abdicate his throne. Soulivong Savang lives in exile in Paris.

Laotian Civil War 1959–1975 civil war in Laos

The Laotian Civil War (1959–1975) was a civil war in Laos which was waged between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government from 23 May 1959 to 2 December 1975. It is associated with the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Center and Hmong veterans of the conflict.

Vong Savang was the Crown Prince to throne of the Kingdom of Laos. After the Laotian Civil War in 1975, he and his family were arrested by the Pathet Lao and sent to re-education camps, where they died.

Royal Lao Government

The Royal Lao Government was the ruling authority in the Kingdom of Laos from 1947 until the communist seizure of power in December 1975 and the proclamation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The Franco-Lao Treaty of 1953 gave Laos full independence but 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 future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane. During this period, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to establish coalition governments.

Lao royal family

The Lao Royal Family was the ruling family of the Kingdom of Laos from 1904 to 1975 and the group of close relatives of the monarch of the Kingdom of Laos. King Sisavang Vong was the founder of the modern family, consisting of a number of persons in the Lao Royal Dynasty of the Khun Lo, who are related to the King of Laos, who are entitled to royal titles, and some of whom performed various official engagements on behalf of the Royal Family and ceremonial duties of State when the Kingdom existed. The Lao Royals are now based in France, where they work to achieve a change of government in Laos.

Quinim Pholsena was a leftist minister and the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Laos from 1962 to 1963, under Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma.

Order of Civic Merit of Laos

The Order of Civic Merit of the Kingdom of Laos was established on November 20, 1950 under Royal Ordinance No. 186 by H.M. Sisavang Phoulivong, The King of Laos. It is an Order of Civic Merit for civil officials and military officers. It was awarded for meritorious and courageous service to the State in three classes. Until 1975 the approval authority was the Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government. The current approval authority is H.E. Professor Maha Khamphoui Sisavatdy, Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government in Exile as an elected successor to the Office of the Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government.

The 1960 Laotian coups brought about a pivotal change of government in the Kingdom of Laos. General Phoumi Nosavan established himself as the strongman running Laos in a bloodless coup on 25 December 1959. He would be himself overthrown on 10 August 1960 by the young paratrooper captain who had backed him in the 1959 coup. When Captain Kong Le impressed the American officials underwriting Laos as a potential communist, they backed Phoumi's return to power in November and December 1960. In turn, the Soviets backed Kong Le as their proxy in this Cold War standoff. After the Battle of Vientiane ended in his defeat, Kong Le withdrew northward to the strategic Plain of Jars on 16 December 1960.

The following lists events that happened during 1962 in Laos.

The following lists events that happened during 1975 in Laos.

The following lists events that happened during 1978 in Laos.

The 1964 Laotian coups were two attempted coup d'etats against the Royal Lao Government. The 18 April 1964 coup was notable for being committed by the policemen of the Directorate of National Coordination. Although successful, it was overturned five days later by U.S. Ambassador Leonard Unger. In its wake, Neutralist Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma forged a fragile coalition with the Pathet Lao communists. On 4 August 1964, Defense Minister Phoumi Nosavan attempted to take over Vientiane with a training battalion. This coup was quickly crushed by the local Royal Lao Army troops, as the police sat out the conflict.


  1. "The Age - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  2. "History of Laos - Lonely Planet Travel Information". Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  3. Hamilton-Merritt, Jane (May 8, 1993). Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992. Indiana University Press. ISBN   0253207568 . Retrieved May 8, 2019 via Google Books.
  4. Bamboo Palace, Kremmer . 2003, p. 1989. accessed on May 10, 2008.
  5. "Laotian Royal Family Died in Prison Camp". Feb 8, 1990. Retrieved May 8, 2019 via
  6. Laos " Le roi est mort ", Le Monde. 16 December 1989, p. 7. accessed on October 8, 2006.
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