August 25, 2013
0803 LAOS - The map of the country
Placed between Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, consists mostly of mountains, with some plains and plateaus, and has a tropical climate, influenced by the monsoon pattern (with a rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April). Though only about 4% of its area is arable, it is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the Golden Triangle. Actually its location has made it a buffer between more powerful neighboring states, as well as a crossroads for trade and communication. Migration and international conflict have contributed to the present ethnic composition and to the geographic distribution of its ethnic groups (about which I wrote here).
The official history of Laos begin with the kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants), founded in the 14th century by a Lao prince Fa Ngum, who made Theravada Buddhism the state religion. This kingdom, made up of diverse Lao, Thai, and ethnic hill tribes, lasted for 600 years, briefly reaching an even greater extent in the northeast. Also, Fa Ngum's descendants remained on the throne for almost 600 years after his death, and they maintained the independence of Lan Xang to the end of the 17th century. Beginning to 1694 a series of rival princes fought for the throne, and in 1707, the country was split into three weak regional kingdoms, none of them able to withstand external pressures, and have lost their independence.
In the late 19th century, France added the three kingdoms to the Protectorate of French Indochina, and King Sisavang Vong of Luang Phrabang became ruler of the unified Laos. It never had any importance for France other than as a buffer state between British-influenced Thailand and the more economically important Annam and Tonkin. In 1953 Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy. After two decades of civil war and the involvement (might say unwillingly) in Vietnam war, during which was invaded by the North Vietnamese Army and massive bombed by the United States (it remained until today the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world), in 1975 the Pathet Lao, along with the Vietnam People's Army and backed by the Soviet Union, overthrew the royalist Lao government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate. Today Laos still is one of the world's five remaining socialist states officially identifying itself as communist (along with China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea). The conflicts with ethnic substrate not ended in Laos, and human rights are constantly violated.
About the stamps I wrote here.
Laos - Wikipedia
History of Laos - Lonely Planet
sender: Lai Kee Huong (direct swap)
sent from Luang Prabang (Louangphrabang / Laos) on 08.07.2013
photo: Michel Huteau