Laos: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Laos, opium dens, Mercedes imports, women and shoes, and the U.S. and Vietnam.

LAOS

NOTES

Before extensive American bombing, 85% of the population were subsistence (rice) farmers, and many other rural tribesmen cultivated opium, which was the country's primary export.

Meo hill people cultivated the precious poppy on their mountaintops and trekked to the regional centers to sell their crop. In exchange, they accepted only silver or gold, which they wore proudly around their necks in the form of necklaces.

Opium dens can be found in all major towns. Marijuana is sold openly in most markets, but Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are not sold in Laos.

A loophole in an American-Laos trade agreement allowed many Lao to import deluxe Mercedes-Benz automobiles at a fraction of their cost under the heading of "agricultural equipment."

As short a time ago as the 1950s, any Lao woman seen wearing shoes was considered a harlot.

When the Japanese invaded Indochina during W.W. II, they bypassed Laos until 1945, just before their defeat. When the Japanese left, a group of Lao leaders declared independence, but the French returned. In 1949 the French granted Laos "independence within the French Union," but this dissatisfied left-learning leaders, who formed the Pathet Lao and fought in alliance with the Vietnamese Viet Minh against the French.

The Geneva accords of 1954 were to have neutralized Laos and to have integrated the Pathet Lao into the Royal Government, but the Pathet Lao did too well in elections. The CIA backed a right-wing military coup, leading to new outbreaks of fighting between the Pathet Lao and the right.

In 1962 another Geneva agreement set up a coalition government between rightists, neutralists, and the Pathet Lao. The CIA, however, organized its mercenary Meo army, and, as the right wing assumed control over the major cities, fighting broke out again.

In 1964 the U.S. began bombing Laos. U.S. planes bombed the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos and Pathet Lao-held areas in northern Laos. Through early 1973, the U.S. dropped over 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, destroying nearly all visible villages in Pathet Lao areas and forcing the people to live in caves or flee to Royal Government zones.

In 1971 South Vietnamese forces invaded southern Laos to halt the flow of supplies to Communist forces in South Vietnam and Cambodia, but North Vietnamese troops drove them back. In early 1973 representatives of the Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government agreed upon a cease-fire and the removal of all foreign troops from Laos. The U.S. has reduced its presence, but most observers believe that the North Vietnamese are maintaining units along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

U.S. involvement in Laos was so cruel and coldhearted that it made the authoritarian Pathet Lao communists look good by comparison.

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