Laos was inhabited five or more millennia ago by Austroasiatic peoples. From the first century A.D., princely fiefdoms based on wet rice cultivation and associated with the pottery and bronze culture of Ban Chiang developed in the middle Mekong Valley. Various other kingdoms reflecting the cultures of Cham and Mon peoples existed in the region; the fiefdoms were subject to the influence of mandala in the central Mekong region. Migrations in the seventh century continued to expand both the various influences and the cultural mix of the region. By the eighth century, the Mon mandala were under Khmer domination.
Beginning in the thirteenth century, Mongols exercised a decisive political influence in the middle Mekong Valley; dynastic conflicts associated with their intervention led to the founding of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (Kingdom of the Million Elephants). At that time, the beginnings of a multiethnic state--in the configuration of small confederative communities--were evident. The recorded history of Laos began in the fourteenth century with Fa Ngum (r. 1354-73), the first king of Lan Xang. Under Fa Ngum, the territory of Lan Xang was extended; it remained in these approximate borders for another 300 years.
The reign of King Souligna Vongsa (r. 1633-90)--a time when the kingdom was united and ruled by its own king--has been referred to as the golden age of Laos. With the death of Souligna Vongsa, however, succession struggles led to the division of Lan Xang. Conflicts with Burma, Siam, Vietnam, and the Khmer kingdom continued in the eighteenth century culminating in Siamese domination.
Early in the nineteenth century, Siam held hegemony over much of the territory of contemporary Laos, which then consisted of the principalities of Louangphrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. Siam faced contention from France--which had established a protectorate over Vietnam--and sought to extend its influence in Indochina. By the end of the nineteenth century, France had supplanted Siam as the dominant power. Laos was integrated into the French colonial empire of Indochina as a group of directly ruled provinces, except for Louangphrabang, which was ruled as a protectorate.
Laos remained under French administration from about 1890 until World War II, when Japan occupied French Indochina. Japanese military authorities induced King Sisavong Vong of Louangphrabang to declare the independence of his kingdom from France in April 1945, prior to Japan's surrender in the war. In September 1945, an "independent" government under the Lao Issara (see Glossary) defied the king and declared the union of Vientiane and Champasak with Louangphrabang. The following year, French troops reoccupied the country, conferring limited autonomy on the unified Kingdom of Laos within the French Union. A constitution was promulgated in 1947, and elections were held for a National Assembly. The independence of Laos was formally recognized within the French Union in 1949; Laos remained a member of the union until 1953.
The 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina provided for the cessation of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam--the first Indochina War--the struggle for independence against French colonial forces, and the withdrawal of foreign forces. The Royal Lao Government agreed to include the Pathet Lao (Lao Nation; Pathet Lao became the generally accepted term for the communist-led guerrilla movement) in the government coalition. Phôngsali and Houaphan (Sam Neua) provinces were designated areas of regroupment for Pathet Lao forces, "pending a political settlement."
Negotiations between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao continued from 1955 to 1957. The Neo Lao Hak Xat (Lao Patriotic Front; superseded by the Lao Front for National Construction in 1979), established in 1956, served as a political front for the Pathet Lao and was secretly guided by the Lao People's Party, which was established in 1955 as part of the Indochinese Communist Party. In 1972 the Lao People's Party changed its name to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), since 1975 it has been the ruling party.
A coalition government, including some Pathet Lao personalities, was formed by Prince Souvanna Phouma in 1957. But, it collapsed the following year, and rightist politicians took over. United States aid increased greatly. The communist insurgency resumed in northern Laos in 1959.
In 1960 Kong Le, a young Royalist paratroop captain, led a coup d'état to install a Neutralist government under Souvanna Phouma-- neither rightist nor Pathet Lao--which would end the fratricidal fighting. But, within a year, rightist forces under General Phoumi Nosavan drove Souvanna Phouma's government from Vientiane. The Neutralists then naively allied themselves with the Pathet Lao and received airlift support from the Soviet Union. North Vietnamese troops intervened in Laos in regular units for the first time, inflicting heavy losses on the rightists receiving military and economic aid from the United States.
A Second Geneva Conference on Laos was held in 1961-62. Agreements provided for the independence and neutrality of Laos-- something realized only on paper. A second coalition government formed in July 1962 proved to be equally short-lived. The civil war quickly resumed and continued into the 1970s, with each side-- backed either by the United States or Vietnam (supported by the Soviet Union)--trading accusations of violating the agreements. Souvanna Phouma, prime minister in the first coalition government in 1957, again following Kong Le's coup in 1960, and again in July 1962 following that year's Geneva agreements, became prime minister of a third coalition government, or Provisional Government of National Union, with the participation of the Lao Patriotic Front in 1974. (He resigned upon the establishment of the LPDR in 1975.)
The collapse of South Vietnam and Cambodia in mid-1975 played into the hands of the Lao Patriotic Front and hastened the decline of the third coalition government. The LPRP, the mastermind behind the Lao Patriotic Front, dismissed the Provisional Government of National Union and persuaded King Savang Vatthana to abdicate.
The Lao People's Democratic Republic was proclaimed on December 2, 1975, ending the era of a conservative monarchy dominated by a few powerful families. Souphanouvong became the first president of the LPDR. A half-brother of Souvanna Phouma, cousin of Savang Vatthana, one of the original founders of the Neo Lao Hak Xat, and the titular head of the Lao Patriotic Front, Souphanouvong was known as the "red prince" because of his royal lineage and communist associations. The LPDR has been a single-party communist government since its proclamation.
Ethnically diverse, Laos has more than forty ethnic groups. Lao is the distinction for some of the ethnic groups; Laotian is the term used to refer to all people of Laos, or the national population. The Lao, descendants of the Tai peoples who began migrating from China in the first millennium A.D., constitute approximately half the people of Laos. Although government rhetoric celebrates the multiethnic nature of the nation and asserts that it wishes to reduce the favoritism historically extended toward the "lowland" Lao Loum and the discrimination against the "midland" Lao Theung and "upland" Lao Sung, the ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the LPRP Central Committee, the National Assembly, and in government offices. (Some of the ethnic minorities have populations of only a few hundred persons.)
Although the different ethnic groups have different residential patterns, agricultural practices, and religious beliefs, for all groups the village community has a kinship nexus, which may also differ in form. The mountainous topography, which has inhibited roadbuilding and limited exchanges among villages and ethnic groups, has contributed to maintaining distinctions among ethnic groups.
Buddhism was the state religion of the Kingdom of Laos; the present constitution formally proclaims religious freedom. Although many communist nations do not look favorably upon the practice of religion--constitutional stipulations notwithstanding--this is not necessarily the case in Laos, where approximately 85 percent of citizens are Buddhist. Theravada Buddhism is predominant among the Lao Loum and some Lao Theung groups; animist beliefs are widespread among the entire population. The wat, the Buddhist temple or monastery complex, is a central fixture of village life, and the site of major religious festivals, which occur several times a year. Since the LPDR's establishment in 1975, the government has attempted to manipulate Buddhism to support its political goals, although without provoking a schism in the sangha, or clergy.
A bout the beginning of Lanxang Kingdom is little different than the Lao version. I will post later.
any body have any version, please share. This would be very educational
and appreciated very much.