Laos – A Brief History
The Lao state dates only from 1945. The idea of a separate Lao nationality was formed during the 19th century, when western ideas of national identity reached South-East Asia, and when the Lao-speaking people were being squeezed between two expansionist powers, Siam (Thailand) and Annam (Vietnam). The current borders of Laos were created by France in 1893 and 1904. Today the official history of Laos is traced back to the Kingdom of Lān Xāng, which was founded in 1353. But in reality the Lao share a common history with the Siamese and other people of the Tai language group, and Lān Xāng was only one of a number of Tai kingdoms in a region which had a broad linguistic and cultural unity before the arrival of outside powers.
Kingdom of Lan Xang (1368 – 1707)
Siamese and Vietnamese dominations (1763 – 1848)
Creation of Laos (1826 AD – 1909)
French Laos (1893 – 1954)
Establishment of a protectorate (1886 – 1896)
Administrative reorganization (1898 – 1907)
Colonialism in Laos (1904 – 1931)
Laos during World War II (1939 – 1945)
The Laos People’s Democratic Republic (1975 to Present Day)
The new communist government led by Kaysone Phomvihane imposed centralized economic decision-making and incarcerated many members of the previous government and military in “re-education camps” which also included the Hmongs. While nominally independent, the communist government was for many years effectively little more than a puppet regime run from Vietnam. The government’s policies prompted about 10 percent of the Lao population to leave the country. Laos depended heavily on Soviet aid channelled through Vietnam up until the Soviet collapse in 1991. In the 1990s the communist party gave up centralised management of the economy but still has a monopoly of political power. Currently tourism is growing fast however corruption is still ever present in day to day life but the country is very safe to travel to.
The period of the Kingdom of Laos (1955 –1975)
Elections were held in 1955, and the first coalition government, led by Prince Souvanna Phouma, was formed in 1957. The coalition government collapsed in 1958 under pressure from the United States. In 1960 Captain Kong Le staged a coup when the cabinet was away at the royal capital of Luang Prabang and demanded reformation of a neutralist government. The second coalition government, once again led by Souvanna Phouma, was not successful in holding power. Rightist forces under General Phoumi Nosavan drove out the neutralist government from power later that same year. A second Geneva conference, held in 1961-62, provided for the independence and neutrality of Laos, but the agreement meant little in reality and the war soon resumed. Growing North Vietnamese military presence in the country increasingly drew Laos into the Second Indochina War (1954-1975). As a result for nearly a decade, eastern Laos was subjected to the heaviest bombing in the history of warfare, as the U.S. sought to destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail that passed through Laos and defeat the Communist forces. The North Vietnamese also heavily backed the Pathet Lao and repeatedly invaded Laos. The government and army of Laos were backed by the USA during the conflict and the United States formed and trained irregular forces. Shortly after the Paris Peace Accords led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam, a ceasefire between the Pathet Lao and the government led to a new coalition government. However, North Vietnam never withdrew from Laos and the Pathet Lao remained little more than a proxy army for Vietnamese interests. After the fall of South Vietnam to communist forces in April 1975, the Pathet Lao with the backing of North Vietnam were able to take total power with little resistance. On December 2, 1975, the king was forced to abdicate his throne and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was established.
Towns & Cities in Laos
Laos has no shortage of captivating destination to visit on your holiday. Refer to our Towns & cities guide to plan the perfect trip.
Our Favourite Hotels in Laos
There are so many beautiful hotels to choose from in Laos. So we have selected a few of our most favourite and characterful hotels; giving you a taste of what you can expect.