Laos Domestic Politics

Laotian flag

Domestic politics

In Laos, personal and traditional ties have determined political events for centuries. These arise from family ties and university cliques. Party politics and government action cannot be separated from one another.

The LRVP’s sole claim to leadership and the growing discrepancy between the political superstructure and the newly emerging, financially strong middle class is another area of conflict.

The coexistence of numerous ethnic groups is on the one hand a source of cultural wealth in the country, but at the same time represents a major political challenge with regard to its further development and forms the breeding ground for far-reaching potential for conflict.

According to cheeroutdoor, the Hmong, the largest group of the Lao Sung (also called “Meo”), who lived under their leader General Vang Pao during the Second Indochina War who fought on the side of the USA are still pursuing aspirations for independence in some cases. Vang Pao was one of the central figures in the secret war that the US waged in Laos in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The charismatic fighter had been paid for years by the CIA to lead the members of the ethnic Hmong in Laos against the communist Pathet Lao. When the USA finally lost the war in 1975 and withdrew from Southeast Asia, thousands of Hmong emigrated to the USA with Vang Pao. Vang Pao was a controversial figure. Hmong people in the United States revered him as a liberator and fighter against foreign invaders. In 2007 he was charged with attempted coup in Laos in the United States. He had collected arms, money and ammunition to overthrow the communist government in Laos. The 80-year-old had to give up his plans to travel to Laos for the time being, as a death sentence was still awaiting him there, which the communist government had imposed in his absence in 1975 after the seizure of power. However, the charges were dropped in 2009.

Vang Pao died on January 6, 2011 at the age of 81 in exile in California.

There are frequent incidents in the Hmong settlement areas of Laos. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Society for Threatened Peoples report on the events in Laos and also on the forced repatriation of the Hmong from Thai refugee camps to Laos.

In the past, official statements by the government spoke of armed uprisings against the government, but according to official information there are no longer any Hmong splinter groups in the forests of Laos. However, according to unconfirmed rumors, the military in the Xaysomboun region is very violent against members of the Hmong who still live there.

The Brussels non-governmental organization UNPO (Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization) documents the most recent incidents in Laos in a timeline.

Culture of remembrance

At the end of 2015, the party celebrated its 40th anniversary. In order to consolidate its claim to leadership, the party leadership uses every possible opportunity to interpret the history of the country in its own way. The party leadership also uses Buddhist monarchical symbols: Statues of former kings are placed in prominent places and officially linked to heroic stories.

Vientiane’s 450th anniversary as the capital was celebrated in November 2010 with parades, fireworks and cultural performances. In 1560, King Sethathirat moved the capital from Xiang Thong (now Luang Prabang) to Vientiane. The celebration, televised live, presented today’s Vientiane as a modern capital, peaceful, safe and politically stable. Laos was presented as an independent country with a traditional past and its own culture.

The aim of this marketing campaign was also the Laotians abroad, many of whom had come to Laos especially for the occasion and who were explicitly addressed in many speeches by the management cadre.

The Laotian government uses the Laotian culture – especially Buddhist rituals – as a socially integrating element that creates national identity. Aware that culture is a great opportunity to shape educational, social and economic life, the government tries to maintain various regional cultural traditions and at the same time to shape a common Laotian national culture.

National symbols

The national coat of arms shows, among other things, That Luang, the country’s national Buddhist shrine, which has replaced the hammer and sickle since 1991, surrounded by central symbols. The central road and the water are symbolic of the country’s development: road construction and the use of natural resources such as hydropower in connection with the country’s many dam projects are of central importance for the country’s development. The right part of the picture shows the forest and rice fields – rice is still the main food in Laos. The two ears of rice on the right and left in the coat of arms represent the central importance of rice cultivation in Laos. On the red ribbon that connects both rice ears, the official name of the state is Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao (Democratic People’s Republic of Laos) and the state motto: “Peace, Unity, Democracy, Independence and Prosperity”.

The national flag consists of red-blue-red bars. There is a white circle inside the blue bar. Red stands for the blood shed in the struggle for independence, blue symbolizes either the “blooming landscapes” and prosperity or the Mekong. The white circle in the center of the flag symbolizes both the uniform socialist orientation of the one-party state and the moon, which plays a major role in the precise definition of many religious celebrations.

Up until 1975, three white elephants graced the Laotian flag.

The national anthem was composed as early as 1947 and its text was changed in 1975 when the Lao People’s Republic was founded.

Laotian flag