Laos - The land full of sad memories

Laos map (1907)

France Legacy in Laos

Laos flag (1893-1952)     Laos flag (1952-1975)

In the 18th century, the French had little influence in LanXang Kingdom; they were busy making inroad toward China and the establishment of the French colony in Tokin and Annam but that was enough for the French to secure a consulate in LuangPhrabang and was soon became involved deeply with the internal affair of the Kingdom of LanXang.
Soon enough, the French was able to colonize LanXang Kingdom with little interest of securing and protecting the Kingdom except to create buffer zones against the expanding British influence from Burma toward the French protector states; Tokin and Annam.

The Siamese; on the other hand; were glad to agree with the French as a way to secure LanXang's territory on the western side of the Mekong River (called Isan), and also desired these states (three small Lao Kingdoms within LanXang Kingdom) as a buffer zone against the expanding influence of the French in Tokin (Vietnam).
* The Siamese played very smart political manoeuver by playing the French against the British while maintaining its influence over LanXang Kingdom.

Through a succession of the Siamese-French treaties between 1893 and 1907, the Siamese eventually relinquished control of all LanXang territory east of Mekong River, keeping everything to the west for themselves.

In retrospect France's disregard for differences between the cultures west and east of the Annamite chain (Lao-Thai and Sino-Viet) so almost soon after the French left, these states were at war. It was a major blunder and cultural ignorant mistake by the French and it was the French who gave the country its modern name, "Laos".
It was another major unforgivable mistake since the French didn't understand that the mini Lao Kingdoms on both sides of Mekong river that existed side by side within the LanXang Kingdom, the country and people from the west of Annamite chain to the Khorat plateau (Thailand) are both simply "Lao".

Siamese troop in Laos (1891)     King Sisavangvong & a French official     French (Mr.Pavi) & his team in Laos (1893)




Lao-Siam (1790 map)    1886 Map

The French left plenty of painful memories, Lao civil wars and the suffering for the Lao people. By the time Laos gained partial independence (July 19, 1949) from France; for their political convenience; the French already gave away half of LanXang kingdom to Siam, 'Sipsong ChuTai' to Vietnam, 'Sipsong Phan Na' to China and 'Strungten' to Cambodia. Those territories are still populated today by the Lao people.
The most popular French's legacy in Laos today is not French language nor its culture, but French bread (Khao Jee Falang).


** After Laos gained full independence from France in 1953, no sooner had the French left, Laos found itself being drawn into the conflicting ideologies of the two superpowers (USA and USSR). The fightings in Laos didn't end there, instead the war had intensified. At the same time the Lao people continued to suffer and be killed. This time it was the American's turn and millions of U.S. bombs rained down on Laos. The American's secret war in Laos went on for about 10 years and ended in 1975...




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