My next three future/alternating posts address reasons for the Vietnam War, the fall of Laos from an insiders point of view and my family’s eventual exodus from our own country. Before you can understand my father's role in all of these events it is important that you understand who my father was and what my father did for a living.
In 2003, my father asked for my help formatting his curriculum-vitae which ended up being equal parts résumé, biography and family tree. This would be the first time I truly understood what his country meant to my father. With so much on his plate it also explained why I did not see him as often as I wanted to. It may also explain why I'm a recovering work-aholic.
PHOTO ABOVE: Thats me with my Dad in camouflage. Gun control proponents should note that 1. this picture was taken war time. 2. the gun is unloaded 3. its a Daisy BB gun — so no, my Dad did not put me in peril. And no, I have no idea why my father is wearing an ascot with his army uniform.
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After our exodus from Laos, my father was often disappointed by the opportunities presented to him. It takes a lot for a man, who is used to helping a monarchy run a country, to swallow his pride and accept a job in finance. Though he always believed that there was nobility in an honest days work, I believe that my father thought he had disappointed the family by not planning properly — leaving our savings and investments behind. Clearly his family did not agree with this assumption.
When he was passed over for a promotion at Chocolaterie Cantalou, he opted for an early retirement. He seemed to be in a constant state of melancholy. I often gifted him with stick figure drawings of UN forces overthrowing the communist government that occupied Laos after 1975. These gifts of ink and yellow legal paper would bring a slight smile to his face. I stopped drawing them when they no longer evoked the desired effect. Only after years of living in France did he mellow, take to adopting cats and really enjoy living in the present. This did not mean he forgot about his country nor did he ever give up dreams of being able to restore the country of Laos to its former glory.
Born in Vientiane, Laos on September, 1925 to Chao Saythavinh (father) and Mome Temkham (mother), of the house of Southaka-Souvannakoumar of Chaonoï Heng Nakhone-Phoueuane of the former kingdom of Xieng-Khouang.
He was educated at the Universities of Cambodia, South Vietnam and France (Paris-Sorbonne*) Under the auspices of the United Nations, he had internships at major law, economics and financial institutions in Switzerland, Holland and France.
Entered into a career in political administrative career in Laos, given the following responsibilities and functions:
- Private secretary, then Cabinet Chief of his highness, Prince Phetsarath, Tiao Maha-Oupahat, Viceroy of Laos
- Prime minister of the royal government of Louangpra-Bang to Hosanam Louang.
- Political Cabinet Director of his highness Prince Souvanna-Phouma, Prime Minister of the first royal government of Laos, newly independent member of the french commonwealth.
- Director of International Conferences to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Laos. Participated in the Franco-Laotian Modus-Vivendi, and in the first Franco-Laotian friendship and trade agreement, which outlined the limits of the treaty giving independence to Laos in the french commonwealth.
- Director of protocol in the royal government.
- Private secretary to his majesty, King Sisavang Vong.
- Political Cabinet Chief of his royal highness, heir to the throne of Laos, Prince Sri-Savang Vatthana.
- Secretary General of the Royal Palace of Laos.
- Chief Director of Protocol at the Laotian Court.
- Representative of the kingdom of Laos to the high commission of the French Republic in Indochina, Commander in Chief of the French Armed Forces in the far east.
- Minister of Foreign Affairs to the royal government of Laos.
- Laotian Ambassador to Vietnam (Saigon), to the Philippines (Manila), to Cambodia (Phnom-Penh), to Indonesia (Jakarta), to France (Paris), and to Israel (Tel Aviv).
- President of the National Assembly of Laos.
- Attache to his majesty, the king of Laos on his state visits and official trips abroad.
- Represented Laos in the official ceremonies of the countries awaiting independence in Africa and Asia.
- Participated in the Asian Union Parliamentary Conference, in the Global Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, and the French Language Parliamentary Conference.
- Member of the International Conference on Laos in Geneva in 1954 and in 1962.
- Attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England.
POLITICAL & SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
- Member of parliament, Deputy of the province of Xiengkhovang, elected for four consecutive legislative terms.
- President and Founder of the Seri-Prachathipatay Party (liberal democracy), majority party within the parliament.
- Actively participated in Global Inter-Parliamentary Conferences, twice re-elected vice president of the Global Inter-Parliamentary Union and Vice President of the Parliamentary Union of Asia, privileged member of the French Language Parliamentary Group.
- Invited by the Parliamentary Union of Asia to their annual conference of october 1975, after Cambodia’s annexation and the invasion of South Vietnam, during Laos’ occupation** by the North Vietnamese Communists.
- Council of the APU unanimously voted upon and agreed to a privileged motion, after six years of service, granting Mr. Chao Sopsaisana Southakakoumar an honorary life-long membership to the Parliamentary Union of Asia, which allowed him to continue participation in the successive annual conferences of the APU (October 8, 1975)
- Managed several Laotian and French newspapers: “Youth Tribune, Liberated Laos, Echo of Liberty, Sieng-Seri (Voice of Liberty) and the Lao Hakxaxat (guardian of laotian patriotism).
- High commissioner for Sports and Youth, he continued to handle the Youth movement and the Scouts.
- President of the Youvasamakhom-Lao, he was elected a senator for the Asian Sector of the International Jaycees.
- President of the Alliance Française for Laos;
- President of the Rotary Club of Laos
- Lawyer of the court, member of the Laotian Bar Association, often handling pro-bono cases
- order of the king of laos (exceptional rank, in vermilion)
- order of the million elephants and white parasol of laos (large-cross)
- order of sahametrei of the kingdom of cambodia
- royal order of sowathara of the kingdom of cambodia
- royal order of the crown of thailand (exceptional rank)
- national order of civic merit of the kingdom of laos (vermilion class, military rank)
- medal of the veterans of laos (commander)
- Nation medal of public instruction of laos
Laotian Chronicles: A Life Story [ an excerpt from the novel I may never write ]
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- My father was prone to editorializing, so phrases such as "brutal occupation" have been changed to "occupation"