Former Lao Deputy PM Joins Monastery

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Somsavat Lengsavad arrives for the opening ceremony of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party's national congress in Vientiane in a file photo.
Somsavat Lengsavad arrives for the opening ceremony of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party's national congress in Vientiane in a file photo.

Laos’ former deputy prime minister Somsavat Lengsavad has been ordained a Buddhist monk at Phonphao temple in his hometown Luang Prabang in the northern part of the country, sources told RFA.

Somsavat, an ethnic Chinese, entered the order on Sunday to study Theravada Buddhist teachings at the temple which sits on a hill southeast of the city across the Nam Khan River, they said.

Of the two main types of Buddhism, Theravada is more conservative than Mahayana Buddhism, and is practiced predominantly Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

“The reason he became an ordained monk is because he wants to attain mental tranquility for the rest of his life following his retirement from politics,” said a source in Luang Prabang who requested anonymity.

Somsavat originally decided that he would become a monk at the age of 71 in central Laos’ Savannakhet province after he failed to apply for membership in the country’s Politburo earlier this year during his third term of office, according to a source close to Somsavat’s former subordinates.

But Somsavat reconsidered and decided to pursue monkhood in his hometown, said the source who declined to be named.

“When he was a deputy prime minister, he was active in attending religious rites in temples and [financially] supported a monk in one temple,” said a retired soldier familiar with the country’s top politicians.

“Soon after he retired, I heard from a person close to him that he would be ordained,” he said.

The source in Luang Prabang told RFA that Somsavat would remain a monk at first for seven days, but would consider a longer time frame depending on the state of his health.

“If his health is OK, he will stay longer,” he said.

Removed from office

Somsavat became foreign minister in 1993 and served until June 8, 2006, when he was replaced by Thongloun Sisoulith, who became prime minister in April 2016.

Earlier this year, the country’s 10th Party Congress removed Somsavat from his position.

The congress also removed former president Choummaly Sayasone as general secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, replacing him with former vice president Bounnhang Vorachith.

Both Somsavat and Choummaly were involved in granting large economic concessions to Chinese companies, many of which are state-owned, during the past 10 years.

The concessions raised concerns among the country’s ruling elite and citizenry that the regime was tilting too far toward Beijing and away from neighboring Vietnam, with which Laos has a special relationship based on their shared wartime history and communist alignment.

Somsavat had been overseeing a U.S. $7 billion Lao-China railway project, which included a U.S. $480 million loan from China that Laos plans to back with five of its potash mines.

The railway forms part of a larger 3,000-kilometer regional rail link that will run from Kunming in southern China’s Yunnan province through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore. It will transport both goods and passengers through the region and is expected to give the underdeveloped, landlocked nation a much-needed economic boost.

“It is clear that after the regime of President Choumaly Sayasone and Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad there is no pro-Chinese group,” the retired Lao soldier with close ties to the Ministry of National Defense told RFA’s Lao Service in January.

Critics of the former leaders also blamed their regime for the country’s economic woes and rampant corruption, an official at a civil society organization told RFA in January after the congress got under way.

The country’s current leaders at the top of the secretive one-party state are all viewed to be pro-Hanoi.

It is not unusual for former leaders in predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian countries to join a monastery after they step down from politics to gain merit or seek atonement for any wrongdoings.

Thein Sein, who served as Myanmar’s president for five years, also became a monk after he left office at the end of March.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (7)

Anonymous Reader

Professional Gang Lord Father they called him... but to me he was the worst form of evil that ever inhabited this earth.

Somsavat Lengsavad, the former Lao Foreign Minister is one who controlled the prison camps in Laos. He orchestrated the illegal abduction of my husband on 23 December and ordered his torture and mine!

He has since been ordained as a Buddhist monk at Phonphao temple in Luang Prabang Laos.

“The reason he became an ordained monk is because he wants to attain mental tranquility for the rest of his life following his retirement from politics.”

I would say that it is more likely that he is attempting to gain merit to protect him in the afterlife for all the evil he has done.

I'd love to visit that temple and give him a dose of his own medicine... on behalf of all the political and other prisoners whose torture I was forced to witness... on behalf of my children who were traumatised by that ass-hole... and on behalf of myself as a mother, a woman and a human being who endured his sanctioned mock executions and watched my own husband beaten for hours and subjected to a primitive form of water boarding!

May your next life reward you with all forms of torment for the evil that you sanctioned.

Kay Danes, OAM

Jan 10, 2018 01:42 AM


from pakse

He has for too long and for so many years committed the worst karma by having enmeshed massive corruption and lacked honesty: multiple million dollars built home in Vientiane and too much money in the bank account. His ordained Buddhist Monk to clean up his worst sinfulness in order to help his reincarnation will surely triple his sinfulness

Aug 12, 2016 12:26 PM


from Lungprabang

The only reason that he became an ordained Buddhist monk is not completely about having tried to attain his mental tranquility following his retirement from political corruption, it's rather about to wash his committed sinfulness such as corruption so that the Lord of Buddhist will mercifully pardon his committed sinfulness and corruption. Is this written statement factual or not? Please look at his home how huge is it and how many luxury cars has he had at his home and how many domestic servants has he had at his home?

Aug 05, 2016 12:01 PM



Jul 22, 2016 06:21 AM


from vienthiane

ALL ILLEGALS Activities and CORRUPTION he did are going to be forgive and wipe out by this action HE THINKS! and his many million dollars in secret account in foreign Bank should be seized and put back to rebuilt LAOS first.

Jul 14, 2016 10:44 AM

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