The Fate of the King

Savang or Sisavang Vatthana was the last king of Laos. He ruled from 1959 after his father's death, until he was forced to abdicate after Pathet Lao victory in 1975. He and all his family were sent to a reeducation camp and after that the truth of their fate becomes unclear apart from the certainty that they died. Educated in France, Prince Savang earned a degree from the École Libre des Sciences Politiques (now called Sciences Po), the elite academy for French diplomats. After a decade, Savang Vatthana came home, but his spoken Lao was now so shaky he had to relearn it. Savang married Queen Khamphoui in 1930, and they had six children, Crown Prince Vong Savang, Prince Sisavang Savang, Prince Savang, Prince Sauryavong Savang, Princess Savivanh Savang, and Princess Thala Savang. The king was devoutly religious and took his role seriously as protector of the Buddhist faith.

Succeeding to the throne in 1959, he was never officially crowned, postponing his coronation until the end of the war. After Communist victory Savang refused to leave the country. He was arrested in March 1977 along with all his family. The new regime feared that Savang Vatthana, who then had lived quietly in the Royal Palace as a private citizen, would become a symbol of popular resistance. As a result, he was suddenly spirited away by helicopter to Houaphan along with Queen Khamboui and Crown Prince Say Vongsavang. Imprisoned in "Camp Number One," the crown prince died on May 2, 1978, and the king 11 days later of starvation. The queen died on December 12, 1981. According to an eyewitness, all were buried in unmarked graves outside the camp's perimeter.


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