Laos, officially known as Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao Language: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon
), Lao is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia.note
However, it does have access to the sea since it had the Mekong River which flows through the South China Sea. Its full name is the Lao People's Democratic Republic, with its capital Vientiane. It's still a fairly socialist state, but like Vietnam, had introduced a market economy, albeit less successful than Vietnam's. It is also a member of ASEAN - the second-newest, after Timor Leste
joined in 2010.
Most Lao are Buddhists, and speak a language related to Thai. Due to being a former French protectorate, French is also spoken, and as a side effect of the Vietnam War
, English was also understood among the more educated classes. There are also Thais, Khmers, Vietnamese, and the Hmong. Like its neighbors, Laos is Buddhist. However, Laotians do not really liked to be put in the same bag with Thais, Vietnamese, and Cambodians.
Its history is traced through the Lan Xang Empire founded by Fa Ngum in the 14th century. During the centuries, the Burmese, the Thai, and the Vietnamese forced their way through Laos, by then split into independent kingdoms like Luang Prabang. Chao Anouvong later led a rebellion against the Thais but failed.
In the 19th century, the French expanded through Indochina. The Lao king of Luang Prabang accepted French control to protect himself from the Chinese Black Flag Army in Indochina. It was a source of corvee labor in Indochina. In World War II, Laos was occupied by Japan and was given nominal independence in 1945. When France returned, the Lao people, like the Cambodians and the Vietnamese, are not in a mood to bow again to France, and by 1953, Laos was declared independent.
The independence was not easy. Communists called the Pathet Lao rebelled against the royal government. A peace deal was brokered by Prince Souvanna Phouma, also Premier, in 1962, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, North Vietnam decided to help the Pathet Lao in 1968. As a result, US forces bombed Laos, too. The amount of bombs dropped there exceeded those dropped in World War II
by all sides. As a result, Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world. When North Vietnam regained the initiative in the 1970s, the Pathet Lao were re-emboldened, and by 1975, overthrew the Lao monarchy and set up the Lao People's Democratic Republic, dependent on North Vietnamese support, and coming alongside with it the perks of communism, repression, though thankfully not on the scale of Cambodia. Still it caused 200,000 Laotians, many of them Hmong, to emigrate by boats, some reaching the United States. The war was known as "The Secret War
" due to the extensive covert presence of the CIA in it - this is what Hummel's conversation in The Rock
is referring to.
Later in the 1990s, the Laotian government easened up its restrictions on the economy, hoping to attract investors. It's been less successful than its neighbours.
The Lao flag
The red bands symbolize the blood of Laos' fallen freedom fighters, and the blue center band for prosperity. At the center is a white disk, symbolizing either national unity under the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, the nation's bright future, or the reflection of the moon on the Mekong River.