Present-day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th century to the 18th century as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Because of its central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom became a hub for overland trade and became wealthy economically and culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke into three separate kingdoms—Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. In 1893, the three territories came under a French protectorate and were united to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation but was re-colonised by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. A post-independence civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against the monarchy that later came under influence of military regimes supported by the United States. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the communistPathet Lao came to power, ending the civil war. Laos was then dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991.
The 1960 Laotian coups brought about a pivotal change of government in the Kingdom of Laos. General Phoumi Nosavan established himself as the strongman running Laos in a bloodless coup on 25 December 1959. He would be himself overthrown on 10 August 1960 by the young paratrooper captain who had backed him in the 1959 coup. When Captain Kong Le impressed the American officials underwriting Laos as a potential communist, they backed Phoumi's return to power in November and December 1960. In turn, the Soviets backed Kong Le as their proxy in this Cold War standoff. After the Battle of Vientiane ended in his defeat, Kong Le withdrew northward to the strategic Plain of Jars on 16 December 1960.
Having taken an independent stance in the Laotian Civil War, Kong Le and his Forces Armee Neutraliste would remain an unpredictable influence upon the war until 1974. (Full article...)
Image 8Bronze Buddha sculptures, Wat Mai, Luang Prabang (from Culture of Laos)
Image 9Market in Luang Prabang c. 1900 CE.
Image 10Map showing linguistic family tree overlaid on a geographic distribution map of Tai-Kadai family. This map only shows general pattern of the migration of Tai-speaking tribes, not specific routes, which would have snaked along the rivers and over the lower passes. (from History of Laos)
Nakhon Noi briefly occupied the throne of Lan Xang from 1582 to 1583 on the death of his father Sen Soulintha, who himself had been appointed as a vassal to the Toungoo Empire from 1580 to 1582. Nakhon Noi took the regnal name Samdach Brhat Chao Samdach Brhat Chao Negara Nawi Raja Sri Sadhana Kanayudha. Little is known about his brief rule, it does not appear in the sources that the Burmese were at the origin of his selection to succeed Sen Soulintha and were instead informed belatedly. If he had supporters in the royal court of Lan Xang they were few and quickly became unhappy with his rule. Within the year the royal court had petitioned King Nanda Bayin for his removal. According to various versions of the chronicles it is cited that Nakhon Noi “did not rule with fairness,” or keep to the religious and behavioral precepts which were traditionally required by a sovereign. Other versions record that he simply had made enemies at court, or was perceived as illegitimate because (like his father Sen Soulintha) he was of common origins. Either at the hands of the royal court, or the Burmese, Nakhon Noi was deposed, arrested, and returned to Pegu. After Nakhon Noi was deposed a period of interregnum occurred from 1583 to 1591 which historian Paul Le Boulanger describes as a period of “absolute confusion,” among the factions at court. The chronicles again agree that it was only after the period of succession crisis that a petition was finally sent in 1591 to Nanda Bayin by the Laosangha and Lan Xang court asking for Prince No Muang, the son and legitimate heir of Setthathirath, to be appointed as king. Nanda Bayin confirmed the request and Prince No Muang would take the throne as Nokeo Koumane and reign Lan Xang from 1591 to 1596. (Full article...)