Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies
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Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies

Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam

This original Handbook on the Northeast and Southeast Asian Economies provides a broad overview of economic and social developments in the countries covered (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Viet Nam). The analytical narratives on the economic transformation of these economies draw on existing literature, and highlight the interactions of socio-political factors. They examine the role of economic policies and the influence exerted by historical and political circumstances.
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Chapter 14: Laos

Andrea K. Chareunsy


Andrea K. Chareunsy1 A modern political history In the twentieth century, the Lao have gone along with a series of major ‘flows’: the flow of European domination, the flow of communist-led national liberation, the opposing flows of the cold war, and, finally, the global flow of market liberalization. (Ivarsson et al. 1995: 12) Appreciating how the unified Lao territory was ‘created’ permits an understanding of why a people who were once powerful and cultured have deflated into a ‘superficial’ nationhood. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) has frequently been consigned labels denoting its lack of distinct national character: Laos is sometimes called a ‘colonial backwater’, a ‘buffer state’ or a ‘region rather than a nation’. This reflects the recognition that Laos, due in part to its historical dependence on the ‘flows’ of neighbours and of global powers, continues to bear an ephemeral identity. The feature characterizing the early period of modern Lao history and that permeates present-day Lao consciousness is that the Lao were never perceived as having any claim to their own country. Decisions were made by the French and Siamese and later by the Vietnamese and Americans. The Lao political system was fashioned along Vietnamese lines, their cultural persona is closely bound to the Thai and their want for patronage looks to the French. What happened during the French colonial era marks the internal struggle that besets Laos to the present day: as Jerndal and Rigg stated, ‘[the Lao were] manipulated by and...

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