Thursday, March 15, 2007

History of Laos

History of Laos. This is a brief overview to the history of the Asian nation of Laos. People from Laos are called "Lao" or "Laotian." The debate over the proper term is rather heated I have seen.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lao Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxôn Lao, French République Démocratique Populaire Lao, landlocked country located on the Indochinese Peninsula. It is bounded on the north by China, on the northeast and east by Vietnam, on the south by Cambodia, on the west by Thailand, and on the northwest by Myanmar (Burma). Laos extends about 650 miles (1,050 kilometres) from northwest to southeast. The capital is Vientiane (Lao: Viangchan)."

From the site:

Laos traces its first recorded history and its origins as a unified state to the emergence of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (literally, "million elephants") in 1353. Under the rule of King Fa Ngum, the wealthy and mighty kingdom covered much of what today is Thailand and Laos. His successors, especially King Setthathirat in the 16th century, helped establish Buddhism as the predominant religion of the country.

By the 17th century, the kingdom of Lan Xang entered a period of decline marked by dynastic struggle and conflicts with its neighbors. In the late 18th century, the Siamese (Thai) established hegemony over much of what is now Laos. The region was divided into principalities centered on Luang Prabang in the north, Vientiane in the center, and Champassak in the south. Following their colonization of Vietnam, the French supplanted the Siamese and began to integrate 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. King Sisavang Vong of Luang Prabang was induced to declare independence from France in 1945, just prior to Japan's surrender. During this period, nationalist sentiment grew. In September 1945, Vientiane and Champassak united with Luang Prabang to form an independent government under the Free Laos (Lao Issara) banner. The movement, however, was short-lived. By early 1946, French troops reoccupied the country and conferred limited autonomy on Laos following elections for a constituent assembly.

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