The Kingdom of Laos (ພຣະຣາຊອານາຈັກລາວ) is a sovereign state in eastern Asia which borders Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, and Burma. It is a somewhat poor country, though its economy is rapidly accelerating due to demands for its metals.
The earliest Laotian state in history was the kingdom of Lan Xang; Lan Xang meaning "million elephants". It was founded by a Lao prince, Fa Ngum, who, with 10,000 Khmer soldiers took over Vientiane. He made Buddhism the state religion, and Lan Xang prospered. Within 20 years of the kingdom's formation, it expanded eastwards to Champa and along the Annamite mountains in Vietnam. When Ngum died, his son Oun Heuan came to throne under the name Samsenthai and reigned for 43 years. During his reign, the city of Lan Xang became an important trade centre. After his death in 1421, Lan Xang collapsed into warring factions for the next 100 years. In 1520, Photisarath came to the throne and moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane to avoid a Burmese invasion. Setthathirat became king in 1548, after his father was killed, and he ordered the construction of what would be the symbol of Laos, That Luang. Setthathirat disappeared in the mountains on his way back from a military expedition, leading his kingdom to rapidly decline. The reign of Sourigna Vongsa was regarded as Laos's golden age. He died leaving Lan Xang without a heir, dividing the kingdom into three smaller states. Between 1763 and 1769, Burmese armies overran the north of Laos, annexing Luang Phrabang. Champasak was later annexed by Siam.
In the late 19th century, Luang Prabang was sacked by the Chinese Black Flag Army. The French rescued King Oun Kham and added Luang Phrabang to the protectorate of Indochina, consisting of it and Cambodia. Laos never had much importance for France besides acting as a buffer state between the British-influenced Siam. During their rule, the French introduced the corvée, a system that forced every male Lao to contribute 10 days of manual labor per year to the colonial government. Laos produced mostly tin, rubber, and coffee. During the Pacific War, Laos was annexed by imperial Japan. Unlike most states conquered by the Japanese, no vassal state was never made; it was simply under Japanese occupation.
Rebellion & Modern Laos
Despite officially being under Japanese sovereignty, the official government of Laos fought against the Japanese armies in the Indochina War; which lead to Laos gaining independence much more quickly than all of its other neighbors. Laos also played a small part in the Japanese Imperial War; Lao troops were sent into Cambodia and Vietnam in hopes of liberating them. The Lao were successful, giving way to the developing nation seen today. Modern Laos is far from perfect; slavery is rampant along the borders and the nation has only recently passed the line between being a developing nation and a newly industrialized one.
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