The Lost Province of Wapikhamthong
As a native of Wapikhamthong, I would like to tell the story of my lost home province which was created in 1962 by a constitutional amendment of the Kingdom of Laos, but was erased from the map of the world with the advent of the People’s Democratic Republic at he end of 1975.
The province took its name from two ancient villages established along the Sedone River in Southern Laos: Wapi, meaning “source,” and Khamtong “gold.” This golden district was first elevated to the rank of Muong (mandala) in 1713 by King Chao Soi-Sisamouth of Champassack. It kept the same status under the Siamese occupation, from 1779 to 1893. In the meantime, around 1830-40, Chao Menh, a son of King Anou, found refuge in Khamtong and married a daughter of the local ChaoMuong (Governor).
In 1893, when the French took over the left bank of the Mekong River from Siam, they confirmed Chao Anou’s descendents as administrators of Wapi and Khamtong districts but incorporated them as part of Saravane Province.
In 1945, when Prince Phetsarath, then Vice-Roy and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Luang-Prabang, proclaimed the unification of Northern and Southern Laos as a sole and undivided Lao Kingdom. He chose Phagna Bouakham Maokhamphiou, one of Chao Anou’s great grandsons, as the first Chaokhoueng (Governor) of Saravane.
In 1962, the new province of Wapikhamtong was carved out of the boundaries of its former motherland, Sravane. For a full decade, Wapikhamtong, and in particular, Khongsedone, the provincial capital, witnessed a fast paced development with communications improvements, administrative buildings, housings and new businesses. Unfortunately, this boom was suddenly stopped in 1971 by the expanding civil war, in the aftermath of Operation Lamson 719. The fate of Wapikhamthong was finally sealed at the end of 1975 when the new communist Republic decided to re-incorporate it once more as part of Saravane Province.
Nowadays, Wapikhamtong as a separate provincial entity is gone. There only remains a few sons and daughters of Wapikhamtong who still stick together for the worse and the better, in spite of all kinds of adversity. Their former province may be lost forever, yet, they do not want to forget their special biological or friendship ties that united them in the past. They try to revive their memory and their common heritage by organizing family reunions in France and America so that the younger generations of Wapikhamtong’s children in exile may learn about their distant Lao roots.