Laos Recent History

The word Laos in Chinese means “mountain dwellers”, and in fact the Laotians are almost all mountain dwellers. When they want to joke about their land, they say that God, when he had finished creating the world, realized that a handful of mountains had remained in his hand for forgetfulness. Not knowing where to fix them he threw them at random. And these all ended up there, where there is Laos, whose surface for 80% is mountainous and mostly impervious.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Laos, the current inhabitants of Laos are the descendants of the Scian family, which in Chinese means “mountain” and could not have been otherwise given the composition of the country.

Like Cambodia, Laos was also part of the French protectorates in Indochina since 1863. On March 11, 1941, with an agreement signed in Tokyo between France and Siam, France ceded part of the territory of Laos to Siam, and more precisely, the one between the northern course of the Mekong River and the borders of Siam.

These territories, however, returned to Laos in November 1946. The following year, Laos, made up of 11 provinces, was established as a federal state within the framework of the French Union. The treaty that sanctioned the independence of Laos was signed in Paris by the then President Auriol and the king of Laos, Sisoxang Vong on October 22, 1953.

Here too, as happened for Cambodia, Vietminh troops had entered in 1951, creating tensions and unrest. From Geneva the order to evacuate the territory, not only of the Vietminh but also of the French, arrived peremptorily, so in 1954 Laos was able to establish itself in an independent and sovereign state.

During the war with the Vietminhs, Pathet Lao, ie Free Laos, had taken over the provinces of Phongsaly and Sam Neua under its control.

In the autumn of 1954 negotiations took place between the two territories at the end of which, in 1956, Pathet Lao was authorized to organize and freely manage its political party. However, the armed forces were reintegrated into the regular army and the two provinces, managed up to now, also fell within the orbit of the central government. In addition, Pathet Lao, in favor of contacts with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, could also participate in the national government.

In truth, Laos, on another occasion, had expressed its sympathy for the communist parties and, in any case, wanted to apply the principles of peaceful coexistence. In 1955 the Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma visited Beijing and Hanoi.

Laos Recent History

In January 1956 Laos was admitted to the United Nations and in 1958 ended the presence in the country of the International Control Commission. In the same year Souvanna Phouma resigned from the government, which was taken over by an anti-communist. After two years he returned to being prime minister and tried to keep the country neutral for foreign policy and reinserted Pathet Lao into the country’s active political life.

Efforts to avoid unrest were futile. Civil war broke out soon. On the one hand the right-wing forces, led by Phoumi Mosavan and the neutralist government, on the other the left ones supported by Pathet Lao.

The right wing formed a right-wing government in December 1960, as opposed to Souvanna Phouma’s left wing one. Western powers were embarrassed to manage their development policy in the country where a grandiose twenty-year project was planned for the development of the Mekong basin, which was to be carried out in collaboration with Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam with the United Nations assistance.

In early 1961, the head of the state of Laos, Sihanouk, proposed calling an international conference to resolve the matter. Negotiations took place between London and Moscow and in April there was a ceasefire and the conference was held in Geneva on May 16. On July 23, 1962, an agreement was reached, the signing of an interim government of national unity chaired by Souvanna Phouma was signed. But the issue reopened following the assassination of Foreign Minister Quinim Pholsena on April 1, 1963.

US forces also took part in the war for power. There were constant clashes with the Pathet Lao army which was gradually conquering all the territories including the American military bases; the end of hostilities came to an end and on February 21, 1973 a protocol was signed in Vientiane which required all foreign military forces to evacuate the country and authorized the formation of a coalition government, formed by both the right and the left than by neutralists. And on April 5, 1974 the government was formed and headed by Souvanna Phouma.

The presidency of the National Council of Pathet Lao was the prerogative, however, of Prince Souphanouvong. On December 2, 1975 Laos became a People’s Democratic Republic after the abdication of King Savang Vatthana. The presidency went to Prince Souphanouvong; the post of Prime Minister to the head of the revolutionary party Kaysone Phomvihane.

In July 1977 this republic signed a 25-year collaboration agreement with the democratic one of Vietnam; diplomatic ties with the western bloc were severed, especially with France accused of protecting enemies of the state.

An attempt was therefore made to improve the economic situation and some results were obtained in the production of rice but, in general, the collectivization of the agricultural territories turned out to be a complete failure and was abandoned in the 1980s. In 1980 the Laotian National Party attempted to restore the monarchy but instead a democratic government was born two years later in Bangkok in which all forces hostile to communism entered, headed by the former Prime Minister Nosavan.

In 1983, to try to eliminate the bad economic situation, the technical panels, once banned, acquired a lot of importance. On 30 November 1987 relations with China were re-established and on 29 October 1986 the president of the republic resigned for health reasons and was replaced by Phoumi Vongvichit. In November, the Party Congress confirmed Kaysone as secretary and abolished the economic system of nationalization. The mechanisms of competition and the free sale of agricultural goods returned. Trade with Thailand and Japan developed; there were notable improvements from which cities, however, benefited greatly but the countryside did little.

Also in 1986 there were the first elections in communist Laos; Kaysone won them and introduced a “social-Buddhist perestroika” into the country. In August 1991 the first Constitution was promulgated. The Revolutionary Party continued to lead the republic; Kaysone was elected president; prime minister was Khamtay Siphandone. In November 1992 Kaysone died and was elected president of the National Assembly Nouhak Phoumsavan.


In 1993 a three-year economic plan was launched, suggested by the International Monetary Fund and in 1995 the United States also restored economic aid, while in agreement with Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia an agreement was concluded for the exploitation of the resources provided by the Mekong River,

The people, however, mostly did not benefit from this different orientation of Laotian economic policy. In 1996, within the Revolutionary Party, always remained in government, the first disagreements appeared, by the conservative wing.
In December 1997 the new National Assembly was elected which saw the reduction in the number of technicians responsible for the reforms deemed unnecessary. In 1998 he was elected President of the Siphandone Republic and Prime Minister Sisavat Keobounphan.

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