Activist couple claiming Lao royal blood killed

Published on January 19, 2006

Pair shot at monastery said to be descendants of Lao Lan Xang dynasty

A couple of Laotian social activists who claimed to be of direct royal descent from the ancient Lao Lan Xang kingdom were shot dead in northeastern Nong Khai province yesterday, police said.

A man in his 50s, identified as Prince Anouvong Sethathirath IV, and his wife Princess Oulayvanh Sethathirath, were killed by two unidentified gunmen while praying at a Buddhist monastery in the province at about 10am.

The man was hit three times in the head, while the woman, whose body was found some 30 meters away, had been shot in the stomach.

Police found some leaflets about Anouvong’s royal lineage nearby.

The couple were US citizens from North Carolina. Anouvong is a Lao native of Vientiane while his wife Oulayvanh is a Thai native of Nong Khai’s Sri Chiang Mai district, and both claim original royal blood ties from the ancient capital of Luang Phrabang. They arrived in Thailand a week ago to attend a seminar on the “Restoration of Lao Culture” in neighbouring Udon Thani.

They were frequent visitors to Thailand as campaigners to restore Lao culture and the monarchy to the communist-ruled Lao People’s Democratic Republic. This was their fifth visit to Thailand.

It is understood that their activities in Thailand over the past years were mostly concerned with Buddhism as they have often been seen visiting temples in Ubon Ratchathani and Sri Chiang Mai district.

Police Colonel Nattawud Phongsima, deputy commander of Nong Khai provincial police, said there were no clues to link the murder with their campaigning.

“We need a deeper investigation into the case since it might relate to diplomatic relations with neighbouring Laos,” he said.

One of their associates told The Nation that despite their campaign for the restoration of the monarchy in the communist state, Anouvong has never been involved in political activities or armed struggle against Vientiane.

The pair, both with doctorate degrees, presented themselves as academics who championed Lao identity, art and culture, said the associate who declined to be named.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

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