Interview with Mr. Touxoua LYFOUNG given to "Hmoob Vam Meej"
For Mr. Touxoua Lyfoung, graduated from the Faculty of Law and from the Political Science Institute of Bordeaux (France) represents
1/ the new active Lao generation among which he is fighting with conviction and determination against the totalitarian, despotic and corrupt regime of the so-called Democratic and Popular Republic of Laos (DPRL),
2/ the ethnic Lao-Hmong family who had terribly suffered during these last thirties years,
that seems interesting for us to reproduce here a part of the interview he gave to this hmong magazine, expressing perfectly his patriotic feelings as well as his observations on the Lao events and History. We do wish that, in reading this testimony, you will better understand the Lao drama in which the hmongs people have lost a great number of their parents.
HVM : - We read in the newspaper that the government in Vientiane will change. Will your struggle still serve a purpose?
TL : - It is true that the unnatural and anachronistic government in Vientiane will have to change sooner or later. But allow me to say one thing. The government will change because we are relentlessly fighting it and because we are constantly condemning it before the rest of the world. One can never gain anything without making any effort. It is a good thing that the government will change. Hence, the Laotians will be able to return to their homeland to stare in the face the executioners of their families and loved one. But that is not our primary objective. We must make all efforts, as it is the duty of any Free Laotian, to cause the downfall of that evil government, so that it will be banished and that we will never have to hear again about the Laotian communism or communism in the Laotian manner. One can quietly wait for that government to change. However, if the change occurs as a result of the deeds of the current government officials, then yesterday's criminals will be hailed as tomorrow's angels of mercy. Back in World War II? The Allies did not only wish for Hitler to change, to close his death camps, or to put an end to his gas chambers. They wished to stop the Nazi movement and the genocide ideology.
HVM: - What is the relationship between the LAO NATION Party and other Laotian political organisations in France and in the rest of the world in general, such as the Royal Family, general VANG Pao's Neo Hom, with whom rumours have it that you signed a contract?
TL: - First of all, I would like to clarify that the Royal Family is not a political organisation, but rather an institution decreed by the will of God, and respected as such by the People. In the hierarchical order of the Four High Institutions of the State, the King came in third position, right after the Nation and Religion, and before the Constitution. In principle, the King can interfere neither with the exercise of the legislative power, and nor with the exercise of the legislative power, and nor with the exercise of the judicial power. In the old days, it was customary to make the distinction between the Reigning Royal Family (Vang Louang) and the Governing Royal Family(Vang Na). Nowadays, that distinction is no longer relevant and no longer significant, as the government holds its power from the People and for the People. That implies general elections, with the universal suffrage, to select the representatives of the People. That also implies the existence of a majority in the National Assembly (deputies or parliamentarians) to uphold the Executive Power chosen by the People's will. Finally, that implies the existence of a legislative document which sets term limits for deputies and parliamentarians, which would set a limit to the Executive Power to avoid a shift towards a dictatorship or personal power. The NATION LAO Party considers the Royal Family as an Institution with a referee purpose and which can symbolise national unity and the continuity of the State, but definitely not as a political organisation. For this reason, the NATION LAO Party approves and supports without reservation the actions of the Head of the Royal Family, in deference to the National Reconciliation principle. I do regret that the organisations and the men who have always supported the Monarchy have not supported His Highness Prince Sauryavong SAVANG's proposal to form a Council of Overseas Laotians.
Since the creation of the LAO NATION Party, and upon our initiative, we have reunited several times the diverse Laotian organisations which had the common purpose of resisting and fighting for democracy in Laos, with the goal of forming a Committee of Co-ordination of all our patriotic activities in France, in the United States, in Australia, in Thailand, and on the front line in Laos. General VANG Pao's Neo Hom, represented in France by some right-wing elements, has never responded to our invitations. That organisation has always been a lone player, accusing all the others of collaborating with Vientiane. This said, I do consider General VANG Pao as the greatest General the Kingdom of Laos has ever seen. I believe that a number of other Laotian generals would agree with me. VANG Pao undeniably has the qualities of a great military leader. He would have been Minister of the National Defence, Chef d'Etat-Major General or Commander in Chief of the Royal Armed Forces, had the fate of the Kingdom of Laos been different. In each of his visits in Paris, Prince SOUVANNA-PHOUMA, himself, then Prime Minister, publicly praised General VANG Pao as a good soldier and a good public servant of the nation, before all the Laotian students in France. I did not hear the Prince make such complimentary comments regarding any other military leader. At the time, I was still a student in Bordeaux. I often went up to Paris to attend the press conferences given by the Prime Minister at the Lao Embassy, because I had much interest in my country's affairs.
General VANG Pao's only fault, which can also be his strongest quality, is his distrust of others. His monumental error, if I may speak of it, has been to send his Californian flock barking in the street of Fresno and Green Bay, when the officials of the NATION LAO Party came to visit the United States in October 1993. He acted upon the advice of some contemptible individuals who wished to hurt me, my family, and Prince Mangkra SOUVANNAPHOUMA. I hope that such events will never happen again. I would have preferred to see General VANG Pao's followers parade and yell "End Communism" before the Lao Embassy in Washington D.C. or before the United Nations in New York. Knowing General VANG Pao, who I respect as my own father, and in light of the affectionate bonds which I have tied us for more than thirty years, I still cannot understand what led him to choose that course of action. I prefer to soothe my sadness by believing that there must have been another hand in this sorry episode, and that General VANG Pao and I are fighting the same battle for the same reasons. The LAO NATION Party always looks to the future. Unity makes Strength is still our motto.
It is true that General VANG Pao and I have concluded an agreement re-affirming our commitment to the Hmong people. We have sworn upon our honour to never do anything, which would divide, the Hmong people or weaken their unity. I was then member of the MDL Supreme Council (Movement for Democracy in Laos), and the Speaker of the LAO NATION Party. That moral contract conformed to the political agenda of the NATION LAO Party, which I defended and which went beyond Hmong unity only. I therefore had no doubt about signing that contract. Several months later, during the LAO NATION Party official's visit to the United States, one of us betrayed the other by paying some Hmong people in Fresno, and then in Green Bay. As for me, my conscience is clear.
HVM : - In your opinion, who is currently the legitimate representative of Laos?
TL : - Although King Sisavang VATTHANA abdicated in 1975 through a sad message solemnly read by the Heir, Prince VONGSAVANG, before the National Representation, I consider the Royal Family as the legitimate representative of Laos. My argument has a historical foundation. I am one of those who believe that Laos has been able to survive throughout the centuries, against all odds, only thanks to the courage and wisdom of its kind Kings and its brave Princes. My heart bleeds when I witness our Princes misunderstanding each other or sometimes even tearing each other apart. I would add that although the Royal Family (Vang Louang, Vang Na and all the Champassacs) is the official and legitimate representative of Laos, but it is not the representative of the Laotian people. After having read all political agendas of all the organisations fighting for Freedom, Justice, and democracy in Laos, and in light of their internal structures and their respective actual operations, I believe can say with confidence that the LAO NATION Party is the most representative of the Laotian People. At the MDL meetings, I must have suggested more than ten times, without any result, that an Ethnic Minorities Commission be created. That body would have listened to and compiles all the aspirations of each ethnic group, to promote a better understanding among all the diverse Laotian ethnic communities, which are the real forces of the nation. The MDL did not listen to my voice. It was eventually Vientiane which crated such a Commission at the NATIONAL assembly. In Neo-Hom/France, the Hmong, the Khamou, and the Thaidams serve only as tokens and contributors. In the Government-in-exile of General VANG Pao and of Phagna Louang Outhong SOUVANNAVONG (now deceased and replaced by Phagna Khamphay ABHAY), the Hmong, on the opposite, ridiculously occupy more than eighty percent of all representative seats. Even deputies and government officials of the current Vientiane government are seated in the Government-in-exile.
HVM -: We often hear in the speeches made by our political leaders and our military leaders exiled in France and in the United States, that Prince SOUVANNA-PHOUMA, Prime Minister until 1975, was responsible for the fall of the Lao Monarchy, for the death of the King, and for the deaths of the King's Ministers, your own father included. The Prince would have sold Laos to the Vietnamese communists. Would you comment that?
TL -: As for me, that story belongs to the past. But since you are asking me this question, I will respond with the information which is available to me.
I think that those who cast all the blame on Prince SOUVANNA-PHOUMA are not familiar with the Laotian Constitution or do not know how to read it. I also think that those gentlemen who now comfortably live after having sought refuge overseas had not been following the international political web of the time. They fled from their responsibilities. Today they can say whatever they wish since the dead can longer speak and since those who are absent are always at fault. If I were one of those gentlemen who achieved successful careers and wealth under the Souvanna-Phouma' leadership, I would just be an opportunistic hypocrite.
Here are some attempts to answer your question. History will make its final judgement.
1. According to the Constitution of the Lao Kingdom (Article 39, I believe)(art.19), the King appoints his Prime Minister. It was not a requirement that this latter be a leader of a political party with a majority at the National Assembly. In that situation, the King could dismiss the Prime Minister if he did not perform well. If the King chooses to keep the Prime Minister in his position, then he probably has his reasons. No one could be more loyal to Monarchy than the King. Otherwise, one would have to accept the explanation that the King was wrong in retaining his Prime Minister, which I would forbid myself from saying, as it would imply that I claimed to be smarter or more insightful than the King. Those who nowadays cast all the blame on Souvanna-Phouma must reflect on that fact. One cannot claim to be loyal to the King, and yet say that the politics of his Prime Minister were bad or that this latter was a traitor, especially if one used to be a government official. I will ask you, whom among all our Ministers and Generals back then, complained to the King about his choice of Souvanna-Phouma as Prime Minister? Which one of them demonstrated more ability, which would have made him a natural replacement for Souvanna-Phouma? The Americans, weakened by the Watergate scandal, had abandoned us. Richard NIXON was on his way to Peking. Henry KISSINGER wanted his Peace Nobel Prize. The American stars danced in Hanoi. The coalition among the North Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Cubans, the Eastern Europeans, and the Soviets was stronger and more stable than ever. The Berlin Wall was untouchable and unpenetrable. Soviet communism was ruling the world. What could Souvanna-Phouma do, except negotiate peace with the enemy, to minimise the losses? He did not wish to see the North Vietnamese tanks pounce upon Vientiane as they did upon Phnom-Penh and Saigon. That is why he encouraged those who disagreed with the negotiated peace to leave the country. Those who followed his advice saved their lives. Those former Ministers, those former Generals, and those former Ambassadors, all chosen by Souvanna-Phouma, would they have preferred to stay in Laos until the 2nd of December of 1975? I will let them answer that question. If one accepts that the King was forced to renounce his throne, why not accept also that Souvanna-Phouma was compelled to negotiate with the communists who controlled practically the whole country. Under the Laotian Constitutional Monarchy, the Prime Minister presided over the Cabinet Council. The King presided over the Ministers' Council (Article 17 of the Constitution). As a result, the King was kept updated on all the decisions made by the Government. I bow deeply before the courage of the King and all of those who chose to die upon the Laotian land, so that later their children and their grandchildren may claim loud and clear that this land belongs to them by right.
My father went to Samneua as a government official to attend the opening session of the Mixed Political Council. He had no knowledge that the Monarchy was about to fall down. The King himself was not expecting it. The Americans did not want a blood bath in Laos. As of December 2, 1975, Souvanna-Phouma was no longer in power (1). The King was no longer in power. Both of them lost their battle against the street riots and the resignations of all political and military officials (2). In politics, the winner takes the power, the loser has to vanish. In a liberal and democratic government, the opponent is respected. In a totalitarian and leninist-marxist government, the opponent is physically removed. This is why I will fight to the death against any kind of dictatorship, and more specifically, against that communism supposedly in the Laotian manner. When Souvanna-Phouma told me, in 1982, in Paris, that my father was still alive, I believed he was sincere(3). He did not have access to the criminal records of the political Bureau of the Lao Communist Party. Much later I had the opportunity to meet a former member of the Communist Party who explained to me how under that kind of government lies become truths become lies. As long as the memoirs of Souvanna-Phouma are not published, I will refuse to believe that he willed the death of my father
My own conclusion is that Souvanna-Phouma in his role of politician lost his last battle against the communist left. Sure, he holds some political responsibility in the fall of the Monarchy, but under no circumstance can it be said that he sold Laos to the Vietnamese. The real guilty parties are communism and its followers. Their names have long been written on the lists of those awaiting judgement before the International Court of Justice in La Haye. Even after their deaths, they will be judged and condemned for their war crimes and their crime against Humanity(4).
2. Everyone knew that the internal politics and the external politics of the Kingdom of Laos were controlled by the Great Powers, especially by the Americans through their dollars, within the framework of the Agreements of 1954, 1962, and 1973.
The coups d'Etat repeated between 1960 and 1965 failed each time thanks to the re-appointment and the confirmation of Souvanna-Phouma as Prime Minister, under pressure from Americans. When the right-wing military leaders arrested Souvanna-Phouma in 1964 with the intent to eliminate him, the Great Powers and more specifically the Americans opposed that move and vigorously protested, threatening to cut all economic, financial and military aid to the Kingdom. When Souvanna-Phouma came a breath away from death in 1974 after suffering a stroke, once again and always those Great Powers, with the Americans in the lead, each sent their medical specialists to the Prince's bedside. It was Souvanna-Phouma and no other Laotian political figure who signed the White Book denouncing the North Vietnamese aggression of the Kingdom of Laos. This is the Statesman whose memory the exiled Laotian political class wants to sully. This is the mighty oak that others now seek to cut down.
3. One can therefore see that Souvanna-Phouma was kept in power, both by the King himself, - the Chief of State and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces - , by the Americans, - the deep-pockets and the arms suppliers battling any form of communist aggression - , and by all the Great Powers, which warranted the neutrality of the Kingdom of Laos. Is it fair to place on Souvanna-Phouma's back only all the blame for the misfortunes suffered by the Laotian People? Can we claim ourselves smarter or more patriotic than our King? Can we claim ourselves more cunning than the Americans? And can we claim ourselves more cunning than the Chiefs of States of the Great Powers of this world? Like each one of us, Souvanna-Phouma had his part of shared responsibility in the fall of the Monarchy. But that Monarchy, the King and the Americans could have saved it. They chose not to. The King himself could leave at any time. He did not do so because he loved his country and his people. The King was responsible for the lives of four millions subjects and not only the lives of hundred thousand refugees. In the speeches made by our exiled politicians and our exiled generals, I believe that they often forget, sometimes willingly, to point the finger to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and its leaders as the real perpetrators. I will still say and swear that the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and its leaders are guilty of crimes against the Laotian People and against the Laotian Nation.
HVM :- After all that has been said about Prince Souvanna-Phouma, do you still feel comfortable working with his son?
TL: - I will surprise you. I feel absolutely comfortable and even proud to be working with Prince Mangkra SOUVANNAPHOUMA, who I consider as the prototype of our political struggle. I have had several opportunities to hear him and to listen to him speak during public meetings and international conferences. He does not mince his words when it comes to loudly and clearly condemn the North Vietnamese army's occupation of Laos; to loudly and clearly denounce the dictatorial government, run by the Laotian and the Vietnamese communist, which uses Hitlarian-Stalinist methods to impose itself upon the Laotian People; and even to condemn with no hesitation the attitude of the Americans and the Europeans who have turned away from their past friends to embrace the enemy. I have been criticised for my vigorous comments against the Vientiane's government. Next to Prince Mangkra Souvannaphouma, I am a lamb. In life, I do believe that anyone can claim having a clean and spotless pass. Even I, myself, in my youth, I sometimes climbed over the neighbour's fence to steal some fruit.
For your information, I will quote here an excerpt of the interview given by Prince SOUVANNA-PHOUMA to the Southeast Asia Review, in 1982, which does not need any other commentary.
"Every night before going to sleep, I used to write down in my journals what had been told to me during the day, etc. Do I have those journals? I could reproduce them, but as long as I live I do not wish be a writer : I do not wish to be accused of writing my memoirs for financial gain. I will leave my journals to the government. They will contribute to the writing of the History of Laos."(5)
As to the question regarding why, after the fall of the Laotian Monarchy, he did not leave his country, as did in their time both Bao Dai and Sihanouk, to benefit from a golden exile overseas as his fortune (6) and connections would have enabled him to, Prince Souvanna-Phouma has simply responded: "I am a patriot before anything else. I have dedicated my life to my country".
HVM : - You are a Laotian of Hmong origin, do your political allies accept you with the same welcome as if you were a Laotian of Lao origin?
TL: - That is a question to ask them. As for me, we are all Laotians. Within the LAO NATION Party, that distinction is prohibited. I would like to take this opportunity to give homage to my friends of the LAO NATION Party and at the same time, invite my countrymen, regardless of their ethnic origin, to unite under the ideals of Justice, Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood, Solidarity, Democracy, and National Independence to form a united front against the Vietnamese occupation and against the totalitarian State in our country.
HVM : - Is there a wish you would like to share?
TL : - I wish for all the Laotians to learn again how to live together under a new sky.
NB: On 9 March, 1997, Mr. Touxoua Lyfoung have asked to resign from the LAO NATION Party for personal convenience and to be entirely engaged in the "Touby Lyfoung Foundation" that he had recently created. His demand has been agreed and ratify by the Extraordinary General meeting held by the Party on May the 11th, 1997, which decided to renew Prince Mangkra SOUVANNAPHOUMA in his functions as President and named Mrs. Khamtanh SAYARATH as General Secretary.
(1) In spite of his official title as "adviser to the DPRL government, Prince Souvanna-Phouma was put under house arrest and knew nothing but only through the optimistic reports he received regularly from his half-brother, President Souphanouvong, the red-prince.
(2) A great number of Ministers, high-ranking officers and civil servants of the royal Administration had flee since May the 10th 1975.
(4) In 1985, the Lao Committee for Human Rights has lodged a complaint against the government and the leaders of the DPRL at the La Haye International court for crimes against humanity and non assistance to persons in mortal danger. In 1999, the Committee will seized the European Commission for Human Rights.
(5) W doubt to see one day the journals of Prince Souvanna-Phouma but we are convinced that the lao-viets communists will utilise them at their own profit.
(6) The few economy detained by the Prince in France or in Switzerland has been stolen by Souphanouvong, his executor, who would have divide it between the Prince's descending, and, finally, was confiscated by the DPRL government.