Khaosan Pathet Lao (KPL) - 80 Setthathirath rd, Vientiane, Lao PDR - tel. (856-21) 21 5402, 25 1090- fax 21 2446
Lao PDR is in the heart of the Indochina peninsular in Southeast Asia. For centuries known by outsiders as the land of a million Elephants. Lao is a landlocked country and covered by high mountainous ranges but crises-crossed by many rivers and stream. The Mekong River flows through 1865 km of the country from north to south. And this inland waterway system provides great potential for hydropower development. Over half of the power potential in the lower Makong basin is contained with in Lao.
The estimated populations of the major Provinces are:
1.598,000 in Vientiane Municipality
Lao PDR shared border with China to the north, Cambodia to the south, Vietnam to the east, Thailand to the west and Myanmar to the northwest. The country stretches for 1,700 km north to south, with an east-west width of over 500 a km at its widest, only 140 km at the narrowest point.
Lao PDR is divided in to three district regions: The north is dominated by
mountainous average 1,500 metres above Sea level. The highest peak is the 2,800 metres Phou Bia in Xiengkhouang province. The mountainous north in winter temperatures is sufficiently cool and suitable for growing peaches, tea, so on….
The central plain comprises large and small plains along the Mekong River, one of most fertile rice and fruit growing areas. The Largest is the Vientiane plain, on the lower reaches of the Nam Ngum River. Also significant are the Savannakhet plain on the lower reaches of the Se Bang Fai and Se Bang Hieng rivers, and the Champassck plain, which is on the Mekong River, stretching between the Thai and Cambodia borders, where people make trade with Cambodia along the river. Blessed with fertile soil, these plains represent on quarter of the total area and the granaries of the country.
Stone tools discovered in Huaphanh and Luang Phrabanng 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 BC and iron tools were known since 700 BC. The proto historic period is characterized by contacts with Chinese and Indian civilisations. As a result between the fourth and eighth century.
Between the fourth and eighth century communities along the Mekong River began to form into towships, so called muang. This development culminated in the formmation of the Lane Xang (Million Elephants) Kingdom.In 1340 AD, Kind Fa Ngum led an army of 10,000 men in conquests in all directions: to the south, as far as the Khmer border; to the north as far as Sipsong Phanna (Yunnan, southwestern China), to the east to the watershed of the Mekong and Red Rivers; to the northwest as far as Chiang Saen Lanna; and westward to Korat-Dong Phannaphay. King Fa Ngum established the mighty and glorious Kingdom of Lane Xang in 1353. Meanwhile, he introduced Buddhism (Hinayana) in to the kingdom, took the sacred Phra Bang Buddha image from the khmer kingdom and installed it in Swa (now Luang Prabang).
Chao Ounheuane succeeded King Fa Ngum to the throne in 1373. In his 43 years reign, King Ounheuane maintained the territorial integrity of the kingdom, which his father has united. After repelling an invasion by Burmese feudalism, King Ounheuane conducted a population census, which showed that there were 300.000Tai Lao people and 400,000 people of other ethnic groups. The census gave King Ounheuane the new name of King Samsenethai, meaning “ Three hundred thousand Tai people”.
Throughout the fifteenth century, 14 monarchs ruled the kingdom of Lane Xang. In 1520 AD Prince Phothisarath ascended the throne, following King Visounnarath. Prince Phothisarath was born in 1506 and married a princess of Chiang Mai. In 1548, he made prince Sayasetthathirath King of Chiang Mai (at that time the kingdom of Lanna was a sister kingdom to Lane Xang). When, in the same year, King Phothisarath suddenly died, Prince Sayasetthathirath returned to Swa to take the throne of the kingdom of Lane Xang. Between 1563 and 1565, King Sayasetthirath moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. In this same year, a Burmese army led by Ba Ying Nong raided King Sayasetthathirath, but forced Chiang Mai and Vientiane, to retreat. In 1569-1570 the Burmese made another attempt and suffered another reverse, being forced again to retreat. “ These were the two victorious struggles (1563 and 1569) under the able command of King Sayasetthathirath, a hero of national salvation against the aggression of the Burmese feudalism, then a strong enemy. There were continued uprisings and struggles of the masses over the last 24 years of the sixteenth century against the yoke of vassalage of Burmese feudalism, including the overthrow of a throne under Burmese vassalage (1579).”2
Not long after the signing of the Geneva Accord, the American imperialists, who had been involved in the Indochina War from the outset., jumped in, kicked the French out, and invaded Laos. The US had forced the French to sign an US-France joint communiqué in Washington on 29 September 1954, as a legal basis for direct US assistance. The document also allowed the US to take over from the French in training the Royal Army of the kingdom of Laos, and the armies of South Vietnam and Combodia.
The situation worsened during the Vietnam war although the Geneva accord of 1962 had recognised the neutrality of Laos and forbade the presence of all foreign military perssonel. 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 Huaphanh and Xieng Khuang provinces, where international teams are still clearing the terrain of unexploded ordinance, people still suffer from the legacy of the war.
Most of the year is hot and humid. Lao PDR has three distinct seasons– the dry or cool Season arrives end of October continue untill February, with cooler weather and reduced humidity. Average temperature might drop to 12°c or 14°c. Summer from March to June, with temperature up to 41°c. Rainy during June to October with cloudy days and may through Augest. The average annual temperature 29c ranging in Vientiane and 35c in April to 20c in December or January.
Time: Time in Laos is 7 hours Greenwich Mean time (GMT * 7)
Buddhism first appeared in Laos during the eighth century A.D. as shown by both the Buddha image and the stone inscription founded at Ban talat (Talat village) near Vientiane, now exhibited at the Museumm of Ho Prakeo. After the foundation of the unified Kingdom of Lane Xang, King Fa Ngum (14th century) declared Buddhism as the state relition and urged the people to abandon animism or other beliefs such as the cult of spirits. His poplicy meant to develop the Lao culture based on a common faith: the Theravada Buddhism. Today Theravada Buddhism is the professed religion of about 90 percent of Lao people. Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily liffe and casts as strong influence on Lao society. Lao women can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earning merit to lessen the number of their rebirth. Lao men are expected to become monks for at least a short time in their lives.
traditionally they spend three months during the rainy season in a Vat, a Buddhist temple. But nowadays most men curtail their stay to one or two weeks.