Chao Sone Bouttharobol: A Man with Strong Connections to the Champassak Royal House and a History Spanning Parts of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. A Talk by Ian G. Baird


Chao Sone Bouttharobol was born in Champassak in 1894. He was the son of Phra Ubonkij Prachakorn, a key leader in Ubon Ratchathani during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and Chao Heuan Thongphanh, the daughter of Chao Youthithamathone, the head of the Champassak Royal House. In 1901 he moved with his family to Ubon, where he began his education, which all occurred in Siam. The title “Bouttarobol” was bestowed to his father by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). As a young man, Chao Sone went to live in Veun Say, along the Sesan River, in present-day northeastern Cambodia. There, he collaborated with the Champassak-born royal leader, Chao Thammatheva, before being expelled by the French in 1915 for instigating upland ethnic minority revolt. Despite falling out with the French colonial government in Cambodia, he was eventually appointed to key police positions in Soukhouma, Phonthong, Mounlapamok, and Paksong, in southern Laos. In 1944, after Champassak was briefly taken over by Thailand, he was elected as the sole representative of Champassak in Thailand. He moved frequently between Champassak and Bangkok. After the French regained control of Champassak in 1947, he became the deputy head of Laos’ first constitution drafting committee. During the same year, he was also elected for the second time as a representative of Parliament, although this time for French Laos. In 1948, he became an advisor to the King of Laos. He continued in that position until resigning in 1965. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he frequently traveled to Khao San Road in Bangkok to arrange for the making of Buddhist images, which he brought back to Laos. He died in Vientiane around 1979, four years after the communist Pathet Lao took control of the country. Chao Sone frequently transcended the national administrative borders that now dominate the political geography of mainland Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Though this study is of one individual, I wish to make the point that it is important to cross national borders when conducting historical studies in mainland Southeast Asia. I also want to emphasize the usefulness of employing biography when doing historical geography research.

Dr. Ian G. Baird is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. Originally from Canada, he has been living and conducting research in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia for 30 years. He received his PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He has a wide variety of research interests, but most of his research is focused in Thailand, Laos and northeastern Cambodia. He is the coordinator of the Hmong Studies Consortium, a collaborative group of researchers in the United States and Thailand. He is presently on sabbatical, and is based in Chiang Mai for the academic year, where he is an Adjunct Professor at Chiang Mai University’s Center for Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD).

Date: Thursday, 2 March 2017
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2016-2017 Lecture Series.