Exiled members of Laos' deposed monarchy have welcomed the communist Lao government's decision to celebrate the birthday on Sunday of their 14th-century forebear. An e-mail apparently from princess Suradjany Kattygnarath, in charge of public relations for the French-based royal family, also states that the family wants to play a role in reforming and uniting Laos. 'The Lao Royal Family Lane Xang Hom Khao wishes to fully take its part in the change process, which would consist in the reconciliation and unification of all Lao ethnic groups, of the Lao people outside the country and those inside the country, under a regime of peace, freedom and democracy recognised by all nations,' the princess said. The Lao government announced in December that it would, for the first time, celebrate the birthday of Fa Ngum, who became king in 1353, and a statue of the man has been erected in the capital, Vientiane. It has said that the decision to mark a royal holiday is not to be taken as any encouragement to the surviving royal exiles or anyone in Laos to revive monarchy. Key figures in the founding of the Pathet Lao regime included two princes. Statues of royal figures have not been destroyed. The royal family has long sought a comeback. The last reigning monarch had to abdicate when the Pathet Lao regime came to power in 1975, and immediate family members were sent to camps and subsequently died. Members of the next generation, now resident in France, trace their lineage to Fa Ngum, and have asserted that they share his ideals of Lao unity and statehood. 'The celebration of the 650th birthday of the Kingdom will cast a very special light upon the Lao people,' the princess wrote. 'Indeed, the Lao identity has always been linked to the Lao royalty with its culture and traditions, which date back to a thousand years. 'Faithful to the ideals of King Fa Ngum, the Lao Royal Family wishes that these links be used for the reconciliation and the unification of the people of Laos.' The statement also criticises the government and offers an alternative. 'It is known that for 27 years, the Lao communists tried their best to develop the country. However, the results of these efforts could not meet [the people's] expectations. 'If there is no change, the same causes lead to the same consequences. Our country needs an adequate solution.' A source close to the Lao elite said it was not surprising that the royal family was 'trying to gain prominence in [the] process of reform and change'. However, the royal family rarely issues a statement or press release. The source said it was significant that the statement was signed by the princess. 'She has signed this because she's accepted as a relatively neutral figure. Certainly, I've never heard anything against her in Lao ruling circles,' the source said. Academics have described the unprecedented decision of a ruling communist government to honour a king as indicative of its awareness that communism and its own attempts to create post-1975 heroes were not enough to inspire the Lao people. The princess said: 'We have learned that all ethnic groups of the people of Laos, inside and outside the country, were rejoicing at the announcement of this event, while wondering about such a change of attitude from the Lao communists towards a king.'