Laos

A little information about the country that one intends to visit or that one has visited often allows us to put into context the past or future emotions specific to each trip. A little history or anecdotes are often welcome ... This is what you can find on this page dedicated to Laos. But nothing like (short) videos to get a more precise idea of the places visited or to visit. Beside is a list of the videos edited from the photographic material I brought back from the trip Laos and Bangkok 2022.

You just have to click on the image to access the page giving more information on the place treated in the video and of course, to see this video ...


Laos 

 

Laos is a country in Southeast Asia without any access to the sea. The country is crossed by the Mekong which forms a large part of the border with Thailand. The Mekong in Laos has a length of almost 1900 kilometers, but it is not very navigable because of the irregularity of its flow. 

The country is 70% covered by mountains and highlands. 

Laos has about 6,000,000 inhabitants who are divided into more than 50 ethnic groups classified into 3 main groups: the Lao Loum (Lao of the plains) the Lao Theung (Lao of the plateaus) and the Lao Sung (Lao of the summits). The Lao Loum form nearly 70% of the population and form the dominant ethnic group. The Hmong, the main ethnic minority, are part of the Lao Sung group. 

This classification is no longer recognized from a scientific point of view because it is a bit simplistic and above all intended to serve a policy of national unity. The further the ethnic groups move away from the plains, the less they are considered. Among the discriminated minorities, the Hmongs encounter the most difficulties. This situation is partly due to the fierce opposition of the population to the communist system in power since 1975 in the country. Many Hmongs have served the French and then the Americans in recent history. 

 

History of Laos

 

Strange remains discovered on the Plain of Jars near Phonsavan in northern Laos testify to ancient civilizations probably dating back to the 5th century BC. These jars scattered on this plain are still an enigma to this day. 

 

Kingdom of Lan Xang 

 

The actual history of the country begins around the 12th century. At that time, Tai populations from southern China began to settle and the Lan Xang kingdom, which means the country of a million elephants and created by Fa Ngum in 1353. Its first capital was Luang Prabang, replaced by Vientiane in 1560. From the origin of this kingdom, Buddhism was established in a sustainable way. 

The kingdom will break up during the 17th and 18th centuries, passing under Burmese, Chinese or Siamese domination. 

 

Thai period 

 

Phraya Chakri, who would reign over Siam (former name of Thailand) under the name of Rama 1st took Vientiane in 1798, bringing Laos, then composed of 3 kingdoms (Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champasak) under the domination of the kingdom of Siam for about a century. 

 

French protectorate 

 

In 1893, the Kingdom of Siam was forced by French action to cede the lands on the left bank of the Mekong to France. This territory corresponds to Laos, which was to be integrated into the French Indochinese Union in 1899. The part of Laos located on the right bank of the Mekong remained under Siamese domination. At that time, Laos was not a unified state, but a group of territories which owe a semblance of unity only to the protectorate. 

The unification of Laos took place under the reign of Sisavang Vong (from 1904 to 1959). This period saw, in addition to the establishment of the kingdom of Laos, the war in Indochina and the definitive independence of the country as well as the first part of the Laotian civil war. 

 

Second World War 

 

Japan took control of all of French Indochina. However, since France was at the time led by the Vichy government of Marshal Pétain, the French administration could remain in place and Japanese domination was exercised indirectly. 

Thailand, an ally of the Japanese, triggered an armed conflict with France in 1941, at the end of which the latter was obliged to cede the territory west of the Mekong. 

French Indochina was relatively spared from the fighting until 1945. Sensing an unfavorable end to the war for them, the Japanese took control of the French colony in 1945 and massacred French officials and soldiers during an operation known as the coup de force of March 1945. This operation would encourage the countries of Indochina to seek their independence. 

King Sisavang Vong tried to remain loyal to France by refusing to declare the independence of Laos, but he was forced to do so by the Japanese occupiers. The capitulation of Japan a few months later gave rise to a coup d'etat, aimed at preventing France's return to power in Laos, installing for a few months a government hostile to the king, known as Lao Issara (Free Laos ).

This period was of short duration, since the French army was going to bring down this government. Laos obtained its autonomy within French Indochina in 1946. 

This autonomy will satisfy some of the separatists, but not all... 

 

Indochina Wars 

 

Prince Souphanouvong, an ally of the Viet Minh refused to be satisfied with this autonomy and founded the Pathet Lao which would gradually extend to the territory of Laos during the Indochina war, which ended in 1954 with the crushing defeat from France to Dien Bien Phu, allowing the Pathet Lao to gain international recognition, even giving it a seat at the negotiating table for the Geneva Accords. 

The forces of North Vietnam invaded Laos in 1959 with the aim of defending and maintaining the Ho Chi Minh trail which was used to supply the Vietcong in the fight against the government of South Vietnam. 

 

In 1962 a government of National Union was set up in Laos, but the country remained divided between the anti-Communists in the South and the Pathet Lao in the North. If France actively supported the South, the Americans wanted to guarantee the neutrality of Laos and Cambodia while actively supporting South Vietnam and Thailand by ousting French influence in the region. 

President Kennedy makes an agreement with North Vietnam under which the United States and North Vietnam were to withdraw from Laos. If the Americans respected this agreement, it was not the case of the Vietnamese people's army which would further reinforce the strategic importance of the Ho Chi Minh trail and the supply of the rebellion in South Vietnam. A year later, the Pathet Lao launched an offensive that would give them control of much of eastern and northern Laos. 

In reaction, the United States, although renouncing a ground invasion, decided to arm the mountain tribes of Laos, in particular the Hmongs, in parallel with clandestine operations of the special forces. 

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Americans launch an intensive bombing operation on Laos, in complete violation of the Geneva agreements. This operation is known as Rolling Thunder, and the traces of these bombings are still visible today (more than 50 years later). Many craters are still visible and large tracts of forest have never recovered from the use of Agent Orange. Many places are still infested with unexploded bombs, including millions of cluster bombs. These bombings were of such intensity that Laos holds the sad record of the most bombed country in history. 

In 1975, the Pathet Lao took power.

 

Lao People's Democratic Republic 

 

The coming to power of the Pathet Lao caused the exodus of around 10% of the population and the country forged alliances with Vietnam and the USSR. 

A policy of openness to the modern economy and regional integration will begin in 1989, and normalization with its neighbors, including Thailand, has enabled the country to be opened up to tourism and the launch of major infrastructure works.

Laos • Videos