Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Laos, Lao People's Democratic Republic: A Short Summary


Differentiating Characteristics:

1) Home of significant large wildlife, the Indochinese tiger, the giant gaur, the Asian elephant, historically called the Lan Xang, “Land of a Million Elephants” from the 14th to 18th C.

2) Opium poppy is an important crop. “During the Vietnam War, the vast majority of the opium produced in Laos was consumed by US soldiers” – Wikipedia.

3) Not a free press society: all newspapers are published by the socialist republic government including two foreign language papers. While Internet cafes are common in urban centers, the government censors content and controls access.


Historical and Geographical Facts:

1) Laos was dragged into the Vietnamese War (1970s) and suffered from bombings and heavy loss of life. In 1975, King Savang Vatthana abdicated and later died in captivity, after which Laos became a communist country with military leadership. In its current ideology, "the [communist] party would allow economic freedom and a degree of cultural freedom but would not allow anyone to question the rule of the party over the country."*

2) Lao monarchies ruled until 18th C Siamese suzerainty. Laos became a French protectorate in the 19th C, Japanese during WWII, and then French again until 1955. The U.S. Dept of Defense then replaced French support of the Royal Lao Army, supported (unsuccessfully) the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos and a Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and communist Pathet Lao.

3) Mountainous country. Monsoonal climate. 21% of the nation’s area is parkland.


Economic Facts:

1) Vietnam cut off Laos from trade with China and other countries except Vietnam in late 1970s. Economic restrictions relaxed in 1980s with admission in ASEAN in 1997. U.S. established Normal Trade Relations with Laos in 2005.

2) Agriculture accounts for half of GDP and 80% of employment, although only .34% of land is planted with arable crops, and 4.01% of Laos has arable land. 77% of households are self-sufficient in rice. Laos may have the largest number of rice varieties in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

3) IMF and foreign investment give important aid in food processing and mining of gold and copper. Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the country. Currency: Kip.


General Facts:

1) Laos lacks adequate infrastructure, no railroads, limited communications. Pick-up trucks with benches are used for both long-distance and local public transport.

2) Buddhism is a dominant influence in Lao culture, predated by “lam” the dominant style of folk music, accompanied by the “khaen”, a bamboo pipe.

3) The ‘s’ is Laos is silent. Laos rhymes with "wow". Lao is the name of the language and the “Lao” economy. “Laotian” is an inclusive political term concerning citizenship, rather than the Lao ethnic group.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lao_People%27s_Revolutionary_Party

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