Lao PDR is one nation in ASEAN region that has a long history of development. Patriotic heroes and Lao people from one generation to another have continuously fought for the construction and protection of their motherland. Chao Fa Ngum is the first king who successfully united numerous medieval city states and subsequently founded the Lanexang, which was a unified kingdom (a unified State). The Lanexang Kingdom had a large territory that encompasses the Mekong River in the middle from North to South. Luang Prabang was the capital city of the Lanexang Kingdom; the legacy of its unique cultural development was the reason why UNESCO listed it under its World Heritage Site.
In the middle of the16th century, King Saya Setthathirat transferred the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. This propelled the growth of the economy. At the same time, the culture flourished and the country was able to protect itself from foreign invasion.
In the middle of the 17th century under the reign of King Suliyavongsa, the Lanexang Kingdom reached its golden age. A Dutch delegation led by Van Wuysthoff officially negotiated the establishment of a trade relation.
The eighteenth century brought the decline of the Lane Xang monarchy. The Kingdom split into three hostile dynasties and was invaded and controlled by Siamese feudalism. However, the Lao people maintained their unity, frequently rebelling against Siamese dominance. The most outstanding movement was the nation-wide campaign led by King Anouvong, a national hero (1827-1828). Though the uprising was quelled, the movement was a significant page in Lao history in the cause of national defence and has ever since been remembered as such.
Being strategically located and blessed with natural resources, Laos became a target of feudalists in the neighbouring countries as well as superpowers of the West. At the end of the 19th century, the French colonialism fought to take over the world market, and in 1893, it conquered Laos. This altered the borders of the country. However, many patriotic national heroes such as Father Kadouat, Ongkeo, Ongkomadam and Chaofapatchai organized anti-imperialism movements in many parts of the countries.
Since the 1930s, the battle of the Lao people has been closely connected to the battles of the three countries in Indochina, which eventually led to the end of World War II in 1945. Amongst the Indochina countries, Vietnam gained victory, Laos declared Independence in 1945 and made a mark in the world map for the first time.
However, the French colonialism came back to invade Laos for the second time and created tragedy in Thakhek on 21 March 1946. Since then, the battle of the Lao people for independence had commenced again. After the victory in Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam), the Geneva Accord was signed to restore peace in Indochina and to acknowledge the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Not long after signing the Geneva Accord, the American replaced the French and created a so-called special war in Laos. From the beginning of 1964 the American Air Force bombarded Laos heavily, which resulted in the average Lao person to receive a ton of American bombs over the 20-year period. Dommen says that: ‘When the bombing finally halted in 1973, U.S. aircraft had drooped 2,092,900 tons (1,898,260 metric tons) of bombs on Laos, approximately the total tonnage dropped by U.S. air forces during all of World War II in both the European and Pacific theatres’ (1985, p.90). More than two tonnes of U.S bombs per inhabitant were dropped in the liberated zone (Pathet Lao zone). Laos had experienced a protracted war and suffered from 1964 to 1973 the heaviest aerial bombardment in world history.
Thank to the victorious battle and solidarity among the Lao people of all ethnic groups, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) was established on 2 December 1975. With the formation of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Laos entered a new era.
Ever since then, Lao people of all ethnic groups have lived peacefully and done their part to develop the country. In 1986, the Lao PDR began to carry out a comprehensive renovation policy, shifting from a centralized economy to a market-oriented economy, carrying out marketing mechanism, opening up the country and cooperation with foreign countries, restoring the people’s democracy. Today, the Lao PDR has the political stability, constant economic growth and favourable conditions of investment, strengthening and promoting the people's democratic regime, and bringing peace, equality and justice to her people.