Laos :: History

1353 Prince Fa Ngum founded the Lan Xang ("Million Elephants") Kingdom with its capital at Luang Prabang.

Theravada Buddhism became the state religion.
1520 Capital moved to Wieng Chan.
1574-78 Lan Xang was subsumed by Burma.

1637 Suriya Vongsa ascended to the throne and his subsequent rule was a golden age in Laotian history.
1694 After King Suriya Vongsa died without an heir, Laos was split into the three states of (1) Luang Prabang, (2) Wieng Chan (now called Vientianne) and (3) Champasak.

1700s Laos was invaded several times by armies from Burma and Siam.
1778 The Siamese took control of Luang Prabang and Wieng Chan.
1893-1907 Laos became a French colony and the spelling of Wieng Chan was changed to Vientianne
1939-45 Japan controlled Laos during World War II.
1946 The French returned after Japan's defeat and recognized the king of Luang Prabang as king of all Laos.
1947 The Free Laos movement or Lao Issara (headed by brother princes Phetsarat, Souvanna Phouma, and Souphanouvong) negotiated Laos' first constitution.
1949 Laos became an associated state (with limited self-government) within the French Union. All important power, however, remained in French hands.

Not all were prepared to work with the French under this new arrangement and the princes split into rival factions. Souphanouvong moved to northeastern Laos. There he made contact with Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese Communist leader, and set up the Communist-inspired Pathet Lao ("Lao State") movement.
1953 The Pathet Lao joined with the Viet Minh forces to invade Laos in April and quickly gained control of large areas.

1954 Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy.

Civil war broke out between royalists and the communist Pathet Lao.
1954-60 A series of governments ruled Laos.
1960-61 Kong Le (a Laotian army officer) and the Pathet Lao seized control of most of northern Laos.
1960s The United States bombed Laos in an attempt to destroy North Vietnamese sanctuaries and to rupture the supply lines known as the Ho Chi Minh trail.
1962 A coalition government was set up in Laos. Prince Souvanna Phouma (a neutral royalist) became prime minister. Prince Boun Oum (an anti-Communist) and Prince Souphanouvong (a Communist) were made cabinet ministers.

1963 Souphanouvong withdrew from the government. Fighting broke out again between the Pathet Lao and government forces.
1973 The Laotian government and the Pathet Lao agreed to a ceasefire and to the formation of a new coalition government with Souvanna Phouma as prime minister and Souphanouvong as head of an advisory body.

1975 Pro-Communist demonstrations occurred, and many non-Communist government officials resigned and were replaced by Communists.

The king gave up his throne and the country became a Communist state -- Lao People's Democratic Republic with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) as the only legal political party.

Souphanouvong, the leader of the Pathet Lao, became the first president of the republic and Kaysone Phomvihane the prime minister.
1979 Many Laotians, mostly Hmongs, fled to the jungles and Thailand after the communist takeover.
1986 Encouraged by the Gorbachev reforms in the Soviet Union, the government began decentralizing control of the economy and encouraged private enterprise.
1991 Phomvihane became president, Khamtay Siphandon, prime minister.
1992 President Phomvihane died. Siphandon becomes head of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), the only legal political party.
1994 A "friendship bridge" between Thailand and Laos across the Mekong River was opened, paving the way for greater trade between the two countries.
1995 US lifted its 20-year aid embargo.
1997 Became a full member of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
1998 Siphandon became president.
2001 Siphandon re-elected president.
2004 Gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US, allowing Laos-based producers to benefit from lower tariffs on exports

In November, Laos hosted the 10th ASEAN summit
2005 World Bank approved loans for a hydroelectric dam project.
2006 Choummaly Sayasone became president.