The Laos Portal

Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ  (Lao)
  • Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxôn Lao (Romanisation)
Motto: "ສັນຕິພາບ ເອກະລາດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ເອກະພາບ ວັດທະນະຖາວອນ"
"Santiphap Ekalat Paxathipatai Ekaphap Vatthanathavon" (Lao romanisation)
(English: "Peace, independence, democracy, unity and prosperity")
ISO 3166 codeLA

Laos (/ˈlɑːs/ (About this soundlisten), /ls, ˈlɑːɒs, ˈlɒs/; Lao: ລາວ, Lāo [láːw]; French: [lä.ɔs]), officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxôn Lao; French: République démocratique populaire Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. At the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest. Its capital and largest city is Vientiane.

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 communist Pathet 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.

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CIA activities in Laos started in the 1950s. In 1959, U.S. Special Operations Forces (Military and CIA) began to train some Laotian soldiers in unconventional warfare techniques as early as the fall of 1959 under the code name "Erawan". Under this code name, General Vang Pao, who served the royal Lao family, recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers. The Hmong were targeted as allies after President John F. Kennedy, who refused to send more American soldiers to battle in Southeast Asia, took office. Instead, he called the CIA to use its tribal forces in Laos and "make every possible effort to launch guerrilla operations in North Vietnam with its Asian recruits." General Vang Pao then recruited and trained his Hmong soldiers to ally with the CIA and fight against North Vietnam. The CIA itself claims that the CIA air operations in Laos from 1955-1974 were the "largest paramilitary operations ever undertaken by the CIA."

For 13 years, the CIA paramilitary officers from what is now called Special Activities Center directed native forces against North Vietnamese forces to a standstill. The CIA particularly organized Hmong people to fight against the North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao. The Pathet Lao were the communists in Laos. The CIA-backed Hmong guerrillas used Air America to "drop 46 million pounds of foodstuffs. ... transport tens of thousands of troops, conduct a highly successful photo-reconnaissance program, and engage in numerous clandestine missions using night-vision glasses and state-of-the-art electronic equipment." This was the largest paramilitary operation in which the CIA participated, spanning 13 years until the Afghanistan War. The CIA was responsible for directing natives of Laos to fight the North Vietnamese. Although such efforts were ended at the signing the Paris Peace Accords, the CIA believed it a success as it managed to fight the enemy to a standstill and combat the communist threat. They saw it as a victory and as an accomplishment. The director at the time, Richard Helms, called it superb and discussed the amount of manpower required, and that the CIA did a good job in supplying it. (Full article...)
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Statue of King SetthathirathPha That Luang, Vientiane
Statue of King Setthathirath
Pha That Luang, Vientiane
Setthathirath (Lao: ເສດຖາທິຣາດ; 24 January 1534 – 1571) or Xaysettha (Lao: ໄຊເສດຖາ; Thai: ไชยเชษฐาธิราช Chaiyachetthathirat) is considered one of the great leaders in Lao history. Throughout the 1560s until his death, he successfully defended his kingdom of Lan Xang against military campaigns of Burmese conqueror Bayinnaung, who had already subdued Xieng Mai (Chiang Mai) in 1558 and Ayutthaya in 1564. Setthathirath was a prolific builder and erected many Buddhist monuments including Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang, Haw Phra Kaew, Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan and the Pha That Luang in Vientiane. (Full article...)

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View of the Royal Palace, Luang Prabang.

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