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History[edit | edit source]
Present-day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao, Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol, which existed for four centuries as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Due to Lan Xang's central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom became a popular hub for overland trade, becoming wealthy economically as well as culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke off into three separate kingdoms—Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak.
In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three territories uniting to form what is now known as the country of Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but was recolonized by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy. Shortly after independence, a long civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against, first, the monarchy and then a number of military dictatorships, supported by the United States. During the first years of Communist rule, Laos was dependent on military and economic aid supported by the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991.
The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country, with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up about 55 percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 45 percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains. Laos's strategies for development are based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China and Vietnam.
Timeline[edit | edit source]
1763 - 1769 Burmese armies overran northern Laos
1940 - There were about 600 French citizens living in Laos
1943 - The Vietnamese population stood at nearly 40,000, forming the majority in the largest cities of Laos
1953 - Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy
1964 - 1973 The U.S. dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, nearly equal to the 2.1 million tons of bombs the U.S. dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history relative to the size of its population
1979 - There were 50,000 Vietnamese troops stationed in Laos and as many as 6,000 civilian Vietnamese officials
1975 - 1996 The United States resettled some 250,000 Lao refugees from Thailand, including 130,000 Hmong
2015 - Laos celebrated its 40th anniversary of the establishment of the republic