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Laos History


Stone tools discovered in Huaphanh and Luang Prabang provinces attest the presence of prehistoric man in its stage of hunters and gatherers over the Lao territory since at least 40,000 years ago. Agriculturist society seemed to appear during the 4th millenia BC as evidences have been found by archeologists-jar burials and other kinds of sepulchres have revealed a complex society in which Bronze objects appeared around 1500 BC and iron tools were known since 700 BC. The proto historic period is characterized by contacts with Chinese and Indian civilisations. As a result between the fourth and eighth century.

Between the fourth and eighth century communities along the Mekong River began to form into towships, so called muang. This development culminated in the formation of the Lan Xang (Million Elephants) Kingdom. In 1340 AD, Kind Fa Ngum led an army of 10,000 men in conquests in all directions: to the south, as far as the Khmer border; to the north as far as Sipsong Phanna (Yunnan, southwestern China), to the east to the watershed of the Mekong and Red Rivers; to the northwest as far as Chiang Saen Lanna; and westward to Korat-Dong Phannaphay. King Fa Ngum established the mighty and glorious Kingdom of Lan Xang in 1353. Meanwhile, he introduced Buddhism (Hinayana) into the Kingdom, took the sacred Phra Bang Buddha image from the Khmer Kingdom and installed it in Swa (now Luang Prabang).

Chao Ounheuane succeeded King Fa Ngum to the throne in 1373. In his 43 years reign, King Ounheuane maintained the territorial integrity of the kingdom, which his father has united. After repelling an invasion by Burmese feudalism, King Ounheuane conducted a population census, which showed that there were 300.000 Tai Lao people and 400,000 people of other ethnic groups. The census gave King Ounheuane the new name of King Samsenethai, meaning “Three hundred thousand Tai people”.

Throughout the fifteenth century, 14 monarchs ruled the Kingdom of Lan Xang. In 1520 AD Prince Phothisarath ascended the throne, following King Visounnarath. Prince Phothisarath was born in 1506 and married a princess of Chiang Mai. In 1548, he made prince Sayasetthathirath King of Chiang Mai (at that time the kingdom of Lanna was a sister kingdom to Lan Xang). When, in the same year, King Phothisarath suddenly died, Prince Sayasetthathirath returned to Swa to take the throne of the kingdom of Lan Xang.

Between 1563 and 1565, King Sayasetthirath moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. In this same year, a Burmese army led by Ba Ying Nong raided King Sayasetthathirath, but forced Chiang Mai and Vientiane, to retreat. In 1569-1570 the Burmese made another attempt and suffered another reverse, being forced again to retreat. “These were the two victorious struggles (1563 and 1569) under the able command of King Sayasetthathirath, a hero of national salvation against the aggression of the Burmese feudalism, then a strong enemy. There were continued uprisings and struggles of the masses over the last 24 years of the sixteenth century against the yoke of vassalage of Burmese feudalism, including the overthrow of a throne under Burmese vassalage (1579).

After the reign of King Sayasetthathirath, the Kingdom of Lan Xang fell into chaos for years before Prince Sourignavongsa assumed the throne in 1637. He reigned for 57 years, during that time the Kingdom of Lan Xang was at peace. The Kingdom also began to open up for trade with the rest of the world. Education and literature developed noticeably, and the most outstanding works of poetry and literature of the Kingdom of Lan Xang were created during this period.

The eighteenth century brought the decline of the Lan Xang monarchy. The Kingdom split into three hostile dynasties and was invaded and controlled by Siamese feudalism. However, the Lao people maintained their unity, frequently rebelling against Siamese dominance. The most outstanding movement was the nation wide campaign in 1827-1828 led by King Anouvong, a national hero. Through the uprising was quelled, the movement was a significant page in Lao history in the case of national defence and has ever been remembered as such.

Between 1828 and 1829 Siamese forced 100,000 Lao people to cross the Mekong River and resettled as prisoners of war. The Siamese ransacked and burned 6,000 houses in the capital, stealing valuable from all temples in Vientiane (except Sisaket temple). They also took the Emerald Buddha to Bangkok where it remains till today.

In 1870 King Ounkham ascended the throne of the Luang Prabang dynasty of the Kingdom of Lane Xang. In the late 19th century, as foreigners expanded their colonies, the country was plunged into darkness. In 1893, Laos (on the east bank of the Mekong River) was captured by the French army. And the west bank has remained isaan park of Thailand. King Sackarin reigned from 1888 to 1903, and was succeeded by King Sisavangvong.

In the early 20th century, heedless of the subservience of the privileged classed to foreign rule, the Lao people of various ethnic groups rose in waves against French colonialism. Some resistance movements were quite large-scale.

Some outstanding examples include:

- The movement of the Lao people in the central region under the guidance of Father Kadouad (Pau Kadouad) (1901-1902);
- The 36-year uprising of the people in the south (1901-1937) led by Ong Keo and Ong Komadam;
- The resistance movement of the Hmong ethnic group in the north led by Chao Fa Padchay (1918-1922);
- The Tai-Lue movement in Meuang Sing (now Luang Namtha Province) (1914-1918);
- The Red Tai movement in Samneua (Houaphanh Province) (1916).

In 1930, the Communist Party of Indochina was established and led by President Ho Chi Minh. This marked the turning point in the history of the revolutions in the three Indochinese countries. From then onwards, under the leadership of the genuine Marxist Leninist party and under the banner of nationalism and democracy, the revolutionary struggle of the Lao people of all ethnic groups entered a new period of sure new qualities.

In 1945, the Red Army of the Soviet Union defeated the German, Italian and Japanese Nazis, forcing them to surrender unconditionally, ending the Second World War. Our Party resolutely led the people’s struggle in co-ordination with the August revolution of the Vietnamese people, seized administrative power from the Japanese fascists and the French colonialists, and declared to the world the independence of Laos on 12 October, 1945.”

Not long after that, the French colonialists sent their mercenary and henchmen to raid and occupy towns, suppressing the Lao people cruelly, and restoring French control. They pretended to hand over “ independence” to Laos in 1949 and formed a puppet army. They tied the three Indochinese countries together under the “French Union of Indochina” rule over by the Governor General and the Commander of the French Union Army.

On 20 January 1949, the Lao Issara Unit was set up, which later became the Lao People’s Liberation Army.

On 13 August,1950, a national Congress of the Lao Resistance Front agreed to set up the Neo Lao Issara (Free Lao Front), laid out a 12-point political programme, and set up a resistance government with Kayson Phomvihane as Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense. The resistance movement of the Lao people developed to a new level.

In 1953, the armed forces of Pathet Lao in collaboration with the Vietnamese volunteer army launched a series of battles, which liberated vast areas of the country: Samnuea, Xiengkhouang, Khammouane, Attapeu, Boliven Plateau. In early 1956, the northernmost Phongsaly Province and most of Luang Prabang Province were liberated by the victory in Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam), this forced the French imperialists to sign the 1954 Geneva Accord to restore peace in Indochina, and to acknowledge the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Accord further acknowledges the legitimate position of the Lao revolutionary forces and the status of the province of Phongsaly and Samneua as the concentration zone of the Pathet Lao forces.

Not long after the signing of the Geneva Accord, the American imperialists, who had been involved in the Indochina War from the outset., jumped in, kicked the French out, and invaded Laos. The US had forced the French to sign an US-France joint communiqué in Washington on 29 September 1954, as a legal basis for direct US assistance. The document also allowed the US to take over from the French in training the Royal Army of the Kingdom of Laos, and the armies of South Vietnam and Combodia.

The situation worsened during the Vietnam war although the Geneva accord of 1962 had recognised the neutrality of Laos and forbade the presence of all foreign military perssonel. By bombing the portion of the Ho Chi Minh trail crossing Laos, US forces dropped more bombs on Laos than they did world-wide during World War II. On a per capita basis Laos is hence the most heavily bombed nation in history. Especially in Huaphanh and Xieng Khuang provinces, where international teams are still clearing the terrain of unexploded ordinance, people still suffer from the legacy of the war.

It took 20 years of struggle against US imperialism before the Lao people of all ethnic groups could rid themselves of the yoke of foreign domination, abolish backward feudalism, and proudly and gloriously establish a new regime, the regime of Lao people’s democracy on 2nd December 1975. At present the multi ethnic Lao people are making afforts to defend and develop Laos in line with the new policy of the Party and Government in order to lead the country to progress and prosperity.
 

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Travel advices to Laos

Travel Advice To Laos

A Visa is required to enter Laos and this should be applied for at least 5 working days prior to departure. However, it is now also possible to collect visas on arrival at Vientiane International Airport, Luang Prabang International Airport and the Friendship Bridge between Laos and Thailand without prior authorisation. This costs 75AUD for single entry or 90AUD for double entry and requires the filling in of an application form and one passport size photo.

The airport tax in Laos for International Flights is 10USD and Domestic Flights is 1USD.

Offices and museums are usually open from Monday to Friday from 8:00am until 4:00pm and often close for lunch between 12:00am and 2:00pm. Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 9:00am and 5:00pm and some also open on Sunday.

Laos has a nationwide curfew of 12am so try to avoid going out or travel late at night. People travelling at night can be searched, detained and possibly fined by authorities if they cannot present suitable identification. Travellers should comply with requests to stop at checkpoints and roadblocks.

Avoid carrying large sums of money and keep valuables, including passports in a secure place. There are no ATM machines in Laos, but major hotels and banks in Laos accept credit cards and travellers cheques.

Laos has a one party system. Do not accuse the government or talk about politics at any time.

Respect the language, history, tradition and culture.

Non-marital sexual relationships aren't permitted under Lao law.

You must inform Lao authorities for marriage or engagement. Penalties for failing to register a relationship range from 500USD - 5,000USD and may also involve imprisonment.


Penalties for drug offences in Laos are severe, including the death penalty for trafficking. Travellers should exercise extreme caution to avoid any perceived association with drug trafficking or use. Other serious crimes such as rape, murder and treason, also include the death penalty.

Photographing or visiting military sites is prohibited and may result in arrest or detention. To be on the safe side, please ask for permission if you want to take photos at places where you are not sure if it is permitted.

Unexploded ordnance and mines remain a problem in some parts of the countryside, particularly in Xieng Khouang province (location of The Plain of Jars) and the Lao-Vietnamese border areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Travellers should only walk along marked areas or common tourist areas, otherwise it can be dangerous.

The rainy season in Laos is between May to November when seasonal flooding may occur in some areas near the river. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) is not a problem in Laos, unlike neighbouring countries in the region. There is no risk to a very low risk of bird flu infection in Laos but travellers should still discuss the risks with their doctor as part of their routine pre-travel health checks.

No vaccinations are required to go to Laos except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track.

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Laos but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.
 
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