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HISTORY

The first recorded history of the Lao begins with the unification of Laos in 1353 by King Fa Ngum.  He established his capital at Luang Prabang and ruled a kingdom called Lane Xang, literally million elephants, which covered much of what today is Thailand and Laos.

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HISTORY

The first recorded history of the Lao begins with the unification of Laos in 1353 by King Fa Ngum.  He established his capital at Luang Prabang and ruled a kingdom called Lane Xang, literally million elephants, which covered much of what today is Thailand and Laos.

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HISTORY

His successors helped establish Buddhism as the predominant religion of the country.

TIMELINE

  • 18th Century

    Conflicts with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia

  • 1907

    Franco-Siamese treaty that defined the border between Laos and Thailand

  • 1945

    Formation of Independent government under Free Laos Banner

  • 1947

    France recognized the independence of Laos

  • 1960

    paratroop captain seized Vientiane in a coup

  • 1972

    Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) joined a new coalition government

  • 1975

    The King renounced his throne

In the 18th century Lane Xang entered a period of decline caused by dynastic struggle and conflicts with Burma Siam, now Thailand, Vietnam and the Khmer kingdom. In the 19th century the Siamese established hegemony over much of what is now Laos. The region was divided into principalities centered on Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champassak. Late in the century the French supplanted the Siamese and integrated all of Laos into the French empire. The Franco-Siamese treaty of 1907 defined the present Lao boundary with Thailand.

During World War II the Japanese occupied French Indochina including Laos. In September 1945 Vientiane and Champassak united with Luang Prabang to form an independent government under the Free Lao banner. In 1946 French troops reoccupied the country and conferred limited autonomy on Laos following elections for a constituent assembly.

France formally recognized the independence of Laos within the French Union in 1949 and Laos remained a member of the Union until 1953. Pro-Western governments held power after the 1954 Geneva peace conference until 1957 when the first coalition government led by Prince Souvanna Phouma was formed. The coalition government collapsed in 1958 amidst increased polarization of the political process. Rightist forces took over the government and a communist insurgency resumed in 1959.

In 1960 a paratroop captain seized Vientiane in a coup and demanded formation of a neutralist government to end the fighting. The neutralist government newly in place was driven from power later that same year by rightist forces. In response, the neutralists allied themselves with the communist insurgents and began to receive support from the Soviet Union. The rightist regime received support from the U.S.

A second Geneva conference was held in 1961-1962 and provided for the independence and neutrality of Laos. Soon after accord was reached the signatories accused each other of violating the terms of the agreement and with superpower support on both sides the civil war soon resumed.

In 1972 the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) joined a new coalition government after the Vientiane agreement of February 21, 1973 went into effect that same year. Nonetheless the political struggle between communist’s neutralists and rightists continued. The collapse of Saigon and Phnom Penh in 1975 hastened the decline of the coalition. On December 1975 the king renounced his throne in the constitutional monarchy and entrusted his power to the Lao people but the LPRP dissolved the coalition cabinet and the communist Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) was established.

The new communist government imposed centralized economic decision-making and broad security measures including control of the media and the arrest and incarceration of many members of the previous government and military in “re-education camps”. These draconian policies and deteriorating economic conditions along with government efforts to enforce political control prompted an exodus of lowland Lao and ethnic Hmong from Laos.  About 10% of the Lao population sought refugee status after 1975.  Many have since been resettled in third countries including nearly 250,000 who have come to the United States.  The situation of Lao refugees is now nearing its final chapter and many have resettled in their homeland.

 

GOVERNMENT

People’s Republic since 1975.  Gained independence in 1953.

 

 

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