Archival Collections

The following are profiles for the three people whose archival collections have so far been processed. All three played important roles in Laos and the United States.

1) Khamchong Luangpraseut (1941 – 1999)

Khamchong Luangpraseut Tape Recordings
Khamchong Luangpraseut Papers, 1958 – 1999

Mr. Khamchong Luangpraseut was born on April 22, 1941 to ethnically Chinese and Lao parents in Xieng Khouang Province, in northeastern Laos. He was an only child. After his parents, who were important local traders in the area, were tragically killed when travelling from their home, Khamchong finished high school in Vientiane and went to study in Poland in 1961. In 1971, he returned to Laos after completing a Master of Arts in Economics. In 1972 he went to work for the Royal Lao Government, and eventually took up a position as Director of Administrative Affairs, in the Ministry of Information. He was also editor of Lao Presse, Lao edition. However, in May 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao took over the government and established the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he fled to Thailand with his Polish wife and two small children. He initially immigrated to France in 1976, but a few years later, he decided to move to the United States. After a short stint working for the World Bank in Washington DC as a research assistant specializing in trade involving members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) while also pursuing a graduate degree at Georgetown University studying comparative government, he decided to move his family to Santa Ana, California. He worked for Lao Family Community in Santa Ana for a short period, before taking up a position as coordinator of the Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Student Programs for the Santa Ana Unified School District, where he worked for many years before retiring early. He spoke a number of languages, including Lao, Yunnanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Hmong, English, French, and Polish. Khamchong was a well-known public figure in the Lao and Southeast Asian American community. In 1988, he became the first elected non-Vietnamese president of the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodia, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans. He served on various committees and boards, spoke at many public events in the United States, and was frequently interviewed by the media. He was the founder and President of the Lao Mai Issara Institute, and he edited a Lao-language magazine called Lao Mai Issara. He wrote various articles and books, including Laos Cultural Speaking: Introduction to the Lao Culture (1987), Laos and the Laotians (1995), and Lao literacy textbooks Dara Reads Lao volumes I-IV (1984). In 1999, he decided to return to visit Laos for the first time since leaving the country in 1975. He wanted the Lao overseas to reconcile with the Lao PDR government. His return to Laos was public and controversial, and some in the Lao community in the United States heavily criticized his decision. Upon returning to the United States from Laos, he died on December 1, 1999 at Western Medical Center Hospital in Santa Ana, due a fresh (second) brain hemorrhage. Later, his wife, Halinka, and his daughter and her family moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin, where Khamchong’s collection was acquired after Halinka passed away in 2021.

2) Khamphoui Sisavatdy (1936 – 2023)

Khamphoui Sisavatdy Papers, 1956 – 2022

Born on February 2, 1936, Khamphoui Sisavatdy was born in Taopoung Village, a small rural community in Khong District, Sithandone Province (now Champasak Province). He ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1956. Years later, he went to study in Pakse and Vientiane before continuing his studies in Bangkok, Thailand. He eventually graduated as a “Maha 9”, the highest level of Buddhist study, and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the Buddhist University in Bangkok. Upon his return to Laos, he taught at the Buddhist Institute at Vat Ongtue Buddhist temple in Vientiane. He also founded the Lao Young Buddhist Movement. He eventually left the monkhood and later he married Thongsavanh Sananikone in Vientiane. From 1966 to 1967 he edited the bi-monthly magazine Takoun Lao. Then from 1967 and 1972, he edited Lao Samay, a bi-monthly magazine, and Lao Samay Daily News. In 1972, he was elected to be a member of the National Assembly in Laos, representing his home province of Sithandone. From 1974 to 1976 he taught Lao history at the Lao and Administrative Institute in Vientiane and Lao literature at the Pedagogical Institute at Dongdok Teaching College. In 1976, after the communist Pathet Lao took over Laos in 1975 and established the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he fled Laos and ended up in Nong Khai refugee camp, where he became active in anti-Lao PDR politics through an organization he cofounded, called Samakhitham (Justice for National Unity). However, in 1977 he was arrested with seven other refugees from Laos for illegally establishing a political party in a refugee camp. He was beaten by the police and detained for months. Finally, he was able to leave Thailand in 1978 and become a political refugee in the United States. He initially stayed in Amarillo, Texas, before moving to Denver, Colorado in 1979 to become the editor of a Lao-language newspaper he had established, Attipatai Lao (Lao Sovereignty). Later, he moved to Spokane, Washington. Attipatai Lao eventually joined with three other Lao political groups in the United States to create a new political organization, Lao Organizations in America (ULO). In 1986, he became a leading figure in a new political organization, called the Lao People’s National Liberation Front (LPNLF). He was also involved in the Movement for Democracy in Laos (MDL) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the 1990s, Khamphoui became involved with the organization Free Elections in Laos (FEL), which advocated for the adoption of a liberal democratic multi-party political system in Laos, as well as other organizations. In 1997, he was the President of the Royal Lao Conference in Seattle, for organizing the Council of Lao Representatives Abroad (Sapha Lao Noke). In 2003, he became the Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government in Exile (RLGE), a position he continued to hold up to the time that he donated his collection in April 2023. As a Lao historian, he authored three Lao language books: The Heroism of Chao Anouvong, 1767-1829 (1994), Laos When Under the Control of Siam (2000), and Lao History and Biography of Chao Fa-Ngum the Great (2002). He wrote many other research documents, letters, and opinion pieces over the years. On October 15, 2023, at the age of 88, he passed away in Vancouver, Washington.

3) Ounkham Souriyavong (1934 – Present)

Ounkham Souriyavong was born on December 5, 1934 in Houa Khong Tai Village in Khong District, Sithandone Province (now Champasak Province), southern Laos. After studying for many years in Khong District and later Pakse, he joined the police in 1953. He studied to be a police officer in Khinak, Khong District, Sithandone Province. Beginning in 1954, he worked in various places, including Pakse, Khong District, and Champassak. In 1957, he started working as a police officer in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. In 1960, he was transferred to Kengkoke, Champhone District, Savannakhet Province, where he worked for seven years. He was politically right wing and opposed the neutralist Captain Kong Le, who organized a successful coup d’état on August 10, 1960, before General Phoumi Nosavan’s troops forced Kong Le to flee north from Vientiane at the end of the year. In 1962, Ounkham became a committee member in Vientiane for implementing the Geneva Accords in Laos. Soon after, he was transferred to Khong District. He received training in Singapore in 1965. Later, he was stationed in Phonthong District, Champassak Province. In 1970, he was transferred back to Vientiane. When he lived and worked there, he established a printing press for hire, which he operated as a side job. In 1973, he received more police training at Done Tieu, outside of Vientiane. He then went to work in the Ministry of Interior, where he was the head of the office for the protection of civilians. In late July 1975, as the communist Pathet Lao were taking control of the country, he was sent for political re-education to Houaphanh Province, in northeastern Laos. By that time, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Lao police. For twelve years, he was forced to live and work at concentration camps in Houaphanh Province, without ever being charged or tried in a court of law. The conditions were very poor. After twelve years, he was finally released and allowed to return to Vientiane in 1987. He stayed there for a few months before crossing the Mekong River to Thailand at night with his wife and five children. There, they became political refugees at Nong Seng temporary camp for a month, before being admitted to Napho refugee camp in Nakorn Phanom Province. Two other children had already immigrated to the United States. Ounkham and the rest of his immediate family stayed at Napho. The family was eventually flown to the Philippines, where they stayed at a camp for six months. Ounkham finally immigrated to the United States with his wife and children in 1990. He studied in Seattle for six months before settling in Vancouver, Washington, where his older children were already staying. In 2000, he became the Secretary General of the office of the organization, Free Elections in Laos. He worked on a voluntary basis with that organization until 2005. He lived in Vancouver, Washington in 2023 when he was interviewed. He also donated a small personal collection at the same time.

Cassette tape recorder and tape (May 2023)
Gerry Duckitt working on Lao American Archives Project (April 2023)
Jennifer Skarbek of the WHS accepting Khamchong Luangpraseut Collection (May 2023)
Files of Khamphoui Sisavatdy Collection (April 2023)
Cassettes being prepared for archiving (April 2023)
VHS tapes being prepared for archiving (April 2023)
Khamchong Luangpraseut Collection (May 2023)
Gerry Duckit with Khamchong Luangpraseut Collection, Science Hall (May 2023)