Kingdom of Laos

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Kingdom of Laos
ພຣະຣາຊອານາຈັກລາວ  (Lao)
Royaume du Laos  (French)
1953–1975
Anthem:  Pheng Xat Lao
"Hymn of the Lao People and the King"
Laos (orthographic projection).svg
StatusFrench protectorate
(1947–1953)
Independent state
(1953–1975)
Capital Vientiane (administrative)
Luang Phabang (royal)
Largest city Vientiane
Official languages Lao
French
Spoken languages
Ethnic groups
Lao
Khmu
Hmong
Phouthai
Tai
Makong
Katang
Lue
Akha
Religion
Buddhism (state religion [1] )
Tai folk religion
Christianity
other/irreligion
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
King  
 1953–1959
Sisavang Vong
 1959–1975
Sisavang Vatthana
Prime Minister  
 1947–1948 (first)
Souvannarath
 1962–1975 (last)
Souvanna Phouma [lower-alpha 1]
Legislature Parliament
Royal Council
National Assembly
History 
11 May 1947
22 October 1953
  Recognized
21 July 1954
14 December 1955
23 August 1975
2 December 1975
Area
 Total
236,800 km2 (91,400 sq mi)
Population
 
3,100,000
Currency Kip (₭) (LAK)
Time zone UTC+7 (ICT)
Date formatdmy
Driving side right
Calling code +856
ISO 3166 code LA
Internet TLD .la
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Laos (1893-1952).svg French Protectorate of Laos
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg French Indochina
Lao People's Democratic Republic Flag of Laos.svg
Royal Lao Government in Exile Flag of Laos (1952-1975).svg
Today part of Laos
  1. Held the position several times.

The Kingdom of Laos was a landlocked country in Southeast Asia at the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula. It was bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, North Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest. The country was governed as a constitutional monarchy that ruled Laos beginning with its independence on 9 November 1953. It survived until December 1975, when its last king, Sisavang Vatthana, surrendered the throne to the Pathet Lao during the civil war in Laos, who abolished the monarchy in favour of a Marxist–Leninist state called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which has controlled Laos ever since. [2]

Contents

Given self-rule with the new Constitution in 1947 as part of the French Union and a federation with the rest of French Indochina, [3] the 1953 Franco-Lao Treaty finally established a sovereign, independent Laos, but did not stipulate who would rule the country. In the years that followed, three groups led by the so-called Three Princes, contended for power: the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right-wing party under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, North Vietnamese-backed Pathet Lao under Prince Souphanouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane.

The Pathet Lao would eventually emerge victorious in the Laotian Civil War and establish the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975.

History

The Kingdom of Laos was officially proclaimed when the new Constitution was promulgated in 1947, as part of the colonial French Union, [3] and obtained full independence in 1953. The monarchy lasted until 2 December 1975, when the last king Sisavang Vatthana abdicated the throne to the Pathet Lao who abolished the kingdom and proclaimed Laos as a communist state.

Government

Following the Franco-Lao Treaty of 1953, which gave Laos independence, the Royal Lao Government took control of the country. This treaty established a constitutional monarchy, with Sisavang Vong as King and Prince Souvanna Phouma as Prime Minister.

Many attempts were made by the Three Princes and King Sisavang Vatthana to establish a coalition government. The First Government of National Unity was established in 1958 under Prince Souvanna Phouma, but collapsed after two months. The Prime Minister, who under the constitution appointed his ministers and received advice from the King, made a deal with his brother Prince Souphanouvong.

Souvanna Phouma gave the Communists two seats in the Cabinet, and in return Souphanouvong would integrate 1,500 of his 6,000 Communist troops into the royal army. Prince Souphanouvong was given the post of Minister of Planning, Reconstruction and Urbanization, while another member of the Communist Party was named Minister of Religion and Fine Arts.

The legislature of the Kingdom was bicameral.

Military

The Kingdom of Laos was divided into five military regions. The Royal Lao Armed Forces were responsible for the defense of the country, comprising three branches of service: the Royal Lao Army, the Royal Lao Navy, and the Royal Lao Air Force, which was under the control of the Ministry of Defence in Vientiane.

The United States supplied the Royal Lao Navy with twenty river patrol boats and sixteen amphibious landing craft. Between 1962 and 1971, the United States provided Laos with an estimated US$500 million in military assistance.

Foreign relations

The Royal Lao Government had close relations with the United States, which gave the country aid and assisted it in the campaign against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Communist movement. During 1957, the United States spent more per capita on foreign aid for Laos than it had on any other nation. That worked out as US$150 per Laotian, twice the average person's annual income. Some of the money went to support pro-American candidates in an election, while other money went to a program to support the local currency, the kip. [4]

King Savang Vatthana visited the United States in 1963 to meet with President Kennedy.

Laos was also supported by France, Australia, Burma, Thailand and Japan.

North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and Civil war

North Vietnamese troops march through Laos, 1967 Nvamarch.jpg
North Vietnamese troops march through Laos, 1967

In 1960, amidst a series of rebellions, fighting broke out between the Royal Lao Army and the Soviet Union-backed, communist Pathet Lao, a second Provisional Government of National Unity formed by Prince Souvanna Phouma in 1962 proved to be unsuccessful, and the situation steadily deteriorated thereafter as the conflict in Laos became a focus for superpower rivalry. During the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos, the Pathet Lao were backed militarily by the NVA and Vietcong.

Laos was also dragged into the Vietnam War after parts of Laos were invaded and occupied by North Vietnam for use as a supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese positions, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos, including those led by Hmong General Vang Pao, and supported South Vietnamese incursions into Laos. It also provided supplies, training and funding for the central government.

In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack to help the Pathet Lao fight the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing, leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

Massive aerial bombardment against Pathet Lao and NVA forces was carried out by the United States. It has been reported that Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 million bombs that rained down, particularly on Xiangkhouang Province on the Plain of Jars, some 80 million failed to explode and continue to injure and kill residents to this day. [5]

Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. Because it was particularly heavily affected by cluster bombs during this war, Laos was a strong advocate of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to ban the weapons and assist victims, and hosted the First Meeting of States Parties to the convention in November 2010.

In 1975, the Pathet Lao, along with Vietnam People's Army and backed by the Soviet Union, overthrew the royalist Lao government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died in captivity.

Fall of the government

A ceasefire was finally attained in February 1973, following the Paris Peace Accords between the United States and North Vietnam. In April 1974, another Provisional Government of National Unity was established, with Prince Souvanna Phouma as Prime Minister. However, by this time, Pathet Lao forces controlled large areas of the country, and following the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh to communist forces in April 1975, removed any chances of a coalition government forming in Laos. [6] Following the communist victories in both countries, they advanced on to Vientiane.

On 2 December 1975 in Vientiane, Prince Vong Savang submitted the letter of abdication of King Savang Vatthana to the Pathet Lao. The Lao People's Democratic Republic was established with Prince Souphanouvong as President. Kaysone Phomvihane acted as Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

Aftermath

About 30,000 to 40,000 [7] citizens and members of the old government, including the royal family, were taken to re-education camps in remote areas of Laos after the coup.

See also

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References

  1. https://media.bloomsburyprofessional.com/rep/files/laos-constitution-1947-1949-englishx.pdf [ bare URL PDF ]
  2. "About this Collection - Country Studies". loc.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  3. 1 2 "Library of Congress - Laos - The Kingdom of Laos". loc.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  4. John Holt (2009). Page 110. Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture.
  5. MacKinnon, Ian (3 December 2008). "Forty years on, Laos reaps bitter harvest of the secret war". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  6. "Laos". state.gov. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  7. "Laos under communism". Archived from the original on 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2012-04-25.

Coordinates: 17°58′N102°36′E / 17.967°N 102.600°E / 17.967; 102.600