Wednesday, April 1, 2015


The kingdom of Lao was once as great as China, but by the end of the 18th century its western neighbour Siam, now called Thailand, had subsumed it, and then the French made it part of their empire, though formally retaining the monarchy. That ended soon after the French left, with the rise of a Communist government under the Pathet Lao, which were to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia and the Viet Cong of Viet Nam what Hamas is to the Muslim Brotherhood and Boko Haram to al-Qaeda: fellow-travelers if not actually members of the same organisation. 

Over the last few years it has tried to open up, including the encouragement of tourism, but it relies on aid, and is desperately poor in almost everything except the proof that enforced socialism and communism do not work, other than for the elite who rule it. Being landlocked and mountainous does not help; barely 5% of its land is even capable of agriculture, though 80% of the population rely on this for jobs, with rice for home-use the main product, and heroin for export for a long time following close behind. An interesting moral dilemma this; the “Golden Triangle” did at least bring some income, as it did to the poor farmers of Colombia and Afghanistan; to take away the opium trade, as has now virtually been done, is to condemn the poor to even greater poverty, and someone else is going to plant the poppies anyway. Laos made the decision to close the "Golden Triangle" and to build the Nam Theun dam instead, hoping at the very least to provide electricity to people outside the capital Vientiane, and also a high-speed railway line linking Laos and China, still some years from completion and likely to leave Laos economically, and therefore politically, dependent upon China.

Human rights are not well respected in this Buddhist land.

Marks for: 3

Marks against: 3

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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The Argaman Press

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