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Laos ( /ˈlɑːs/ ( About this sound listen), /ls, ˈlɑːɒs, ˈlɒs/; Lao: ລາວ, Lāo [láːw]), officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic ( Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxôn Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. At the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast and Thailand to the west and southwest.

Present-day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th century to the 18th century as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Because of its central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom became a hub for overland trade and became wealthy economically and culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke into three separate kingdoms— Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. In 1893, the three territories came under a French protectorate and were united to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation but was re-colonised by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. A post-independence civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against the monarchy that later came under influence of military regimes supported by the United States. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Dowopabunya communist Pathet Lao came to power, ending the civil war. Laos was then dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. ( Full article...)

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Lao Script Sample.svg

The Lao alphabet ( Lao: ອັກສອນລາວ [ʔáksɔ̌ːn láːw]) is the primary script used to write the Lao language and other minority languages in Laos. It was also used to write the Isan language, but was replaced by the Thai script. It has 27 consonants (ພະຍັນຊະນະ [pʰāɲánsānā]), 7 consonantal ligatures (ພະຍັນຊະນະປະສົມ [pʰāɲánsānā pá sǒm]), 33 vowels (ສະຫລະ [sálā]), and 4 tone marks (ວັນນະຍຸດ [ván nā ɲūt]).

The Lao alphabet was adapted from the Khmer script, which itself was derived from the Pallava script, a variant of the Grantha alphabet descended from the Brahmi script, which was used in southern India and South East Asia during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Akson Lao is a sister system to the Thai script, with which it shares many similarities and roots. However, Lao has fewer characters and is formed in a more curvilinear fashion than Thai.

Lao is written from left to right. Vowels can be written above, below, in front of, or behind consonants, with some vowel combinations written before, over and after. Spaces for separating words and punctuation were traditionally not used, but a space is used and functions in place of a comma or period. The letters have no majuscule or minuscule (upper- and lowercase) differentiation.


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King Photisarath (also spelled Phothisarath, Phothisarat, or Potisarat) (1501–1547) son of King Visoun of Lanxang, is considered to be the most devout of the Lao kings. He banned spirit worship and built temples upon the sites of spirit shrines. His elephant fell and crushed him while he sought to display his prowess to the diplomatic corps. His son Setthathirath returned from Chiang Mai to succeed him to the throne of Lan Xang.

Phothisarath was ruler (1520–47) of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang whose territorial expansion embroiled Laos in the warfare that swept mainland Southeast Asia in the latter half of the 16th century. King Chairachathirat of the Ayutthaya Kingdom invaded Vientiane with a large army in 1540, captured Muang Khouk and crossed the Mekong, but succumbed to a rout at the battle of Sala Kham, the remnants fleeing for their lives and leaving enormous casualties behind. Phothisarath himself allied himself with Burma, sent out 3 campaigns against the Ayutthaya Kingdom: the first to Phitsanulok in 1535, the second one to Vieng Prangarm in 1539, and third was sent in 1548 to Vieng Prab (now Sawangaburi) where he brought back 20,000 families to settle in the Lan Xang kingdom.

In 1548, following the ascension of King Maha Chakkraphat and queen Suriyothai to the Ayutthaya Kingdom throne, Burmese king Tabinshwehti planned an attack, starting the Burmese–Siamese War. Tabinshwehti asked Phothisarath to attack Ayutthaya from the North which eventually resulted in the famous death of Suriyothai in defense of her husband.

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View from near the top of Vat Phou towards Mekong river.


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