History

Stone tools discovered in Huaphan and Luang Prabang provinces attest the presence of prehistoric man in its stage of hunters and gatherers over the Lao territory since at least 40,000 years ago. Agriculturist society seemed to appear during the 4th millenia BC as evidences have been found by archeologists- jar burials and other kinds of sepulchres have revealed a complex society in which Bronze objects appeared around 1500 BD and iron tools were known since 700 BC. The proto historic period is characterized by contacts with Chinese and Indian civilizations. As a result between the forth and eighth century.

Between the fourth and eighth century communities along the Mekong river began to form into townships, so-called muang. This development culminated in the formation of the Lane Xang (million elephants) kingdom in 1353 by King FaNgum and established Xieng Thong now know as Luang Prabang to capital of Lane Xang Kingdom.

The kingdom was further expanded by this successors, one of the most notable being King Setthathirat who ruled from 1548-1571. He moved the capital to Vientiane and built That Luang Stupa, a venerated religious shrine and a temple to house the Phra Keo, the Emerald Buddha.

In the seventeenth century, under the reign of King Souliyavongsa, the Lane Xang kingdom entered its most illustrious era. The country established first contacts with Europeans. In 1641, a Dutch merchant of the East India company, Geritt Van Wuysthoff, and later, the Italian missionaries Leria de Marini visited the Kingdom of Lane Xang and described Vientiane as the most magnificent city of Southeast Asia. After this golden age a palatial intrigue followed by fightings for the throne led to the break-up of Lane Xang into the three kingdoms of Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Champassack which weakened all of them and created opportunities for new foreign aggressors to invade.

The unsuccessful challenge of the Siamese by King Anouvong resulted in the virtual destruction of Vientiane. The Siamese took the Emerald Buddha to Bangkok where it remains till today. Lao was put under the French administration in 1893. To recover its full rights and its sovereignty the Lao people started fighting against the French regime.

Under the leadership of the communist Party of Indochina (founded in 1930) The struggle for the self determination and independence gained in importance and finally the International conference and the Geneva Agreement on Indochina in 1954 recognizing the independence of Laos, Vientiane & Cambodia culminated this long period of military and political upheaval.

The situation worsened during the Vietnam War although the Geneva Accord of 1962 had recognized the neutrality of Laos and forbade the presence of all foreign military personnel. By bombing the portion of the Ho Chi Minh trail crossing Laos, US forces dropped more bombs on Laos than they did world-wide during World War II.

On a per capita basis Laos is hence the most heavily bombed nation in history. Especially in Huaphan and Xieng Khouang province, where international teams are still clearing the terrain of unexploded ordinance, people still suffer from the legacy of the war.

In 1975 under the leadership of Lao People’s Revolutionary, victory after victory was scored until finally Lao People gained power in a bloodless take-over, establishing the People’s Democratic Republic on December 2. It was the culmination of a successful struggle for national liberation, and reinstatement of total independence. At present the multi ethnic Lao people are making efforts to defend and develop Laos in Line with the new policy of the party and government in order to lead the country to progress and prosperity.