Laos – national flag
The flag was introduced in 1975, when the country became a People’s Republic. It dates back to the 1950’s and is identical to the flag of the People’s Revolutionary Party. The red color stands for the blood sacrificed in the struggle for independence, the blue stands for prosperity, and the white disc symbolizes the promise of a bright future for Laos. The dial is a common symbol in the Far East.
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Laos – prehistory
Knowledge of Laos’ archeology is limited, but excavations in the 1930’s in rocky shelters and caves in northern Laos have revealed remnants of the Hoabinh culture, a hunter-gatherer culture known from all over South Asia. The simple stone tools date to between 9000 and 3000 BC. In the youngest cultural layers, egg-cut tools and pottery shards with simple, incised ornamentation have been found; connection with agriculture has not been proven and a Neolithic rice cultivation culture has not yet been found in Laos. Finds of large bronze cauldrons along the Mekong River suggest that here around the birth of Christ there have been rich communities with trade contacts along the river. From about the same time, the finds are on Lerkrukkesletten of large stone pots. The largest are over 3 m high and weigh more than 15 t. In connection with them are sometimes found burnt bones, pottery and smaller iron objects; in Ban Ang there is a cave in the center of the pots where cremations have taken place. In 1996, near Vientiane, a larger collection of large clay pots from the 300’s AD was excavated, containing smaller pottery and a few iron objects.
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Laos – history
According to a2zgov, the first political centers, established by the immigrant Lao people, are believed to date from the 1200’s. They were subject to the Cambodian Angkor Empire, from which the religious and political influence was strong. With the support of Angkor, the first independent Lao kingdom, Lan Xang, was founded in 1353 in Luang Prabang. The kingdom was at times a regional power factor whose influence in the mid-1500-t. stretched across the whole of Laos and the Khorat Plateau in present-day NE Thailand. During the same period, the capital was moved to Vientiane, where the kingdom under Souligna Vongsa (1637-94) experienced its golden age. The city was the center of Buddhist studies and attracted monks from Siam, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). The Lan Xang Kingdom constituted a decentralized and unstable hierarchical structure of local rulers bound together by personal alliances. In the early 1700’s. the kingdom was split into three smaller kingdoms (Champassak, Luang Prabang and Vientiane), which came under pressure from the powerful neighbors Siamand Vietnam. In the late 1700’s. they became the vassals of Siam. In an attempt to re-establish an independent Lao kingdom, in 1827 the king of Vientiane sent troops to Bangkok. However, Vientiane was laid in ruins by Siamese troops, and the majority of the kingdom’s population was deported to present-day NE Thailand. In the second half of the 1800’s. the other Lao kingdoms were gradually incorporated into Siam, whose rapid expansion provoked conflict with France, which wanted to expand its influence in the area. The conflict culminated in 1893 when France sent warships against Bangkok. Siam then made the claim to the area east of the Mekong, and Laos was created as part of French Indochina.. One consequence of the demarcation between Laos and Siam was the separation of the Lao people of Laos and present-day NE Thailand. Under French rule, the Luang Prabang kingdom had the status of a protectorate, while the rest of Laos was administered as a colony. It was not until 1946 that the king of Luang Prabang was installed as king of a united Laos.
At the end of World War II, the country was briefly occupied by the Japanese, and it fueled the nationalist movement Lao Issara ‘Free Laos’, which in September 1945 declared Laos independent. In 1946, French troops again occupied Laos and forced the movement into exile. When France recognized Laos in 1949 as an independent country within the French Union, most of Lao Issara returned. The fight against the French continued in the communist rebel movement Pathet Lao ‘Lao-Nationen’ under the leadership of Prince Souphanouvong and in alliance with Viet Minhin Vietnam. After Laos became independent in 1953, many wanted to integrate Pathet Lao into political life. Under the leadership of Souvana Phouma, attempts were made to create a neutral coalition government so that Laos could form a buffer state between Western ally Thailand and communist North Vietnam, but in the shadow of the Cold War it proved impossible. Instead, there was a polarization of the US-backed royal government and Pathet Lao, which was backed by North Vietnam. The fighting between them intensified in the early 1960’s. Laos was now seriously drawn into the Vietnam War, and the United States launched massive bombings of Pathet Lao-controlled areas and of the Viet Minh’s strategically important transport route between North and South Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh Trail.that went through Laos. In 1973, a ceasefire was reached, after which Pathet Lao controlled most of the country. In 1975, Pathet Lao came to power and proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos.
The new government launched a socialist reform policy, and thousands of officials and military personnel were sent to retraining camps. The consequences were catastrophic. The majority of the educated population and a total of approximately 10% of the total population is believed to have left Laos 1975-85. In the early 1980’s, the collectivization of agriculture was abandoned, and since the mid-1980’s, a new development strategy has been introduced. The economy has been liberalized, and previously nationalized industry sold on to private individuals. Foreign investors have been welcomed, and in the 1990’s, Thailand has been the largest foreign investor. The reform policy has been implemented with the support of IMF and World Bank. The recording in ASEANin 1997 has reaffirmed the economic and foreign policy reorientation, but the Laotian People’s Revolutionary Party, founded in 1955, has maintained its monopoly on political power and there is no sign of a trend towards political liberalization and pluralism. Groups of the hmong population have been waging a low-intensity struggle against the government since 1975.
Laos – religion
According to the constitution, freedom of religion prevails in Laos. approximately 60% of the population are Buddhists. They are followers of the Theravada School, the common form of Buddhism in South Asia. Buddhism has been known in the area since the 1100’s, and with the founding of the Laotian Empire in the mid-1300’s. Theravada Buddhism became the state religion. Many folk religious elements are part of Buddhism in Laos, including belief in spirits.
With the communist takeover in 1975, the monastic order sangha lost its status in society. For example, the regime forbade the population to give alms to the monks, who in turn received a ration from the state. The monks, however, were not subjected to the cruel persecution that befell their comrades in Cambodia, and in the 1990’s it has been possible to trace a greater religious tolerance on the part of the regime.
The various ethnic minorities in the mountain areas are adherents of traditional tribal religions and make up approximately 1/3 of the population. There are 2% Christians and 1% Muslims.
Laos – Constitution
The Constitution of the Republic of Laos dates from 1991 with amendments in 1992. The legislature is vested in a National Assembly of 85 members, which is elected for a five-year term by universal suffrage; all citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. The country has one political party, the Revolutionary Party of the Laotian People. The National Assembly adopts, amends and repeals laws and may amend the Constitution. Furthermore, the National Assembly elects or removes the President on a proposal from the Standing Committee, chaired by the President of the National Assembly and may convene extraordinary meetings of the Assembly. The president is elected for a five-year term; he appoints the Prime Minister and other ministers for five-year terms after approval by the National Assembly.