Contemporary Laos: Studies in the Politics and Society of the Lao People's Democratic Republic


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CONTEMPORARY LAOS Studies 'in the Politics and Society of the Lao People's Democratic Republic .

Edited by Martin Stuart-Fox

University of Queensland Press St Lucia • London

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cuniversity of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Queensland 1982

This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism, or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permissio~. Enquiries should be made to the publishers. Typeset by University of Queensland Press · Printed and bound by Hedges & Bell Pty Ltd, Melbourne Distributed in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean by Prentice-Hall International, International Book Distributors Ltd, 66 Wood Lane End, Hemet Hempstead, Herts., England.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data Contemporary Laos: Studies in the Politics and Society of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Includes index. ISBN O 7022 1840 5. I . Laos - Politics and government - Addresses, essays, lectures, 2. Laos - History Addresses, essays, lectures. I. Stuart-Fox, Martin, 1939-

959.4'04

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Contents

••

List of Contributors Preface

Vil

xiii

Acknowledgements

xv

List of Abbreviations

••

XVII



Glossary

XIX

Introduction

1

1 The Communist Seizure of Power in Laos

17

MacAlister Brown

2 Political Institutions of the Lao People's Democratic Republic 39 Chou Norindr

3 Nationalism and the Pathet Lao

62

C. J. Christie

4 Theravadins and Commissars: The State and National Identity in Laos 76 Geoffrey C. Gunn

S The Three Revolutions in Laos

101

AmphayDore

6 Economic Changes in Laos, 197S-1980

116

Nayan Chanda

7 Foreign Aid to the Lao People's Democratic Republic 129 T. M. Burley

8 Buddhism in Contemporary Laos

148

Pie"e-Bernard Lafont

9 Education: The Prerequisite to Change in Laos

163

Jacqui Chagnon and Roger Rumpf

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Contents

10 The Rewards of Revolution: Pathet Lao Policy towards the Hill Tribes since 197S 181 Gary D. Wekkin

11 Minority Policies and the Hmong

199

Gary Y. Lee

12 National Defence and Internal Security in Laos

220

Martin Stuart-Fox

13 Laos and Vietnam: The Anatomy of a "Special Relationship" 245 Carlyle A . Thayer

14 Laos and Thailand: The Balancing of Conflict and Accommodation 274 Justus M . van der Kroef

15 China's Policy towards Laos: Politics of Neutralization 291 C. L . Chiou

16 Laos between Thailand and Vietnam

306

Arthur J. Dommen

17 The Dependence of Laos

313

Dennis J. Duncanson

18 Refugees from Laos, 197S-1979

324

Bernard J. Van-es-Beeck

Index

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Contributors

MacAlister Brown is Professor of Political Science at Williams College, Massachusetts, where he is Chairman of the Political Economy Program. He has a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University. Professor Brown has taught in Nepal and Switzerland, and in 1980, was visiting Research Fellow at Chulalongkorn University. He has visited Laos several times and, together with Professor J. J. Zasloff, has edited two books - Communism in Indochina: New Perspectives and Communist Indochina and U.S. Foreign Policy - and published numerous articles on Indochina. Most recently, he co-edited with Khien Theeravit, Conference Papers on Stability and Security in Southeast Asia. Terence Martin Burley holds a M.A. from Kent State University, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales, at Newcastle, both in the field of economic geography. He has undertaken studies in many parts of the world for, among others, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Economic Community (Development Aid Section) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America. Dr Burley currently works for the Economist Intelligence Unit, London. He is author of an advanced textbook on the economic, social, and political geography of the Philippines, together with a number of specialist economic monographs. In addition, he has published many academic articles in a wide range of scholarly journals. Jacqui Chagnon holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University, Washington, D.C. After serving as Administrative Director of the American International Voluntary Service in Vietnam, she was active in the anti-war movement in the United States. In 1978, she took up the position of Indochina Program Co-representative and Laos Field Director for the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Vientiane. Sh~ has coedited three books - We Promise One Another: Poems from an

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Lisl of Contrihutors

Asian War, Of Quiet Courage (translations of Vietnamese poems) and If You Want Peace . .. - and has published articles on Laos in the Washington Post, Bangkok Post and Southeast Asia Chronicle.

Nayan Chanda, an Indian national, is currently Indochina Editor for the Far Eastern Economic Review. He previously had been Research Fellow at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, and Research Scholar at the University of Paris III. During nine years of reporting and travelling in Indochina, Mr Chanda has visited Laos frequently, where he had the opportunity to interview a number of ranking Communist officials. His articles have appeared in Le Monde Diplomatique, the New York Times, Washington Post and Financial Times, as well as in the Far Eastern Economic Review. In 1981, he was awarded a Research Fellowship at the Australian National University. C. L. Chiou is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Queensland, where he teaches courses on Chinese and Japanese politics and Asian communism. He obtained a B.A. in literature from the National Taiwan University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Riverside. His main research interests are in the areas of Chinese Marxism and political developments in China and Taiwan. His principal publications include Maoism in Action and Democracy and the Future of Taiwan. C. J. Christie obtained his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and since 1970 has been Lecturer in Modern Southeast Asian History at the University of Hull, England. He has travelled widely in Southeast Asia, and from 1979 to 1980, was Visiting Lecturer at University Sains Malaysia, Penang. He has published articles in Modern Asian Studies, Asian Affairs and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, in which his paper on "Marxism and the History of the Nationalist Movements in Laos" appeared. Arthur J. Oommen is the author of Conflict in Laos: The Politics of Neutralization and of numerous articles on Laos in journals such as Asian Survey, Current History and Problems of Communism. He was a foreign correspondent in Indochina between 1959 and 1971 for United Press International and the Los Angeles Times. In 1971, he returned to the United States to study for his Ph.D. in agricultural economics, which he earned in 1975.

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List of Contributors

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IX

Amphay Dore has his doctorate in ethnology and is currently Charge de Recherche at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. His principal publications include Un apres-gout de bonheur and Le Portage du Mekong, together with papers on ethnology in learned journals. His principal area of research is the history of and social attitudes in Luang Prabang from the thirteenth to t'he twentieth century, on which he is preparing a doctoral d'Etat. Dennis J. Duncanson, 0.8.E., M.A., Ph.D., is Reader in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Kent, England. He was formerly a colonial administrator in Malaya and Hong Kong, and Councellor-of-Embassy in Saigon from 1961 to 1966. Apart from numerous articles, his principal publications include Government and Revolution in Vietnam, Laos Emancipated, Peacetime Strategy of the Chinese People's Republic and Changing Qualities of Chinese Life (forthcoming). Geoffrey C. Gunn holds a Master of Social Science degree in Asian Government from the University of Queensland, and is a Ph.D. candidate attached to the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, Melbourne. His thesis is in the field of Lao political history. He has travelled widely in Southeast Asia, and visited Laos frequently between March 1968 and November 197S. His most recent visit to Laos was from December 1980 to January 1981 . Geoffrey Gunn has contributed articles on Indonesia and Lao foreign policy to the journal Asian Survey. Pierre-Bernard Lafont has a degree from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris, and doctorates in law and letters. He is a former scientific member of the Ecole Fran~aise d'Extreme-Orient and a former professor at the universities of Saigon and Phnom Penh. From 1954 to 1962, he was based in Laos for the EFEO, and from 1963 to 197S, undertook annual visits to Laos on behalf of the school. At present, he is Director of Studies in the History and Civilization of the Indochinese Peninsula in the Fourth Section (Historical and Philological Sciences) of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, at the Sorbonne. His principal publications on Laos include two volumes of the Bibliographie du Laos, Inventaire des manuscrits des pagodes du Laos and Prah Lak Prah Lam Phommacak, Aperrus sur le Laos, together with numerous articles. Gary Yla Lee was born in Laos of Hmong parentage. He pursued his tertiary studies in Australia, where he gained a Masters degree

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List of Contributors

from the University of New South Wales with a thesis on "War Refugees in Laos", and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Sydney for a thesis on the Hmong in Thailand. Gary Lee currently is working with the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales, and is liaison officer for the Hmong-Australia Society.

Chou Norindr has a degree in international relations from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris, and doctorates in political science and oriental studies from the University of Paris III. For more than twelve years, he was a political activist for the Neo Lao Hak Sat, including three years spent in the caves of Sam Neua, during which he was a senior member of the NLHS Central Committee. In 1972, he went as a political refugee to France, after disagreement over the political line being followed by the NLHS. His doctoral thesis in oriental studies was entitled "Neolaohakxat ou le Front Patriotique Lao et la Revolution Laotienne". He also has published articles on Lao history and politics, and is a member of the "Centre de Documentation et de Recherches sur l'Asie du Sud-Est", University of Paris III.

Roger Rumpf has degrees in history, philosophy and divinity, and is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. After working as a speaker, organizer and campaigner against American involvement in the Second Indochina War, he was a human rights activist in Washington, D.C. In 1978, he took up the position of Indochina Program Co-representative and Laos Field Director for the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Vientiane. He co-edited, with Jacqui Chagnon, If You Want Peace . .. , and has written articles for the Asian Wall Street Journal and Southeast

Asia Chronicle.

Martin Stuart-Fox was formerly a correspondent for United Press International in Laos and Vietnam. He is at present Senior Tutor in Asian History at the University of Queensland, and has published a number of articles on Laos in journals such as Asian Survey, World

Review, Australian Outlook, Asia Quarterly, The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific Community, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies and Southeast Asian Affairs.

Carlyle A. Thayer is a lecturer in Southeast Asian politics in the Department of Government at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He holds a M.A. in Southeast Asian studies from Yale

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University and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the Australian National University. Dr Thayer studied Vietnamese at Cornell and Yale Universities and Lao language at the University of Southern Illinois. His publications on Indochina have appeared in Asian Profile, Asian Survey, Australian Outlook, Current History, Dyason House Papers, Pacific Community, Southeast Asian Affairs, South-East Asian Spectrum and the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs, as well as in such works as Communism in Indochina: New Perspectives, ed. MacAlister Brown and Joseph J. Zasloff.

Justus M. van der Kroef is Dana Professor and Chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University, New York, and was previously Senior Fellow in the Research Institute on Communist Affairs at Columbia University. Professor van der Kroef has been visiting Professor of Asian Studies in universities in Singapore, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. He has published numerous articles on Southeast Asia in a wide range of scholarly journals, and is Book Review Editor for Southeast Asia for the journal Asian Thought and Society. His most recent book is entitled Communism in Southeast Asia.

Bernard J. Van-es-Beeck has a degree in Lao from the Institut

.

.

National des Langues et Civilisations Orientates, a Master of Letters, and a further degree in Far Eastern Studies. He spent two years in Laos, from 1968 to 1970, and later, from 1976 to 1978, was a member of the Comite National Fran~ais d'Entreaide aux Refugies in Thailand. At present, he is preparing his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne, on the refugee problem in Thailand. Gary D. Wekkin holds a Ph.D. in politics from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He is presently Lecturer in Politics at the University of Wisconsin Centre at Jamesville, Wisconsin. Dr Wekkin has authored a number of articles, including one on the politics of tribal minorities in Indochina, which appeared in the volume on Conflict and Stability in Southeast Asia, ed. Mark W. Zacher and R.S. Milne.

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Preface

It is more than a decade since Nina Adams and Al McCoy edited their book of articles on war and revolution in Laos. No collection of studies on Lao politics, economics or society has appeared since. And yet the decade of the 1970s must rate as perhaps the most significant in the history of the Lao state and people. In 1970, Laos was the target of America's "secret war" against the Vietnamesebacked Pathet Lao insurgents. Ten years later, the insurgents celebrated their fifth anniversary as the government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, while remnants of the former regime mounted their own insurgency. The revolution in Laos was closely linked throughout to events in Vietnam, yet it was also a Lao revolution, and one that many welcomed who had not fought with the Pathet Lao. As from 1975, Laos embarked upon a new direction - in politics, in economic development, in social change and in foreign relations. Six years have passed since these new policies were first essayed - time enough to gain some idea of their effects on the country and its people. Not that any account of the Lao revolution can hope to be other than partial. The contemporary historian has not the perspective that a greater lapse of time may provide. But he does have the advantage of encountering directly the reality about which he writes, even if that reality inevitably is coloured by experience and interpreted in terms of personal values an~ political beliefs. This volume represents, therefore, an initial assessment of the first five years in power of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. It attempts to provide a spectrum of views, from differing perspectives, on everything from political and economic development to policies on education, religion and national minorities, defence and foreign affairs. It was compiled in the belief that what has been happening in Laos is of interest and importance, to both Southeast Asia and the world. And whereas much attention has been focused for one tragic reason or another on Vietnam and Kampuchea since 1975, very little regard has been paid to Laos.

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Preface

But I must also confess to having more personal reasons for editing this collection. I have followed events in Laos closely ever since spending two years in Vientiane as a correspondent in the mid-1960s. Since 1975, some whom I count my friends have stayed to serve the new regime; others have left. I have been involved with helping some who came as refugees to Australia to begin new lives. And I have taught the history of Indochina at the University of Queensland. But my most intimate link with Laos is that it was there I met my wife, Elisabeth (nee Cavalerie) in the Hotel Constellation (now renamed the Vieng Vilay) in 1964. Brisbane

Martin Stuart-Fox

October 1981

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Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge, above all, the co-operation, enthusiasm and patience of all those who agreed to contribute to this volume. Without their scholarly application and understanding in the face of inevitable delays in publication, this book, of course, would never have been produced. My wife, Elisabeth, has at all times given me her full support, not least in assisting me to translate the articles of Dr Dore, Dr Norindr, Professor Lafont and Mr Vanes-Beeck from French to English. Her continued interest in Laos and in this project has been an inspiration. I would also like to thank Mr Frank Thompson and Ms Merrill Yule, Manager and Chief Editor respectively at the University of Queensland Press, for their encouragement and assistance. All Lao terms are represented in a phonetically rational transcription, for which I thank Rod Bucknell. Much of the original manuscript was retyped by Mary Kooyman, and Mr Clayton Bredt drew the diagram and map. To both, I am indebted. Finally, I would like to thank the History Department, University of Queensland, for making funds available for a research trip to Laos just prior to my final editing of the manuscript.

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Abbreviations

ADB AFP ASEAN CIA CMEA CPT DAC ORV ECAFE EDF ESCAP FAO FBIS FEER IBRD ICP IDA IFAD IFC IMF JPRS/ TSEA KBN KL KPL KPL/BQ LDC

Asian Development Bank Agence France Presse Association of Southeast Asian Nations Central Intelligence Agency Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) Communist Party of Thailand Development Assistance Committee (of the OECD) Democratic Republic of Vietnam Economic Commission on Asia and the Far East European Development Fund Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Food and Agricultural Organization Foreign Broadcasts Information Service (refers to the daily reports for Asia and the Pacific, except where stated) Far Eastern Economic Review International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (otherwise known as the World Bank) Indochinese Communist Party International Development Association International Fund for Agricultural Development International Finance Corporation International Monetary Fund Joint Publications Research Service, Translations on South and East Asia Kip de Banque National Kip de liberation Khaosan Pathet Lao (the official Lao news agency) Khaosan Pathet Lao Bulletin Quotidien Least Developed Country

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LFNC

LPDR LPF LPLAF

LPRP NLHS NPCC OECD OPEC

PAVN PGNU PL PRC QER

RLA RLG SOR

SPA SRV SWB UN UNDP

UNHCR UNICEF USAID VCP

VNA VPA

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Lao Front for National Construction (Neo Lao Sang Sat) Lao People's Democratic Republic Lao Patriotic Front Lao People's Liberation Armed Forces Lao People's Revolutionary Party Neo Lao Hak Sat (Lao Patriotic Front) National Political Consultative Council Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries People's Army of Vietnam (so-called during Second Vietnam War) Provisional Government of National Union Pathet Lao People's Republic of China Quarterly Economic Review Royal Lao Army Royal Lao Government Special Drawing Rights Supreme People's Assembly Socialist Republic of Vietnam Summary of World Broadcasts United Nations United Nations Development Program United Nations High Commission for Refugees United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund United States Agency for International Development Vietnam Communist Party Vietnam News Agency Vietnam People's Army

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Glossary

Many terms are explained where they first occur in a chapter. The fallowing are grouped for easy reference under five headings: names of places, peoples and political organizations, and technical terms used in Lao Buddhism and the education system.

1. States, regions and cities Lan Xang: Vieng Chan: Dai Viet: Sipsong Chau Thai: Sipsong Panna: lsan: Cambodia/ Kampuchea: Beijing:

2.

literally "Million Elephants"; the name by which the traditional Lao Kingdom was known alternative transciption for Vientiane; name of both the city and principality formerly the name for Vietnam mountainous area extending from northeastern Laos into northwestern Vietnam; mostly now in Vietnam mountainous region extending from northwestern Laos into southern Yunnan; mostly now in Laos the area of northeastern Thailand comprising the Karat Plateau; formerly under Lao suzerainty the country was known as Cambodia until 1975, and Kampuchea thereafter, a distinction which some authors prefer to retain the official Chinese transliteration for Peking

Ethic groups and peoples

Lao Loum:

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lowland ethnic Lao, but the term sometimes

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Glossary

Lao Soung:

Lao Theung:

T'ai: Tai: Thai: Hmong:

3.

Administrative divisions

Ban: Tasseng: Muong: Cao muong: Khoueng:

4.

includes the upland Tai of Laos who are ethnically closely akin to the Lao Lao of the mountain peaks; refers to those ethnic groups of northern Laos, such as the Hmong, Yao and Man who live at high altitudes Lao of the mountain slopes; refers to those ethnic groups of northern and southern Laos who farm by slash-and-bum methods at middle altitudes: formerly known by the derogatory term "Kha", meaning "slave" refers to all those peoples speaking T'ai languages; includes the Thai, the Lao, the Shan, etc. refers to the upland T'ai speaking minorities in Laos; includes the Red Tai, Black Tai, etc.; also known as the Lao Tai refers to the people of Thailand the term by which the opium-growing people known more often as the "Meo" call themselves; Meo (or Miao) is a derogatory term meaning "savage"

village; administered by a village chief an administrative grouping of five to ten villages district; comprises several tasseng district chief; formerly a member of the provincial aristocracy province; through amalgamation, the former sixteen provinces have been reduced to twelve in the LPDR

Political organizations

Pathet Lao:

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literally "Land. of the Lao"; used ·since 1954 by Western writers to refer to the Lao Communist movement as a whole

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Glossary

Neo Lao Hak Sat: Neo Lao Sang Sat:

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. XXI

the Lao Patriotic Front; a broad political Front set up in January 1956 to replace the Neo Lao lssara (Lao Freedom Front) the Lao Front for National Construction; set up in February 1979 to replace the Neo Lao Hak Sat

Buddhist ter1ns

Diacritical marks have been omitted from terms in general use, such as Theravada, Mahayana, and Sangha, throughout the text. Pali forms are given in brackets below. Theravada the form of Buddhism practised in Laos, (Theravada): Thailand, Burma; sometimes known as the Lesser Vehicle Mahayana the form of Buddhism practised in Japan, (Mahayana): China, Vietnam; sometimes known as the Greater Vehicle Dhamma: the Truth which the Buddha taught; Buddha, Dham.ma and Sangha constitute the Three Gems of Buddhism Sangha (Sangha): the Buddhist order of monks and nuns; in Laos previously divided into the majority mahanikai sect and the reform dhammayut(nikai) the moral effect, either positive or negative, Kamma (Sanskrit, of former deeds performed by an individual in this life or in previous lives Karma): Upekka: the state of detachment that comes through mediation; goal of Buddhist meditation Wat: Buddhist temple Bonze: Buddhist monk

6. Education in Laos Pathom: Mathanyom: Udom: Wat schools:

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primary school covering the first five years junior high school, years 6 to 8 senior high school, years 9 to 11 schools taught by monks in the grounds of a Buddhist temple

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lu•ngP,ab•ng

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Pr,ongSalv HouaPhan K-er,gKhouang

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Introduction

No matter from what perspective it is viewed, the revolution of 1975 must stand among the pre-eminent events of Lao history. That year saw the six-hundred-year-old Lao monarchy abolished, to be replaced by a People's Democratic Republic. Though by comparison with other Communist seizures of power the Lao revolution was relatively gradual and bloodless, it still marked a dramatic turning-point in both the development of the Lao state and in the personal lives of those who lived through it. The difficulties and challenges facing the Lao nation as a result of this revolutionary change of political direction cannot easily be met and overcome. Nor can it be expected that those who took part in the revolution as its agents or its victims will be able easily to view it other than personally, even emotionally. Five years is too brief a lapse of time from which to hope to place the Lao revolution in a proper historical perspective. Yet the attempt must be made, if the contemporary historian is to offer anything more than a mere description of recent events. A number of possible schemata suggest themselves: that the contradiction between the mode of production and relations of production had reached such a pass as to force its resolution through a qualitative leap to socialism (bypassing the stage of capitalism); that the Lao people, long deprived of any real say in their own government, chose the path of socialism in a free choice through mass action; that a small band of dedicated revolutionaries without any popular mandate succeeded in replacing an equally unrepresentative conservative political elite through force and trickery; or that the Lao revolution was engineered by Vietnam as a means of bringing Laos within the confines of a greater Vietnamese state. None of these interpretations is wholly convincing; but then, how can the Lao revolution be understood? Perhaps the best that can be done at present is to place the events of 1975 in the context of an historical development that lays stress upon the interrelationships between internal, socio-economic and

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Contemporary Laos

external, geopolitical factors. This is not the place to do more than sketch such a possible approach. The outline given below hardly pretends to be a definitive treatment of modern Lao history - that must await the researches of historians working from a far more comprehensive range of sources than is presently available. The internal dissension and political division that followed the reign of Souligna Vongsa had reduced Laos by the nineteenth century to a truncated shadow of its former greatness, and laid what remained of the Lao state open to the intervention of imperial powers and covetous neighbours. The Lao principalities found themselves subjected to increasing external pressures. To the west lay an expanding Thai Buddhist state, with pretentions to incorporate all T'ai peoples, including the Shan, the Lao and even the hill Tai. To the east the Vietnamese, after their own ''march to the south'', had wrested control of the Mekong delta from the contracting Khmer state and were turning their attention to consolidating their western borders by extending their influence into Kampuchea and the Lao states. Policial division, regionalism, poor communications, weak economies and small, ethnically divided populations made the Lao principalities vulnerable to interference from both Thailand and Vietnam. With the arrival in Southeast Asia of the French and British, new external factors were introduced: foreign powers with aggressive policies of territorial acquisition either for economic exploitation or for strategic military or political gain. Laos was occupied by the French for the latter reason. The effect of French colonial rule was to bring the three Lao principalities under the control of a single, strong, external power, though not to integrate them internally. The French, like the British, preferred to divide and rule. Not until the advent of the Japanese in 1941, as a rival external force, did the King of Luang Prabang become King of Laos. Politically, an important impact of French colonialism in Laos was to undermine the traditional polity based upon popular acceptance of a royal family's right to rule, supported by an aristocratic elite. Such acceptance in turn depended upon Buddhist values, which regarded social position as the just deserts of merit accumulated in previous existences. The king n1led because he deserved to rule; and theoretically anyone could be reborn into the royal family, providing he accumulated sufficient merit. The same applied to the families of the aristocracy, or even wealthy peasants. In terms of this traditional world view, it mattered little if Laos was divided into three principalities, or more. Under the Indianderived ''mandala'' system of relations between states, powerful princes extended their domains through the imposition of tributary

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Introduction

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relationships upon vassal principalities. What was significant was the historical memory of the extent of the Lao politico-cultural area, over which any future truly national ruler would be expected to exercise his sway. That parts of this patrimony might fall temporarily under the control of a neighbouring state meant nothing in the long term. Acceptance of a tributary relationship was an expedient by which Lao princes preserved their political hold over their own minor states. Such a relationship did not reduce their cultural independence, for it consisted of no more than an understanding between courtly elites. It was expected always that in the future a Lao ruler of sufficient merit would win back the allegiance of all Lao, on both banks of the Mekong, and thus re-establish the polity of Fa Ngum and Souligna Vongsa. By incorporating certain Lao principalities within a territorially defined Lao state, the French in effect precluded t_h e possibility of re-establishing the political unity of a Lao ethnic, linguistic and cultural entity. The French thus froze what was until then a flexible system of interstate relations, which held open the possibility of future change in the power balance in mainland Southeast Asia. They thus defined the future of the region in terms of their own Western-oriented conception of competition with Britain (the British Indian Empire in Burma) across the body of an independent buffer state (Thailand), which both sides attempted to subvert to their advantage. The effect of limiting the possible extent of the Lao state was to diminish the potential standing of all Lao princes. By conceding that the Isan (north-eastern Thai) provinces were part of Thailand, the French severed the natural lines of communication, which any Lao prince would have to use to extend his authority. The eastbank principalities thereby were deprived of the challenge of forming the nucleus of a greater Lao state. Not only that, but their administrative authority within their own territories was reduced to a facade, behind which operated the French Resident. The colonial authorities, despite maintaining the outward form of the traditional monarchy, thus undermined the Lao world view, which underpinned the King's right to rule - not so much in the eyes of the peasantry, among whom the Sangha (order of monks) still bolstered the traditional order, but among the politically more sophisticated aristocratic families, whose ambitions consequently were aroused. This weakening of traditional notions of authority was exacerbated by the administrative structure installed by the French, and by the form of economic development that was permitted. Without going into details, it is enough to point out that by subordinating

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(~ontemporary Laos

Laos to the needs, administrative, economic and strategic, of a French Indochinese empire centred upon Vietnam, the French stifled the development in Laos of a modernizing, indigenous administration (the French civil service in Laos largely was staffed by Vietnamese), an integrated rural-based economy, or even any serious debate over the proper role of Laos in colonial Indochina or a post-colonial world. The result was that when the Second World War loosened the French grip on Indochina, the Lao were as unprepared as any colony for the responsibilities and demands of selfgovernment. The independent Lao state that emerged from the turmoil of 1953-54 had the constitutional form of a democratic monarchy, along European lines. The King of Luang Prabang was accepted as King of Laos, but his traditional role (and thus his charismatic power as a symbol of national identity and cultural pride) was as thoroughly undermined by the French-educated elite who ran the government from Vientiane as it had been by the former colonial authorities. No attempt was made to re-establish the structure of the traditional state as a starting-point for a specifically Lao political evolution. Instead, the political philosophy of French republicanism was incongruously grafted on to the shell of Lao monarchism. No place was left for Buddhism, which found itself relegated to a purely religious function, divorced entirely from the kind of socio-political role it traditionally has filled in Theravada politics. The Royal Lao government thus deprived itself of the legitimation afforded the monarchy by the Sangha and, by extension, of any legitimation accruing to it as the government of the king. At the same time, it failed to secure an alternative basis for the legitimation of state power in the eyes of the people. The forms of Western parliamentary democracy were adopted (National Assembly, deputies, elections, etc.) without its content. Everything from culture and education to economic and political power was monopolized by an aristocratic elite that owed its position to social (class) divisions anachronistically carried over from traditional Lao society. Its reliance on a foreign power, increasingly seen as subverting Lao cultural values, and the crass materialism of those in positions of power in the government and the army, only further undermined the legitimacy of the RLG in the eyes of many Lao. Furthermore, just as educational policies failed to provide the basis for Lao democracy, so minorities policy under the RLG failed to lay the foundations for a Lao national identity transcending ethnic Lao limitations (both cultural and demographic). With the reality of independence and the retreat of France, Laos

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again experienced conflicting pressures from beyond its borders, which in turn influenced internal developments. It was the height of the Cold War. The United States was determined to contain ''the virus of communism" in Asia. Laos' strategic position and internal weakness invited intervention in its internal affairs. Lao attempts to pursue a policy of neutrality met with American opposition. As a result, both China and North Vietnam moved to secure their national interests by establishing areas of influence in Laos. One internal effect of this external intervention was loss of unity, and with it the possibility of forging a national identity appropriate to a modern nation state. Laos was too weak and divided to oppose all comers. The only alternative lay in joining forces with one or another foreign power. Under these circumstances, all attempts to establish neutrality were doomed to failure. The neutralist coup d'etat of 1960 only had the effect of increasing foreign intervention, and the Geneva Agreements of 1962 did no more than restore the status quo ante: that is, defacto division of the country behind a facade of neutralism, with the Chinese holding the north, the Vietnamese in the east and the Americans and Thai along the Mekong. Meanwhile, many of the political mistakes made by the RLG were not being repeated by the Pathet Lao. While the Pathet Lao showed themselves equally adept at exploiting what remained of the traditional order (Souphanouvong, a member of the Royal Family, was president of the Neo Lao Hak Sat, a counterpart to Souvanna Phouma as prime minister of the RLG), they went much further in preparing the ground for legitimation of their alternative political regime. This they did by promoting a system of universal education, including minorities within the party structure and organs of administration, subordinating Buddhism to party influence (by including the monastic community among partycontrolled mass organizations), and incorporating the entire population in a new interlocking series of vertical political structures, the purpose of which was to legitimize the Party's right to rule. A new criterion of socio-political standing based upon merit achieved through ideological loyalty and service to the Party replaced the traditional criterion of merit through previous kamma and present devotion to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. In other words, the Pathet Lao made a real attempt, albeit confined to the zone under their control, to institute an alternative socio-political order that dispensed entirely with the traditional mode of legitimation of state power. This left no room either for the monarchy, or for an aristocracy that assumed a favoured right to social and political prestige and influence. Accordingly, when the Pathet Lao seized power, both were abolished.

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The ceasefire agreement of 1973 between the Pathet Lao and the Vientiane government signalled a progressive American withdrawal from Indochina, which in 1975 turned into defeat. But with the founding of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, neutrality proved no more a possibility than it had been previously. A ''special relationship'' tied Laos too closely to Vietnam. In effect, however, Laos exchanged internal division resulting from a formal neutrality the nation was unable to safeguard, for internal unity under the protection of a single external power with which it was openly aligned. Such an alignment at least provided the opportunity to integrate the various ethnic communities in Laos into a single national identity, as an essential first step in creating a cohesive and modern nation state - always providing the country's chosen protector was strong enough to protect. Both France and the United States, for different reasons, had failed to encourage such a development - France because Laos was of little intrinsic value and was easier to rule (from Vietnam) as a fragmented traditional society; the United States because, as Kennedy's decision in 1962 showed, America was not prepared to act as protector for all of the country, with all that implied for confrontation with Beijing (Peking) and Hanoi. Even at the height of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, American combat forces never occupied Laos. American actions in Laos were at all times closely dependent upon what was happening in Vietnam. The Americans had no more interest in Laos per se than the French had had. The Vietnamese, however, did. Hanoi was prepared to stand as guarantor for all Laos. The pro-Vietnamese alignment adopted by the LPDR not only has had important foreign policy implications, such as confrontation with China, it also has had equally important internal implications. These may be understood by differentiating alternative policy orientations within the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. Over the past five years, two opposing tendencies have been evident: one towards the direct implementation of policies applying Vietnamese experience to Lao situations; the other towards the implementation of policies worked out specifically with reference to Lao conditions. The difference is an important one, for whereas the former tendency is likely to lead to a perceptible Vietnamization of Lao society, the latter seems more likely to preserve characteristic aspects of Lao culture. The working-out of these internal tendencies in the evolution of political decision-making clearly has been affected by geopolitical considerations. The Vietnamese have felt more comfortable with and have thrown their political support behind those members of the LPRP hierarchy most ready to accept Vietnamese models and

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thinking. Conversely, the nationalistic overtones implicit in working out a specifically Lao road to socialism have had to be systematically minimized, lest they lead to anti-Vietnamese, or worse still pro-Chinese, sentiments within the Party. There is therefore a contradiction implicit in the LPRP acceptance of a ''special relationship'' with Vietnam. On the one hand, the Party and government have been in a position to build upon the internal unity of the country in order to generate a sense of national identity; on the other hand, the nationalism that would seem to be an essential feature of that identity has had to be de-emphasized in favour of a less popular commitment to Indochinese solidarity under the leadership of Vietnam, a policy made hardly less palatable by frequent reference to proletarian internationalism. Despite this contradiction, a broad interpretation of political developments in Laos prior to and during the first five years of existence of the LPDR can be offered in terms of the opposing policy tendencies defined above. The decision taken by the Pathet Lao in 1973 to agree to a ceasefire and enter into a third coalition government with rightist and neutralist politicians marked an important policy change. It followed Vietnamese initiatives in deciding to negotiate an American withdrawal from South Vietnam. But it also provided an opportunity for men who had spent two decades fighting a war in the jungle to acquaint themselves with the quite different problems of administering a population at peace. And while inclusion in a coalition provided the Pathet Lao with the opportunity to spread their political message, it also gave PL members of the government the opportunity to renew contact with their cultural roots. Through these intangible means and through an increase in party membership among ethnic Lao, the coalition tended to strengthen the ''Lao'' tendency, though never at the expense of Vietnamese influence, which continued to be exercised through those more ''pro-Vietnamese'' members of the Politburo and the Central Committee who remained in the Pathet Lao zone and held no office in the coalition. The collapse of rightist regimes in Phnom Penh and Saigon provided conditions for the seizure of full political power by the Pathet Lao in Laos. The decision to dispense with the coalition, abolish the monarchy and move directly to a fully-fledged People's Democratic Republic, immediately increased the influence of the ''pro-Vietnamese'' policy line, since it led to the take-over of key positions of power in the new government by those favouring the application of Vietnamese models. However, abolition of the coalition also confronted the Pathet Lao with a number of problems. The Party had not yet had time to build its strength in the

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''Vientiane-zone''. It therefore had to rely upon poorly educated, predominantly Lao Theung cadres to implement its policies. But the mountain minorities traditionally have been treated with contempt by the lowland-dwelling, culturally and politically dominant ethnic Lao. Difficulties could therefore be expected. More important was the problem of consolidation of political power in the face of expected opposition from the large rightist army and police force. Security was obviously a major consideration. Given time, and a continuation of the coalition, the seriousness of these difficulties almost certainly would have been reduced. This was the point Souphanouvong was making when he reportedly told French teachers in Vientiane towards the end of 1975, ''We have political power now, but it is five years too soon.'' Not surprisingly, during ·1976 the predominant concern of the new regime was to consolidate its political and administrative power throughout the country. The ''hard line'' the Pathet Lao felt obliged to enforce applied policies derived from the means used in Vietnam to mobilize a population at war, in order to transform Lao society as rapidly as possible. But under Lao conditions, and given the widespread readiness of many of those who had lived and worked in the ''Vientiane zone'' to support the Pathet Lao and accept radical social change, these policies proved unnecessarily harsh, and resulted in the flight of large numbers of refugees. Laos, unlike Vietnam, because of its geographical situation, could not limit this exodus of technically trained personnel. This neglect of differences in condititions pertaining in Laos and Vietnam provided an example of the failure of the new government to analyse the implications of applying Vietnamese policies to the Lao situation. Although late 1976 and early 1977 saw some relaxation of earlier policies, for instance in relation to Buddhism, Thai hostility and internal security led to a renewed build-up of Vietnamese forces in Laos. At the same time, the sorry state of Vietnamese- Kampuchean relations determined the Vietnamese to ensure that such an unsatisfactory relationship would never develop with Laos. Together these factors led to the Lao-Vietnames:! Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation of July 1977, which elicited widespread criticism in Laos. The ''Vietnamese'' policy tendency continued in the ascendant during 1978, as Laos followed the Vietnamese example of accelerated socialization, aimed principally at reducing the private sector and forcing the pace of agricultural co-operativization. While the former destroyed what little remained of private commerce, the latter engendered such concerted peasant oppostion that the program had to be abruptly terminated in mid-1979. This was

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the signal for a radical rethinking of economic policy, but one that foilowed the line of liberalization already decided upon at the sixth plenum of the Vietnam Communist Party to apply in southern Vietnam. If the reforms introduced in the LPRP's Seventh Resolution in December 1978 went further than those of the VCP, this was probably with Vietnamese agreement. But that the Lao· did go further may be indicative of the new readiness of the LPRP leadership to accept the logic of those who argued for more ''Lao'' policies. Publication of targets for the first fi 1,e-year plan specifically endorsing the economic line of the Seventh Resolution indicates that this tendency continues to be influential in official Lao thinking. The above model of interplay of external and internal forces in Lao history, and its extension in the tentative interpretation offered of recent political developments in the LPDR, are meant as no more than a possible framework for the understanding of contemporary Lao history, and in the light of which the contributions in this volume may be considered. This is not to suggest for a moment that all the authors represented here would endorse such an interpretation. Far from it. Nor is the aim to impose such an interpretation. It is rather to contribute to a debate as to how Lao history can be theoretically understood, a debate to which Lao scholars both inside and outside the LPDR are certain to contribute in the years ahead, and which will see the Lao revolution integrated more satisfactorily into the full course of Lao history. No attempt has been made in this collection of papers to impose a single theoretical or ideological viewpoint. Some authors would be highly critical of the Communist regime in Laos, others more sympathetic; some have been closely involved with events leading up to the change in government in 1975, others are more detached. Each brings to his work his own convictons, based upon a depth of interest in, affection for and concern over Laos, tempered by the objectivity of scholarship. The order in which papers are arranged in collections of this kind always presents certain problems. Should a broad interpretative framework or more detailed analyses of themes and events be presented first? In a sense, it is immaterial in which order papers are arranged, since it seems unlikely that many readers will begin at the beginning and work their way through. This is a book to be read for its coverage of particular areas. For this reason, each paper stands complete in its own right: very few cross-references are given, and few papers make specific reference to another. Inevitably, therefore, there will be occasional repetition: it is not

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possible to erase from all papers the fact that the Lao People's Democratic Republic was established on 2 December 1975, or that the Lao People's Revolutionary Party traces its origins to the Indochinese Communist Party founded by Ho Chi Minh. Papers in this collection have been arranged in some kind of order, however. Since the period under consideration covers the years from 1975 to 1980, the first five years in power of the Lao Communist regime, it seems appropriate to begin with the crucial events of 1975, leading up to the establishment of the LPDR. This is followed by discussions of the structure and ideology of the present regime, and the difficulty it had encountered in overcoming the legacy of the past. The central group of articles focuses upon specific government policies in such areas as economic policy and development, Buddhism, education, ethnic minorities, and defence and internal security. Finally, the last group of papers examines Laos' foreign relations. Three papers analyse relations with the country's three most powerful neighbours: Vietnam, Thailand and China. Two then place these relations in historical and geopolitical perspective, thereby offering interpretations of the significance of the Lao revolution in the overall context of the political and historical forces interacting in mainland Southeast Asia. Finally, no discussion of the Lao revolution can be considered complete without reference to those whom it has displaced: the almost one in every ten Lao who are now refugees. In his paper on ''The Communist Seizure of Power in Laos'', Professor MacAlister Brown begins by outlining the thirty-year struggle of the Lao Communist movement since the Second World War, which culminated in the establishment of a People's Democratic Republic. The bulk of his paper, however, is devoted to an analysis of the special features of the Pathet Lao seizure of power. Some of these features, such as the use of force, camouflage of the leading role of the Communist Party, its Leninist revolutionary planning and implementation of policy, can be traced to the classical Soviet example of the October Revolution. But others, the use of base areas, prolonged guerrilla conflict and reliance upon external aid, were taken from the Vietnamese. Much of the interest in Professor Brown's analysis lies, however, in those features that were unique to the Lao situation: the ''quasi-legalism'' of the Pathet Lao approach, their manipulation of the neutralists and, above all, their willingness to enter into successive coalition governments with their political enemies in order to increase their own standing. The major political institutions of the Lao Communist state are examined by Dr Chou Norindr, whose informed discussion reflects

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his own former close association with the Neo Lao Hat Sat. Dr Norindr begins with the history and structure of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, including the functioning and membership of its organs: the Politburo, Central Committee, Secretariat, Central Commissions and provincial and local committees. He then goes on to discuss the role of the Party in imposing its ideology upon the Lao people. Turning to the government, Dr Norindr demonstrates both the extent to which power is concentrated in relatively few hands and how that power is exercised. By contrast, both the Supreme People's Assembly and the Lao Front for National Construction are, despite their constitutional position, virtually without political influence. Dr C. J. Christie, in his paper on ''Nationalism and the Pathet Lao'', takes as his topic the ''interrelationship between nationalist and internationalist objectives'' in government policies since 1975. The tension between the two is analysed in four broad areas: economic and social transformation to socialism; rehabilitation of Lao indentity and culture; creation of a unified national consciousness among all ethnic minorities; and evolution of a Lao foreign policy towards neighbouring states. The contradiction between nationalist goals and international dependency that is evident in all four areas has led to the adoption of an ambivalent attitude to nationalism on the part ·or the new Lao regime. This is rationalized at an ideological level by subordinating nationalist ambitions to ''the wider interests of the international socialist movement'', without whose assistance national goals would be unattainable. Geoffrey Gunn takes up some of the same issues in his paper on the state and national identity, but from a different perspective. Gunn examines the traditional structure of the Lao state and its religio-cultural legitimation of monarchy, with a view to determining how effective the Royal Lao Government was in appropriating these for its own purpose. Particular attention is paid to the changing role of the Buddhist Sangha. Buddhism and the problem of integration of ethnic minorities provide the focus for Gunn's analysi:, of the ways in which the Communist regime is attempting to lay tl1e foundations of a new political order. But he concludes that the authorities' efforts are hampered by a tendency towards bureaucratic centralism, which stems from the legacy of traditional modes of thought and social organization. Turning to the ideology of Lao communism, Dr Amphay Dore emphasizes the central importance of the concept of the ''three revolutions'' - in modes of production, science and technology, and culture and ideology - in promoting the socialist transforma-

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Conternpornry Laos

held near Vientiane on 1 and 2 December 1975, which abolished the monarchy and set up the Lao People's Democratic Republic. At this Congress, Kaysone Phomvihane, in presenting his report setting out the tasks of each social group, made the following appeal: To venerable monks, novices and other clergymen who should, in order to contribute actively to reviving the spirit of patriotic union, encourage the population to increase production and to economize, help in educating people so as to raise their cultural standard, contribute to persuading, educating and correcting those who do not live virtuously or misbehave, so that they become good citizens. 10

These new tasks required by the revolution, while confirming that religion had its place in the Republic, no longer permitted monks the choice of living outside society. From then on, monks had to become not only monk-citizens but also monks involved in political life, impregnated with ''the right of collective mastery'', having a liking for study and a commitment to socialism. While it might have been expected that monks in the area previously controlled by Vientiane would be given time to adapt to the new situation, as early as the beginning of 1976 a number of attacks were mounted against Buddhism. 11 The teaching of religion and Buddhist morality was for bidden in primary schools. Teaching in schools for party members emphasized that religion was the opiate of the people. Monks had to put up with petty annoyances in the newly liberated zone. These attacks, which seem to have been due to local cadres over-stepping the instructions of the Politburo, alarmed the people, the great majority of whom wanted to continue practising Buddhism and placing their trust in the monks. These attacks did not last, and Buddhism (administered now by the Department of Religious Affairs in the Ministry of Education) was quickly treated with respect by the new regime. In return, the monks readily collaborated in the government's educational program and propaganda objectives. This allowed Kaysone in his report of December 1976 to declare: ''Monks actively contribute in transmitting the policies of the Party and the State, educating young people and providing medical care for the population.'' 12 By the end of 1976, in fact, a balance seems to have been established between the Party and Buddhism, each of which seems to have accommodated the other. An observer wrote: • Monks take part in their thousands in the building of socialism, in eliminating illiteracy. Phoumi Vongvichit, member of the Politburo of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, attends all their important meetings. The religious fes tival of That Luang is one of the most important in this socialist country. 11

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Since that time, Laos' numerous monks (12 000 in mid-1980, according to the Department of Religious Affairs) have taken part in various government projects and campaigns. In this respect, all things considered, Laos might be compared with Poland. Monks devote themselves to educational tasks. It should be pointed out, however, that such tasks constitute the traditional vocation of the Sangha, since the Buddha never considered himself a god or prophet, but a master with the mission of teaching men the origin of pain and the means of overcoming it. Moreover, for centuries, until the establishment of the French Protectorate with its public and state schools, the pagoda was the only existing school. But whereas formerly pagodas provided an almost entirely religious education for novices, since 1975 they have reoriented their activities. Now monks teach adults to read and write by actively participating in ''campaigns for the elimination of illiteracy''. They also assist in teaching the Lao language and other subjects, either in pagodas where there are no schools, or in schools where there are no teachers. Monks also take an active part in the government's campaign to promote public health. Traditionally, medical care always has been an important concern of the Sangha, for to relieve the pain of others is to perform a pious work and acquire merit (puflfla) for future lives. But whereas formerly some monks were soothsayers and healers, passing themselves off as miracle-workers to obtain fame or material rewards, they now deny possessing any magic or supernormal powers lest they be accused of exploiting public credulity. They now present themselves as health-workers, as a kind of medical practitioner giving consultations and treating illnesses, either with the help of a local pharmacopoeia based upon herbs or by using Western medicine. None the less, one can hardly imagine that persons credited with saintliness and therefore with power to heal, do not continue to be requested, as in the past, to make use of their ''gifts'' to care for and cure the sick. It can be seen, therefore, that to all intents and purposes the new regime has not interfered with certain traditional roles Buddhism has performed within the community. On the contrary, instead of curtailing these traditional social activities, the new regime has encouraged them. This is particularly the case in education, for over the previous twenty-five years the educative role of the monks had declined greatly as their work was taken over by trained teachers. 1 ' Another traditional role monks have fulfilled has been as community counsellors. Twenty-five years ago monks had an undeniable authority, due to the asceticism of their lives. Because of their impartiality, and the wisdom of many of them, the faithful consulted the monks on practically anything, from a simple piece

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of advice to decisions affecting their or their family's future. And they accepted the monks' advice, which gave the pagoda social importance and considerable occult power. After 1955, monks lost some of their influence, less among older people than among the young. 15 But after the founding of the LPDR, in the people's eyes monks again became ''ideal Buddhists'', ''the image of Buddha on earth'', and rapidly regained their previously declining influence. 16 The new regime does not seem to mind if monks advise people who ask their assistance. But whereas it pays no attention to advice given by monks on personal matters that have nothing to do with politics, it does take an interest in anything pertaining to political, economic or social questions. This is why the authorities endeavour to arouse the sympathy of the monks for government action programs and policies, so that they will speak favourably about them to their lay followers - something they generally seem to have done. But in order ''correctly'' to use their influence in favour of priorities dictated by the government - to promote the value of work, or encourage people to participate in mass movements or form co-operatives - monks have to be politically educated. Thus like every other Lao, monks are encouraged to study Marxism as well as the political line and socio-economic goals set by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. But this obligation, together with attendance at political seminars, does not seem to be considered by the monks as a constraint on their religious activities. Also it does not seem that the great majority of the Sangha believe that Buddhism can be fundamentally opposed to Marxism. 11 But if, once the new regime was established, most monks agreed to follow a course of political education, the population, on the contrary, did not accept this so easily. People were reluctant to attend political seminars, but continued going frequently to the pagodas. Doubtless this convinced the regime to use Buddhism to spread its political message. With this in mind, the authorities followed two courses of action. On the one hand, they encouraged the development of the Lao Union of Buddhists, a mass organization bringing together all Buddhists. Its effectiveness was evident from the statement of Phoumi Vongvichit, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Educaton, who declared in January 1980 that ''religious associations have an important part to play in the new socialist regime and religious leaders must improve and develop Buddhist organizations throughout the country.'' 11 On the other hand, the authorities encouraged monks to take part in propaganda on behalf of the regime by informing people that there was no incompatibility between Marxism and Buddhism,

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and by emphasizing the early revolutionary aspects of Buddhism mentioned in many texts. 1' In return, monks were assured a daily ration of rice. 20 Most such propaganda was carried out during sermons in the pagodas. After speaking about some Buddhist precept or rule, the preacher would inform his congregation of the Party's policies, encourage them to participate in, and therefore approve of, current ideological programs and to contribute to the success of economic plans. Thus the Sangha, in propagating Buddhist doctrines, has come to act simultaneously as propagandist for the Party's political line. But it could hardly be otherwise in a system where society is entirely submissive to the dictates of the Party. As Phoumi Vongvichit reminded his audience at the January 1980 Congress of Monks from all provinces of Laos: ''Monks teaching Buddhism to the people must do so in accordance with the socialist policy of the regime. '' 21 Together with the study of Marxism and party policy, monks have been encouraged to continue studying Buddhism, traditionally the vocation of the Sangha,in order to know and practise it better. Prior to 1975, some Buddhist dignitaries had criticized the low level of religious knowledge of many monks. Monks were reproached for the lack of interest in learning and for their method of studying, which depended more on memory than the reflection essential to the flowering of spiritual life. Other criticism centred upon failure to introduce necessary changes, particularly through the correction and expurgation of those passages that distracted attention from the principal rules. 22 Even after the victory of the revolution, when everyone was encouraged to study according to his abilities, Buddhism continued to be studied in the pagodas and the ''Buddhist College'' of Vientiane. 23 In the past, however, monks had studied manuscripts kept in monastery libraries, many of which were apocryphal or tendentious, containing unimportant rules incompatible with modern living or encouraging belief in superstitions, especially in the cult of spirits known as phi. Now monks study revised texts, rewritten by a committee of monks convened on the initiative of the LPRP and consisting of representatives from both the former ''liberated zone'' and the ''Vientiane zone''. This committee has been entrusted with the task of pruning and modernizing both canonical and extra-canonical texts, a project that accords with wishes expressed by reformist monks prior to 1975. Theoretically, the aim is to purify Lao Buddhism: 2' the result seems to be to reduce it to three principles - not to sin; to increase one's excellence; and to purify one's own heart 2 ' - all of which are compatible with Marxism-Leninism. Formerly, as monks devoted most of their time to meditation

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(bhavana) and study, they seldom worked with their hands and

relied for their keep on the village community supporting their pagoda. Buddhist monks have been, by definition, mendicants (bhik~), and the line of monks who each morning seek their food along village paths or city streets is a classic image of those countries where Theravada Buddhism is practised. This way of life has caused the Sangha to be accused of being an unproductive group within an underdeveloped community, which greatly needs the labour of all its able-bodied citizens. This criticism, coming as it has from many lay circles, does not date from the accession to power of the Lao Patriotic Front. During a seminar on development held for monks in Vientiane in 1971, a civil servant pointed out that ''under a communist regime, monks were expected to be productive, something which seemed to him a quality''. 26 Another quoted the example of ''a Xieng Khouang monk who had to cultivate a garden and raise animals. That was presented as a possible future solution.' ' 21 One should not be surprised, therefore, if after 1976, in a Laos deprived of Western aid, without industry and whose rudimentary agriculture was hit by a succession of natural disasters, economic questions were of major importance. The population had to be fed as much as possible from the resources of the country. Monks, who let us not forget, had become ordinary citizens like everyone else, therefore found themselves obliged to change their way of life. The first legal constraints were applied in 1976, for bidding people to offer food to monks, thereby forcing monks to obtain their own. This made monks compete with each other and resulted, since man is far from perfect, in the development of an attitude the Buddha had condemned: attachment to worldly goods. 21 When the authorities reversed their decision prohibiting people from feeding monks, they decreed that only rice could be offered, obliging monks to continue to seek other means of livelihood. This decision was taken not simply to inconvenience the monks, but was part of a general policy of self-sufficiency, whereby citizens and civil servants, especially in the towns, would all cultivate their own gardens. It was therefore perfectly natural that monks who already received a daily ration of rice, should themselves make the effort to produce the balance of food (mainly vegetables) necessary for their diet. By gardening, the Sangha would be contributing in a small way to the national goal of self-sufficiency. But cultivating the land does go against the precepts of traditional Lao monastic l1fe, and since it can lead to the accidental killing of small creatures, may result in transgression of one of the Buddha's fundamental principles: that of not killing a living being. 2 ' With the exception of a

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few conservative monks, however, this change in the Sangha's lifestyle has not met with opposition on the part of most monks and their lay followers. Lay followers did object, however, when the new regime made decisions that nullified essential aspects of what the Lao had retained of Buddhism: in particular, the giving of alms in order to acquire merit to improve one's next reincarnation. For rather than endeavouring to become a better ''social being'' in the Marxist sense, even in 1976 the principal motivation of Buddhist laymen was to obtain a better existence in some future life. They hoped to achieve this end through giving to the monks - ''these direct representatives of the Buddha, his living images upon earth'' 30 gifts that would generate merit. 3 1IThe most meritorious act a Buddhist can perform is, every day, to offer food to the monks as they come begging. One can understand, therefore, that people wanted ..:/'~ the right to give these gifts, which allowed them to acquire and c::. amass merit for the after-life - despite the meagre cost to each family of supplying one or two daily meals or its equivalent. As it was, government policy outlawing slash-and-burn agriculture to protect f orests32 , together with rice requisitioning, had led to shortages of rice in some areas. This had reduced the ability of people to give, and thus frustrated their hopes for an after-life.\The government prohibition against feeding monks had a similar effect. When in the middle of 1976, the government decided to assure a daily supply of rice to each pagoda according to the number of monks there, it designated families to make these provisions turn by turn. But this took away the spontaneity of the gift, inducing devout followers to fear that such gifts might count no longer as alms, and thus be unable to generate merit. Decisions limiting the acquisition of merit always have been unpopular and caused friction between the people and local authorities. To date, such regulations have been cancelled or amended whenever it appeared likely that they would lead to a deterioration in relations with the Buddhist community. It is interesting to note that whereas most lay followers have remained faithful to the traditional beliefs of their parents and ancestors, and do not want any change in their religion, the monks have been more prepared to accept changes imposed by the new regime in their monastic rules, sacred texts or religious practices. Whatever criticism may be levelled against the LPDR, all impartial observers have unanimously reported that pagodas in Laos are used for worship, that they can be visited by the faithful without anxiety, that traditional Buddhist festivals are still celebrated and that anyone can don the yellow robe of a monk without undue dif-

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ficulty. ,, This apparently idyllic picture can be accounted for in two ways. It could be said that since Buddhism is so popular, it cannot be eliminated. So far, the authorities have preferred to compromise: to treat Buddhism with consideration, rather than to compete with it, especially as the outcome of such a struggle would not be certain. This argument, which is defended by the majority of observers, only can be accepted if we are referring to the short space of time during which revolutionary power has been established in Laos. It is obvious that over a long period, Buddhism cannot hope to triumph over Marxism in a socialist country. An alternative explanation is that Buddhism can be accepted by any regime because it has never been an organized and institutionalized orthodoxy, has never tried to elaborate a social or political·doctrine to achieve its ideals and always has put up with any circumstances in which it was protected as an institution. Moreover, even when it has kept apart from political life, it usually has followed a line in accordance with government policy. , 4 It should be noted, however, that the attitude or the authorities differs from place to place in Laos. Thus, if the picture outlined above reflects the situation of Buddhism in the region of Vientiane, it does not reflect exactly the situation in Luang Prabang. There Buddhism, like the population itself, has been reduced to obedience and is seemingly in decline, judging by the number of people visiting the pagodas. As for the rural areas, it is difficult to know what is happening, for information is often contradictory. One can conclude that the present situation of Lao Buddhism seems satisfactory, at least as viewed from the outside. Freedom of worship seems assured and the number of monks and novices, according to the Department of Religious Affairs (and confirmed by the Thai magazine, Thai Nikon,'), remains at pre-1975 levels. The regular presence of ministers and party leaders at major religious festivals, such as that of That Luang in Vientiane, always reported by the official news-agency, proves that the LPDR recognizes the reality of Buddhism in Laos. However, some monks in Thailand question whether the situation of Buddhism is as satisfactory as foreign observers believe. For example, in a book entitled The State of the Buddhist Religion in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos, published in Thai'' in Bangkok in 1977, the Venerable Maha Canla Tanbuali, a refugee Lao monk,, 7 writes that from the moment they attained power, the Lao revolutionaries tried to suppress all spiritual life in the pagodas, obliged monks to share their time between indoctrination and the propagation of communism and attempted to make away with Buddhism altogether. Similar accusations, to which should be

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added the obligation to work with one's hands, abolition of the Buddhist hierarchy, nationalization of the assets of monasteries and prohibition against reading religious texts printed in Thailand, have been made by other expatriate Lao monks, and by Thai monks who previously lived in Laos but who left after the formation of the LPDR. '' These accusations have been refuted by other monks, especially the Thai followers of Buddhadasa. These latter are of the opinion that since 1975, Lao Buddhism has freed itself of those false beliefs that have encumbered the Buddhism of other Indochinese countries. As proof, they point to the prohibition of the spirit cult (worship of phi). These monks believe that Lao Buddhism is reverting to the Buddha's original teaching, through the labours of the committee of monks entrusted with revision of the scriptures, all of whose distinguished members are men of religious conviction and undisputed spiritual influence. They believe these reforms, once implemented, will permit the Buddha's true doctrine to be understood. Formerly monks die! not understand the Buddhist truth. This they demonstrated by blessing amulets that they then sold to make the wearer ''invulnerable'', by reciting certain verses (gatha)'' and by making money through pandering to animism, 40 all of which are inadmissible for a monk. Buddhist doctrine was equally misunderstood by laymen, who abandoned spiritual progress for material gain, resulting in wastage and criticism. These foreign monks, though obviously less involved in politics than those who remained in Laos, are perfectly well informed of the present situation of Lao Buddhism, which they previously observed from the inside. That their judgements are so contrary to others expressed shows how difficult it is to form an opinion of the state of Buddhism in contemporary Laos. As for the future, that is difficult to forecast. Whereas Phoumi Vongvichit attends all important meetings of the Sangha and encourages the development of Buddhist organizations, Kaysone Phomvihane, Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the LPRP, referred only once to the ''monks of the Buddhist clergy'' in his 82-page report on the state of the LPDR from 1975 to 1978, and mentioned the need to ''restore ... famous pagodas'' only with reference to tourism. 41 Since nothing included in an official political report by a party leader is without significance, one may question what this means for the future of Buddhism in Laos. Some would argue that the struggle between Buddhism and Marxism has commenced already, that the LPRP had tried once to suppress Buddhism near Luang Prabang without success, and that now the Party finds itself forced to accept Buddhism because it cannot

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destory it. But it is acceptance with reservation, for Buddhism already stands condemned in its traditional form. Whatever may be the case, the short contact between Marxism and Buddhism already has resulted in changes to the latter. Lao Buddhism has lost many of its more ostentatious and spectacular aspects. The faithful no longer have much opportunity to build and beautify pagodas or hold sumptuous ceremonies for the sake of social prestige or religious merit, as they once did. Lao Buddhism now is following directions that no longer correspond to those of Theravada Buddhism as it has been practised traditionally. In encouraging monks no longer to seek solely their personal salvation, the aim of Theravada Buddhism, but instead to try to save other human beings, 43 the new regime has led Lao Buddhism to turn in a direction that may make it evolve little by little towards a form of the Mahayana. This is the sense in which it seems the Lao revolution has most influenced Lao Buddhism so far.

Notes I. See Khamtan Thepbuali, Phasong /au kap kan patiwat ("The Lao Sangha and the Revolution"; in Lao), (Vientiane: Neo Lao Haksat Press, 1975). 2. Phoumi Vongvichit, Le Laos et /,1 lutte victorieuse du peup/e loo contre le neocolonialisme americain (n.p.: Neo Lao Haksat Press, 1968), p. 26. 3. One tends to forget that Buddhism, as well as Marxism, denies God, the soul and a final goal of existence. 4. These ideas, also shared by allies of the United States, were revived in F. Story, Buddhism Answers the Marxist Challenge (Rangoon: Burma Buddhist World Mission, 1952). 5. "[Therefore] not by birth does one become an outcast, not by birth does one become a Brahma9a, by deeds one becomes an outcast, by deeds one becomes a Brahmaqa." Suttanipota , I, 7, 27; translated by V. Fausboll in Sacred Books of the East (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1965), vol. 10, p. 23. 6. Walpola Rahula, L'enseignement du Bouddha (Paris: Scuil, 1961), pp. 117-1~, where he corroborates this by referring to a text that considers poverty as the root of immorality, crime, violence, hatred, etc. 7. The condemnation of belief in spirits by the revolutionaries is similar to the reaction of such devout Buddhists as the kings Li.ithai, Pothisarath and Anawratha, who tried to purge the faith of similar beliefs and pre-Buddhist cults. 8. Khamtan Thepbuali, Phasong /au, p. 68. Often the notion of anicca (impermanence) is used to call into question some or other Buddhist teaching. 9. N. Chomsky, Guerre en Asie (Paris: Hachette, 1971), pp. 238-39. 10. Documents du Congres National des Representants du peuple (Vientiane: Editions Lao Hak Sat, 1976), p. 25 . 11. Buddhism came under attack in the north as well as in the south. See Amphay Dore, Le Portage du Mekong (Paris: Editions Encre, 1980), p. 143; and A.

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Camio, Liberation et revolution au sud Laos (Paris: Echanges France-Asie, 1976), p. 12. Kaysone Phomvihane, Rapport sur la situation de /'an dernier. /es orientations et /es taches revolutionnaires dans la nouvelle etape et /es orientations pour 1977 (Vientiane: lmprimerie nationale, 1977), p. 6. Le Monde, 5-6 December 1976. The flight of so many intellectuals and teachers is believed to have forced the government to accept a larger teaching role for the pagodas. Several monks were tempted by materialism and the immense power of money, beginning around 1955 in Laos. Their actions brought the good name and moral authority of the Sangha into disrepute, especially among students. Those monks who at this time remained in the Sangha were those most respected and most faithful to the Buddha's teachings. A Buddhist monk docs not take life-long vows and so, if he wishes, can return at any time to lay life. According to a survey carried out in Laos in mid-1979 by a Thai journalist, a number of monks believed that Marxism was less exacting than Buddhism. See Thai Nikon, 4 July 1979. Radio Vientiane, 16 January 1980. The Dhammapada says: "I call not a man a Brahmin because he was born from a certain family or mother, for he may be proud, and he may be wealthy. The man who is free from all possessions and free from desires - him I call a Brahmin"; translated by Juan Mascaro, The Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), verse 396, p . 90. Dore, Portage, p. 134. Bangkok Post, 17 January 1980. L. Gabaude, Dossier Bouddhisme (Vientiane: Echanges-lnformations, 1972), pp. 5-6. During the school years 1979-80, this high school had 341 pupils. A reform of Buddhism already had taken place in Thailand during the nineteenth century, under the auspices of King Rama IV, before he was king. This went beyond structural and deontological concerns to a reform of the liturgy. It was characterized by (a) a return to the source of Buddhism; (b) condemnation of elements foreign to that source; and (c) the "Buddhization" of nonBuddhist ceremonies. To avoid sin and purify one's heart are recommended in all the Buddhist scriptures, but the quest for merit is valued by reformers in different ways, depending upon motivation and the way it is practised. Thus merit sought in a selfish way, for personal interest, is condemned as wrongly motivated. In the same way, reformers think that to give in an ostentatious way may yield social prestige, but is against the essential principles of Buddhism. Gabaude, Dossier Bouddhisme, p. 6. During this period, some monks in the Vientiane zone assisting the government's rural development program refused, in the name of the strict observance of Buddhist morality, to encourage peasants to raise livestock destined to be slaughtered. It was in Benares that the Buddha preached his sermon on desire for material goods as the root of all suffering (dukkha). Absolute respect for all forms of life is linked to belief in metempsychosis. Lao people believe that every deceased person is dependent upon his kamma (the good and bad deeds of his former lives) to determine his rebirth in one form or another. Thao Nouy Abbay, Aspects du pays lao (Vientiane: Comite Litteraire, 1956), p. 50.

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Any gifts to the Buddha, Dhamma (doctrine or law) or Sangha (community of monks) produces merit, which stands on the credit side of his unfailing balance-sheet of kamma. Slash-and-burn agriculture may have destroyed the forests, but it also reduced climatic risks (too much rain or drought) for people in the plains practising flooded rice culture. The present political regime in Laos should not bear all the blame if young people are now less willing to spend a few months in a pagoda. This may have been the custom not so long ago, but after 19SS, when materialism became widespread, young people began to lose their faith in their religion. L. Gabaude, "Bouddhisme et monde moderne", paper roneoed and circulated by the "Buddhist Bureau" of the Catholic Episcopal Conference (Hua Hin, Thailand: Buddhist Bureau, 1972), p . 9. Thai Nikon, 4 July 1979, estimates the number of novices and monks at IS-20 000. Phra Mahacanli Tanbuali, Sathana phra phutthasiisana nai prathet satharanarat prachathipatai prachachon /au ("The State of the Buddhist Religion in the People's Democratic Republic of Laos"; in Thai), (Bangkok : Khana Sasanikachon, 1977). This monk, born in southern Laos, was a former member of the LPRP. He left Laos in March 1976 and sought refuge in Thailand, where he had studied previously. See in particular Bantheuk kham samphllt phra lak kham suwanburi sana araya ("Collection of the Teachings of the Venerable Lakkham Suwanburi Sana Araya"; in Thai), (Bangkok, 1978); and Bantheuk kham samphiit phra aeon vichiyen buddhavaro ("Collection of the Teachings of the Venerable Acin Vichiyen Buddhavaro"; in Thai), (Bangkok, 1978). Gatha (Pali for "stanza; in Lao means a magic formula, the effect of which is felt during the reciting of it. These kinds of activities among a specific class of monks have been studied by A. R. Peltier, Introduction a l'etude des hlvn ba I de Thailande (Paris: EFEO, 1979). Kaysone Phomvihane, Rapport sur l'etat de /'edification du regime democratique populaire loo au cours des 3 annees ecoulees et sur /es orientation et tliches de l'annee 1979 (Vientiane: lmprimerie nationale, 1979). Dore, Portage, pp. 243-44. Dore worked in the Ministry of Information until August 1978, when he left Laos. He mentions an attempt that year to suppress Buddhism in the district of Muong Nane, on the grounds that it was "downright superstition" and "goes against Marxism-Leninism". According to Dore, if this attempt had not been thwarted, it would have been repeated throughout the country. Khamtan, Phasong /au, p .64.

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9 Education: The Prerequisite to Change in Laos Jacqui Chagnon and Roger Rumpf

Education has been the most important change [during the past five years] for me and my children. Never before was I able to attend school. Since 1975, I have learned to read and write. Now in the evenings I study history, geography and arithmetic at my wat [village pagoda]. I am pleased that my children can now get an ed11cation, as I don't want them to be a foreigner's cook like me.

Vientiane mother of four For my people, education is the biggest change. Now anyone can go to school, no matter who you are. Before, if you didn't have the right clothes and notebooks and pencils, you couldn't go. Lao Theung' didn't have money for these things, so we usually couldn't attend schools. In Oudomsai, there was only one school before liberation.

Lao Theung thirty-year supporter of the Pathet Lao Front [Before 1975), even if we were clever, most of us didn't have the opportunity to continue our education. We didn't have powerful relatives and hardly any of us knew French. In the mountains, there weren't many schools or teachers. That's why I became a teacher.

Hmong secondary school teacher in Vientiane province When a Lao of any ethnic group is asked, ''What change since 1975 has affected your life most deeply?'', the answer often focuses on one topic: the expansion of educational opportunities. During the past five years, the new government has placed a high priority on creating a uniform, universal Lao system of education. This policy is one of the most - perhaps the most - popular and welcome development for most people. Yet despite its positive reception, the process has not been, nor will it be, facile and expeditious. This paper will examine the five-year transformation of education in Laos. It is based upon personal interview notes 2 and observations gathered during two and a half years' residency in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. After assessing progress and some of the problems encountered, the paper will conclude by offering

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two illustrations of how the education system is affecting other social and economic developments in contemporary Laos: cooperativization and the integration of minorities into the nationbuilding process. This essay can provide no more than a glimpse into what is occurring in Laos today. For foreigners, several factors constrain information-gathering. Historical and current statistics from government and non-government sources are difficult to verify. 3 Weather and a crude infrastructure limit access to outer provinces and particularly to minority areas. Furthermore, the government arranges all trips outside Vientiane. The authors have been privileged, however, to have travelled to Xieng Khouang, Champassak, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet provinces. Nevertheless, most information inevitably has come from Lao Loum sources, rather than from other ethnic groups. Add to this the fact that, as in many Asian cultures, Lao informants often relate to foreigners what they think the latter want to hear. Finally, it should be borne in mind that the perceptions of Westerners from a capitalist country looking at Asians in a developing, socialist society cannot help but be biased by the differences in background. It is to be hoped, therefore, that current changes in education eventually will provide Laos with scholars who may better analyze events in their own country.

A Split System To understand why the dramatic educational changes of the past five years have proved so popular, it is necessary to review briefly the pedagogical history of Laos. Before and during much of French colonial rule, formal education for Lao Loum males centered around the village wat. Naturally, the monk-teachers placed a heavy emphasis on religion and traditional village values (respect for the elders, the king and parents). However, this system also incorporated, according to the aptitudes of the monks, practical skills in reading, writing and mathematics. No formal or traditional education system existed among the Lao Soung or Lao Theung • • • m1nor1t1es. During most of its fifty years as a French protectorate, Laos' educational needs were benignly neglected by its colonial administrators. As long as Vietnamese filled administrative positions and the Lao elite did not complain, there was no pressure to improve educational opportunities. In 1939, to appease the stirring of

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nationalist sentiment among the Lao Loum elite, the French instituted the beginnings of a secular elementary school system. This raised school enrolment from 6000 to 14 700 between 1939 and 1946." By the late 1940s, the country possessed four secondary schools. As this French-oriented system took hold among the elite, support for the Buddhist wat schools waned and likewise the emphasis on a Lao approach to education. After independence in 1953, one might have expected a gradual transition towards a system reflecting Laos' needs and Lao nationalism. In fact, the urbanized, French-trained, Lao Loum leadership of the Royal Lao Government tenaciously and unabashedly clung· to French colonial vestiges for another twenty years. The secondary and higher education systems reflected this phenomenon. The language of instruction was French, with Lao treated as a foreign language. The majority of teachers were French. The principal examinations for entrance into the postprimary levels and for completion certificates were not only in French but came from France. As a result, lessons concentrated on French history, French geography and French literature.' In the 1950s, one could argue that the Lao language was technically undeveloped, the number of Lao teachers insufficient and the supply of Lao language texts almost non-existent. But why was there not a major transition in the 1960s, when US largesse was ready and willing to assist? Perhaps part of the answer lies in what Professor Joel Halpern terms the semi-feudalist mentality of the RLG power structure: Once an individual managed to achieve at least nine years of education, no insurmountable barrier blocked his way upward in the bureaucracy. Achieving even this modest education was next to impossible for a villager, since either he had no access to primary schools or the ones he attended offered inferior training in French, the absolute prerequisite for further education.'

It should be noted that USAID did attempt to break the French grip on education. The Americans built four technical schools explicitly for instruction in Lao, financed teacher-training programs and pressured the RLG to accelerate its primary school building program.' These efforts did chip away at the French system, but the transformation was too slow to dissipate the mounting bitterness against it. All interviewees expressed this sentiment. ''For two years", said a 22-year-old udom 8 student, "I sat in my village doing nothing. I was angry and frustrated because after pathom, I couldn't continue my education. Why? Because I did not know French and my parents were too poor to buy my entrance into

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mathanyom." Even those who did make it through the French system complained about ''how absurd'' the system was. ''Before 1975'', said a medical student, ''I learned more about Rousseau, Moliere, Hugo and Napoleon than about Lao historical figures." Another rattled off the names of every French province with ease, but still has difficulty remembering the Lao ones because, ''I learned these only when I was twenty.'' Meanwhile, in the mountainous Pathet Lao resistance zone, the problems were somewhat different. Contrary to the situation in the RLG zone, the prime need here was not transformation from French to Lao, but rather to create an entirely new system. Before 1960, pitifully few educational facilities existed in the remote, minority-dominated provinces of Phong Saly, Sam Neua, Xieng Khouang, Attopeu and Saravane, the strongholds of the PL resistance. Therefore, when the Pathet Lao encouraged and assisted literacy campaigns and the building of primary schools, the majority of the inhabitants seemingly welcomed the idea - and the Pathet Lao themselves. In Muong Khum (formerly Xieng Khouang Ville), for example, people vividly recalled their literacy classes in what is now a bombed-out wat. ''This is not only our beloved wat,'' declared one old man, ''it's the place where many of us learned how to read and write in the early 1960s. '' Hmong leader Chitavong Hmong Tao, Deputy Chairman of the Luang Prabang LFNC, offered this personal story when asked about former PL education efforts: My fat her wanted me and my brothers to go to school, but there was none nearby. One day a Lao Loum man came to our mountain and my fat her promised him three pigs if he would teach us for a while. He agreed, but the next day he went away, saying he would return shortly. This man never came back and so we lost our three pigs and the chance to learn. In 1957, when I was about thirty-seven, my village was liberated by the Pathet Lao. Soon after, several Lao Loum and Lao Theung came to teach us reading and writing. Some of them even knew how to read a11d write our [Hmong) language. In 1960, my village built its first primary school. The school and our village were bombed [by the RLG] twice during the war, but each time the school was rebuilt.

Another aspect of PL war-zone education was the ''cave schools'' in the northern provinces, established during the period of intensive US bombing (1964-73). 9 The following are two typical descriptions of this unique system. The first is from Sam Neuaborn Khamphon Phimmaseng, a former student and mathanyom teacher of the ''cave schools'', who is currently magazine editor of Lao Women.

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It was a hard life. The caves were always dark, damp and cold. Often we didn't have enough paper or chalk, so students had to memorize a lot. We had very few textbooks. During the day we studied in the caves and at night we planted vegetables and rice by the moon. The bombing sometimes lasted day and night, making it difficult to study. I cannot say we gave our students the best education, but we did try. I feel good now when I meet my former pupils - some were older than me, you know. They seem very dedicated to rebuilding the country. ·

Similar conditions were described by a forestry teacher, trained in Vietnam for eight years. He, too, emphasized the abnormality of life and teaching in the caves. For weeks after my arrival in Viengsai in 1968, I and my students had to dig out our classroom from a cave. It was safer there [than outside], but it was difficult on our minds and bodies. The bombing noise was at times unbearable and the explosions pressed heavily on our bodies. Once after being buried by a rock cave-in caused by the bombing, I told myself that maybe I should have been teaching geology instead of forestry. The technical education was very basic - it's hard to teach forestry in a cave. Regardless, my pupils, especially the minorities, seemed very grateful and anxious to learn. My students here [in Vientiane) know far more about physics, chemistry and maths [than those in Viengsai]. But my Viengsai pupils understood more about political realities and practical skills.

Balancing Quality and Quantity On gaining full power in December 1975, the new socialist leadership faced an educational nightmare. Less than 20 per cent had completed six years of schooling and, even more alarming, less than 2 per cent had finished the full twelve years. 10 Moreover, there was a critical shortage of qualified, experienced Lao teachers, particularly for the mathanyom, udom and technical schools. In relation to the social, economic, and perhaps most critically, ethnic makeup of Laos, high education opportunities favoured the urbanized Lao Loum. Finally, fifteen years of conflict had resulted in two different educational systems: the RLG zone had a high quality French (and American) orientation, with limited opportunities for the majority; the PL zone stressed universal access and a Lao system, but quality was desperately low. Despite these grim conditions, two crucial factors gave reason for hope: the vast majority of Lao were anxious for change and the LPDR leadership put a high priority on improving education.

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The educational philosophy targeted basic primary school education for every child, intensive literacy programs for adults and technical training in agriculture and other fields. International assistance agencies seemed in agreement with these targets. As a 1979 World Bank report on Laos stated, ''Overall, given the country's low literacy level, the shortage of teachers and facilities and the urgent need for manpower development, the policy of a minimum basic education in the shortest time for a maximum number of people appears to make sense.', 11 If one considers only LPDR official statistics, the accomplishments of the last five years seem admirable. • The literacy rate among adults aged fifteen to forty-six has doubled from 40 per cent to 80 per cent and the current projection is that by 1983, it will reach 100 per cent. • Seventy-five per cent of 5-11-year-olds currently attend primary school, as opposed to less than 50 per cent in 1974. The yearly increase of primary-level pupils since 1975 has been 30 000, compared to 10 000 during the years prior to 1975. • The percentage of youths (aged twelve to twenty-five) attending secondary and higher-level schools has risen from 2 per cent in 1974 to about 10 per cent in 1980. • Since 1975, the number of schools and teachers has increased 182 per cent and 427 per cent respectively. • The number of teacher-trainees has risen by 125 per cent. Although such quantitative data is impressive, official and nonofficial sources agree that quality has not improved proportionately (For the urbanized Lao Loum, the quality has definitely gone down. This constitutes one of many reasons why some have left the country in order to go to the United States, France or other Western countries.) In the near future, ameliorating the quality of primary schooling should be easier than improving that of secondary schools. Firstly, prior to 1975, a corps of primary school teachers had been trained, however low their number. Secondly, UNICEF and other foreign assistance agencies have already and will continue to focus on the primary level. 13 These efforts centre on the printing of texts and copy books, restoring the chalk and publishing industries, importing of basic school supplies and assisting teacher-training programs. Thirdly, with a minimum of outside input, local communities feasibly can construct and operate community-based schools. However, for the long term, distribution of school supplies and texts will remain a major problem as long as the national infrastructure is poor. In Xieng Khouang, for instance, many primary schools have been built and are brimming over with students. But the lack of notebooks, texts, pencils and teaching aids is noticeable.

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On the other hand, the chances of improving the quality of education at the secondary and tertiary levels appears less hopeful. Before 1975, there were few experienced Lao secondary teachers, most textbooks were in French and less than fifty secondary schools were operating.•• During the past five years, while the number of schools, students and teachers have all increased, the lack of texts has remained critical. In 1980, some signs of improvement were evident. In Vientiane udoms, for example, there were almost enough Lao language texts on every subject for each firstyear student. At the second and third years, two to three students must share one book. Also, after five years, the first of a series of medical texts was published for use at the university-level medical school. Another problem for the secondary system is the dearth of seasoned teachers who can cope with high student to teacher ratios. From observations in 1980, the ratio in Vientiane was around 45: l, compared to the pre-1975 ratio of 30: 1. Many teachers candidly admit they have not had sufficient training for the levels at which they are now working. ''Most teachers [at the Nam Cheng mathanyom in upper Vientiane province]", said Ly Ker, a 23-yearold Hmong teacher, ''don't have enough training in their subjects. I teach maths, but frankly, I have not studied this subject long enough to teach my pupils well.'' Like most teachers, he expressed a desire to improve his skills, but realized that this only could be done during vacation periods. A more critical teacher-related problem, mentioned by teachers and students alike, is the incentive crisis. Teachers are less inclined to remain teachers and students see less reward or prestige in becoming teachers. The most obvious reason is salary. Like other civil servants, teachers receive about US$10 to US$25 per month. In Vientiane, where prices are three to five times higher than elsewhere and more lucrative jobs with private companies or foreign agencies are available, teachers are leaving the profession at a noticeable rate. Even at the pathom level, staff are being lost, four from one school alone in Vientiane. One teacher pointed out the impossibility of both a husband and wife being teachers at the same time, ''unless they don't mind starvation.'' With the December 1979 economic reforms, the government did institute some changes. In Vientiane, udom teachers, school directors and department heads were given ''green' ' ration booklets entitling them to purchase goods at low-priced special stores for party cadres. Such people have fewer complaints about the salary crisis. However, this does not provide a decent wage. ''If we have a family,'' claimed one teacher, ''we must spend our evenings raising

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animals or gardening or giving private lessons. Often this takes time and energy from our profession - teaching. I don't know how mathanyom and pathom teachers [who do not have this privilege] support themselves, let alone their families.'' A less conspicuous aspect of the incentive crisis is apparently the drop in prestige for the teaching profession. Not one of the students interviewed aspired to be a teacher. ''Before [1975]'', explained one Vientiane teacher, ''to be a teacher was special because the opportunities were few. Now, just about anyone can do so, if they have good grades." According to him and other Vientiane teachers, few students are interested in continuing their studies at the Dong Dok Teachers Training College. 1 ' Finally, teachers stressed that while general deportment has greatly improved, academic competence among students has plummeted. A Vientiane teacher offered this analysis: When I attended the old Lycee Vientiane, most of my class-mates came from upper-class families. Their parents usually had attained at least a mathanyom education. At our homes, we had books to read for pleasure, as well as many French textbooks. And despite our hatred of the old French exam system, it did force us to be studious. In contrast, the vast majority of today's students come from poor families. Many of their parents can barely read and write. Our students don't study much at home, perhaps because selection for study abroad or at the university-level no longer depends solely on academic grades.

In response to this issue of poor academic quality among students, one Ministry of Education official commented, ''Yes, we know this is a serious problem. Much more help and encouragement must be given to students by their parents. But this is a difficult task for adults who are newly literate.'' He went on to explain the government's new emphasis on adult education for those newly literate (bamlum kan seuksa - which, literally translated, means ''the fostering of education''). ''But we have hardly any government budget and little foreign assistance for this,'' indicating a large chart itemizing a million-dollar plan for the publication of adult education textbooks. Even though most books ·already written focus on the sciences, he claimed that no donors have yet come forth to fund the project." ''Funding children's books is humanitarian," he speculates, ''but funding adult texts is considered politically touchy. It's what you call a Catch-22.''

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Towards a Lao System of Education

We know it will take a long time to solve our [education] problems [stated an Australian-trained teacher] . Even in developed countries, with all your technology, such things are not solved overnight. What takes two or three years to improve there, will surely take a generation or more here, but length of time is not so crucial. What matters in any situation - rich or poor - is wheth~r the people want change. And I know the majority of my people longed for years for an educational revolution. That is why I feel there is mass support for the current educational policies.

There does appear to be such mass support for the government's education policies. Every interviewee expounded at length on recent improvements. The most consistently mentioned points were: • Education is now for everyone. No longer does it benefit mostly the rich and powerful. (No one knew of bribes being taken by teachers ''to give them a good heart'' during exam periods, a common occurrence in the former RLG zone.) • Lack of proper dress (formerly blue and white uniforms) and even of copybooks and pencils no longer precludes children from attending school. • Student discipline is much better than before 1975. Several veteran primary school teachers specifically mentioned that children do not fight as much among themselves. • Drop-out rates at all levels have decreased substantially. A Vientiane primary school teacher offered this example: at her school the drop-out rate used to be 50 to 60 per cent pre-1975, but now has dwindled to 15 per cent. ''Last year,'' she claimed, ''eightyfive per cent of my pupils went on to mathanyom or technical schools.'' • The use of Lao as the language of instruction makes teaching and learning much easier than before. A topic particularly emphasized by interviewees was the improvement of student-teacher relations. One teacher explained that: under the French system, the higher-level schools were formal and strict. Perhaps this was because most of the teachers were foreigners, which created cultural and language barriers. Culturally, Lao are shy about asking questions. I myself was very reluctant to approach my foreign teachers. We still have this shyness problem, but at least we no longer have the cultural barriers between students and teachers.

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One.method used at the secondary and higher education levels to promote student-teacher communications is the classroom committee system. Paralleling the village committees, each classroom is divided into nuois, small groups of about fifteen students. Each nuoi selects its leader, as well as nominates candidates for the election of a three-person central committee and also subject leaders. During class-time, each nuoi meets usually once a week to deliberate about problems with lessons, teachers, the administration, and for self-criticism. Plans for school festivals (which now are more frequent than from 1976-78) and for solidarity work projects also are planned. Nuoi leaders then take these comments and plans to the central committee meetings or to subject teachers, who raise the relevant topics with appropriate teachers or administrators. Commented one student, Before (1975], when I didn't understand a lesson, teachers and other students would rarely help me. With these bamlum [caring and fostering] committees, it's much easier for me to learn. If, for example, I am having problems with a physics lesson, I would f rrst ask others in my nuoi for help. If they, too, don't understand, we approach the student responsible for physics; and if he doesn't know, he asks the teacher to explain the lesson again.

Teachers seem appreciative of the bamlum committees, especially because of the shyness problem. They, too, have bamlum sessions, structured according to subjects. School director Siphan of the Nam Cheng mathanyom in upper Vientiane province described the committee system as a ''helpful, democratic way to solve problems and work efficiently, even though it means more time spent in meetings''. Under the old (RLG) system, he explained, ''teachers and students had to do whatever I said. Now, I must follow their advice and respect their comments.'' Lastly, with varying criticism, students and teachers tend to favour the new pedagogical approach, with its stress on nationalism, socialism, political studies and practical skills. Lao history, geography and literature are emphasized at the mathanyom, while a comparison of socialist, capitalist and various developing systems are the focus at ·udom. The natural sciences are taught throughout the system, tending to be the most popular subjects besides sports. ''This is probably because students still cling to learning by rote,'' commented one teacher. In addition to formal class subjects, entire schools attend kan meuang (politics) sessions lasting about one week. The school year begins with these kan meuang assemblies and sometimes is interruped by them when a political crisis (e.g. the 1980 Thai-Lao border conflict) arises. These sessions usually are conducted by

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Ministry of Education officials, who explain the latest policies or resolutions. Most interviewees commented that the heavy focus on politics was important, but sometimes boring. '' At least we now know more about our system of government and what our leaders are thinking," was a typical attitude. It may be these kan meuang studies are dull because theory teachers do not relate the information to the realities of everyday life. ''My biggest problem is how to stretch a meagre student stipend in high-priced Vientiane,'' said one medical student. ''I would like to learn more about our economic system.'' A teacher projected a similar feeling: ''These political studies are supposed to teach us about current problems and how to solve them. In fact, we learn about the problems but not the possible solutions. For example, we teachers should learn how to organize and manage our work efficiently, since Lao tend to be very unskilled at this.''

As for the development of practical skills, this seems to be a popular method of teaching. ''Lao people like to learn by doing,'' reflected a teacher at a training school for mechanics. ''It's cultural in some ways. We haven't had access to many books, so many people don't know how to use them properly.'' Practical training also is stressed in collective work projects at the schools. ''Even though I personally find these. work projects tiresome,'' admitted one high school teacher, ''I can see how they do teach our students about the value of labour and working together - and books can't teach them that. For instance, I notice students don't litter the yard as much as before. Why? Because next week they have to pick it up during school clean-up sessions.''''

Change Depends on Education: Two Illustrations To understand why education is a critical prerequisite to any change in Laos - no matter how well financed, planned and intentioned - the development of two major government programs will be examined. The first is the thrust towards extensive agricultural co-operativization and the second the integration of minorities into the nation-building process. As outlined in the LPDR's Interim Three Year Plan, cooperativization was to be the prime expedient for making Laos selfsufficient in food as rapidly as possible. The policy called upon farmers to pool their labour, land, tools and animals, in order to plant more land more efficiently. In return, the government promised training, fertilizers and, for some areas, irrigation and

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mechanized equipment. The plan was to move quickly. It did but despite a peak involvement of about 25 per cent of the population, 17 by mid-1979 the co-operative movement was floundering. A key problem, according to Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane's remarkably candid assessment in December 1979, was insufficient preliminary training.'' In essence, inexperienced cadres were instructing poorly educated farmers. As a result, many co-operatives established in 1978 were disbanded within a year. The twenty-family co-operative in Thong Gang village in suburban Vientiane was one of these. Several members say they enjoyed working together: it was more fun and less strenuous during planting and harvesting times. But yields simply did not match the time and effort needed to manage the co-operative. Looking back at the experience, one member reflected: ''To have a successful cooperative, we must study how to be professional farmers, not just backward Lao peasants, as we are now. We must learn accounting, management and modern scientific techniques of agriculture.'' He predicted that Thong Gang villagers would re-establish their co-op, ''but not until we know how to form one properly.'' Even the more successful co-operative groups admit training and inexperience are prime problems. In Na Sang village, south of Luang Prabang city, twenty Lao Loum famities have continued their co-operative, formed in late 1978. On 37½ hectares of good paddy land, they have more than doubled their total yield (from 36 tonnes in 1975 to over 100 tonnes in 1980). In 1979, according to director Onsee Boun Nyong, ''we have many difficulties. We lacked experience and sometimes it was difficult to lead our members correctly.'' But after Kaysone' s blistering critique, provincial agricultural agents stepped up their training courses and advisory visits to Na Sang. ''This year they helped us get fertilizer and then came to explain how to use it efficiently,'' farmer Onsee remarked. ''They also showed us how weeding will improve our yields.'' (Lao do not usually weed their rice crop, so he referred to this as a ''modern technique'' .) At the same time, the group encouraged its members to attend adult education classes held in the evening in a crude thatch-roofed shelter squeezed among the wooden stilt houses. One SO-year-old student who became literate in 1976 made the point that, ''if we want to improve our co-operative and our food production, we must all improve our education.'' Members of the Ban Na Hai co-operative, south of Vientiane, also linked education to future improvements. After attending a recent two-week seminar on management and modern production techniques, one member claimed that this was not enough. ''I have these two textbooks now, but I really need more instruction.''

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Thus the low level of education among farmers, coupled with the scarcity of agricultural agents, has forced the government to scale down the pace of co-operativiz.ation. Furthermore, LPDR officials seem cautious about even encouraging new groups to start up. Recently, at the mu}ti-ethnic village of Nam Cheng, people expressed a desire to convert from upland slash-and-burn to paddy culture. To do so, they needed government bulldozers to clear land, and to get them, they had to form a co-operative. When a government minority leader was asked why something could not be done, he responded that people needed education and training beforehand. ''We don't have enough trained cadres [to teach new people] and we don't want to repeat our mistakes.'' Another area of distinct concern to the LPDR leadership is the minorities question. Specifically, the issue has been how to foster nationalism in a country where 50 per cent of the population consists of a scattering of ethnic tribes dotting the remotest mountainsides. The future of Laos as a nation depends greatly on how well central authorities can bind together sixty-eight ethnic groups without disrupting the peculiar characteristics of each. Historically, many Lao Loum, who barely comprise the majority, have tended to look down upon the poorly educated Lao Theung and Lao Soung minorities. Today, some discrimination still is noticeable. It is most pronounced in lowland areas, where in the past, minorities rarely ventured. Vientiane people, for example, often label the Lao Soung as ''clever but dirty'' and the Lao Theung as ''stupid and dirty''. On the other hand, Lao Loum residing in the mountain valleys of the minority areas remark about the ignorance of Vientiane people concerning the minorities. One Luang Prabang Lao Loum claimed it was because most of the lowland Lao had never known a minority person. ''To travel to minority areas like where I grew up is very difficult. From Luang Prabang [city], it takes two days of travel by foot and boat to reach my village.'' Foreign intervention over the past century also has left its mark on the unity of Laos. In a divide-and-rule fashion, the French appointed almost exclusively Lao Loum to remote administrative positions. Later, during ''the American War'', 19 the majority of the approximately 300 000 Lao Soung split into two warring factions: about one-third, led by Hmong General Vang Pao, fought with the CIA's ''secret'' guerrilla army; another third, led by tribal leader Faydang, joined the PL resistance. Most of the remaining third were driven by the intensive bombing into refugee havens in the RLG zone or in the north-western mountains of Vietnam. 20 Despite US efforts, the Lao Patriotic Front was able to nurture the

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allegiance of most minority people. As a 1973 Rand Corporation study attests, the PLF historically had been ''more successful in mobilizing ethnic minorities ... than the RLG'' . 21 And, with an estimated 60 per cent of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party made up of Lao Theung, the Pathet Lao developed far better policies towards minorities than did the RLG. Thus when the Pathet Lao took full control of the government in 197S, the minorities had their first opportunities to obtain real political power, from district to national levels. In the minoritydominated provinces of Xieng Khouang and Luang Prabang, provincial, district and canton committees consist of proportionately mixed ethnic leaders. 22 At the national level, minority people are less numerous, but none the less are in positions of authority (e.g. the Minister of Agriculture is a Lao Theung and several department chiefs in various ministries are from different ethnic minorities). Yet even this limited shift has generated some resentment, particularly among civil servants in Vientiane. Subtle slights are common. "Oh, those ainong [pre-197S PL cadres] are so stupid." Such comments usually refer to the fact that the ilinong are not only from the countryside and therefore not sophisticated or technically skilled, but also that they are of some ethnic minority. To get a sense of just how pervasive ethnic tension still is, and whether education is mellowing it, interviewees were asked this question: Assuming you were deeply in love with a person outside your own ethnic group, would you consider marrying him or her? Youth across the ethnic spectrum generally responded positively. Minority adults also accepted the idea readily, and some actually gave personal cases of relatives doing so. Adult Lao Loum, particularly those from Vientiane, seemed indecisive and hesitant, and some answered with a blunt ''no''. All indicated that respect and tolerance of different traditions are prime conditions for any inter• marriage. In conjunction with this query, all teachers mentioned that· within the academic setting, ethnic relations seem to be improving. (In Xieng Khouang, teachers said there was no problem at all.) Although the enrolment of minority students is still disproportionate to the population, the number of tribal students attending Vientiane's secondary schools and the medical university definitely has increased. Furthermore, history lessons and cultural activities do infuse some knowledge about the minorities and the curriculum constantly stresses the multi-ethnicity of the country. This is new, according to RLG veteran teachers. Several teachers felt the information was too general and that specific texts and visual aids were needed. A civics teacher questioned how he could possibly teach

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about the differences and similarities among the minorities, when he himself did not know. He suggested that one solution might be to assign teachers to work in different areas for at least one year after graduation. In fact, in Xieng Khouang, several young Vientiane teachers had· volunteered in 1977 ta work upcountry. The educational changes in the multi-ethnic canton of Nam Cheng, near Phone Hong, provided some indication of what might be occurring elsewhere. The eight villages of Nam Cheng rest in rolling hillsides fifty-two kilometres north of Vientiane, on the Luang Prabang road. In 1980, 90 per cent of its 2916 inhabitants were minority people: 78 per cent. White Hmong (Lao Soung) and 12 per centKhmu (Lao Theung). Only 10 per cent were Lao Loum. The minority peoples were former war refugees originating from Sam Neua, Xieng Khouang and Khammouane provinces. After ten years of ''running and dying'' during the conflict, these minorities split from the Long Cheng (CIA-run) strategic mountain encampments and voluntarily settled themselves at Nam Cheng. 23 Thus for the most part, the area had been settled only for the previous ten years. Everyone interviewed in Nam Cheng seemed especially proud of their recent educational accomplishments. The community had eradicated illiteracy among adults (aged 14 to 46), from a 1975 illiteracy level of 56 per cent. Since 1975, the villagers had built, in addition to a former three~year pathom, two more pathoms (all now five-year) and a mathanyom. However, when compared with the above population percentages, enrolment figures revealed some problem areas. Among the 730 pathom students, 53 per cent were Lao Soung, 9 per cent Lao Theung and 38 per cent Lao Loum. As for the 130 mathanyom pupils, 39 per cent were Lao Soung, 4 per cent Lao Theung and 57 per cent Lao Loum. Thus compared to Hmong and Khmu, a proportionately higher percentage of Lao Loum is attending Nam Cheng schools. Also, out of the twenty-one teachers, nine were Hmong, but none were Khmu. Finally, attendance of females was lower than males. While girls made up 38 per cent of the elementary pupils, the percentage dropped to 27 for the mathanyom. When a large group of villagers were queried about this discrepancy, Hmong elder Ly Chu - a self-taught community statistician - rose and gave a fervent ten-minute speech. Despite the granting of new rights to Lao women in 1975, he criticized minority women for still following the old unliberated ways. He concluded by calling upon everyone to ''encourage these girls to further their education, because we need the hands and minds of every villager if we are to make progress.'' For the future, the priority on universal education probably will

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prove to be one of the most useful policies contributing to solving Laos' complex ethnic-unity problem. In Nam Cheng, it was already making its mark. ''Because the schools are bringing children and their parents together," stated education director Siphan, "relations within our multi-ethnic community are improving.'' Pointing to the children playing in the schoolyard, he added, ''You can see for yourself, they have no trouble jumping rope together. If they can learn to work and play together now, maybe they will not fight each other in the future.''

Summary During the last five years, the number of young people attending school in Laos has significantly increased. But for the future, the government needs to concentrate much more on quality of education, as well as quantity. During the five years to 1985, the LPDR plans to tackle many of the problems mentioned above: the teacher incentive crisis; the lack of textbooks and visual aids; the poor study habits of students; and the high student-to-teacher ratio. 24 It is difficult - and perhaps too early - to predict whether the LPDR will successfully overcome these problems. What can be said is that the widespread appreciation of educational policies should assist the government in improving the education system. And if educational changes continue to be popular and positive, Laos' nation-state status should grow more secure and its development prospects more realistic.

Notes 1. To differentiate among the three major ethnic groupings in Laos, the terms Lao Loum, Lao Theung and Lao Soung are used throughout this essay. Respectively, these terms refer to the lowland ethnic Lao and Tai peoples; the midland-slope farmers, such as the Khmu, Lamet, Tin, etc.; and the highmountain dwellers, mainly the Hmong and Yao. 2. These notes were compiled from answers to sets of questions asked of students, teachers, co-operative members, district and canton officials, and minority people. We interviewed twenty-four Lao in this way for two to six hours each. The term ''interviewee" refers specifically to this group. Also, we have in~orporated relevant comments made to us by individuals over the past 2 ½ years. Generally, when names are given, the interview was officially arranged; when not provided, the interview was privately conducted. 3. For example, a nationwide census has not yet been carried out by LPDR. We

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have based our calculations on the most commonly mentioned figure of 3.5 million people. However, the LPDR officially uses the figure of 3.6 million. Wolf Management Services, Developmental Book Activities in Laos,USAID contract no. AID/CSD 1162 (Vientiane, 1967). This presents a pedagogical history similar to accounts given by interviewees. Compiled from interview notes with Lao students, teachers and monks, 1978-&0. Joel M. Halpern, Government, Politics and Social Structure in Laos: A Study of Tradition and Innovation, Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph Series no. 4 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964), p. 18. USAID Mission to Laos, Facts on Foreign Aid to Laos (Washington, D.C.: Communications Media Branch, USAID, 1973), pp. 81-87. The Lao terms pathom, mathanyom and udom refer respectively to elementary school (grades 1-5), junior high school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-11). There are also numerous technical schools at the two latter grade-levels. When referring to the udom, mathanyom and technical schools, we use the general term of secondary schools. It a1so should be noted that 5418 novices and monks attended wat schools in 1979-80 (53 663 attended pathom, 1350 mathanyom and 405 udomJ. If these government statistics are correct, this means a 102 per cent increase in wat school enrolment since 1975-76, when the total was 2688. (Source: Ministry of Education, Vientiane, LPDR.) For the war-zone account of life in the Sam Neua caves, see Jacques Decorney's "Life in the PL Zone", in Laos: War and Revolution, ed. Nina Adams and Alfred McCoy (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp. 411-23. These percentages were given to us by a LPDR education official. If one assumes the illiteracy rate in 1975 was 60 per cent and compare this with 1974 enrolment figures from the Bulletin de Statistiques (Vientiane: Ministry of National Economics and Plan of the RLG, 1974), these figures do seem plausible, especially when noting the former high drop-out rates at all levels. World Bank, Socialist Transformation in the Lao People's Democratic Republic: An Economic Report (Washington, D.C., 26 February 1979), vol. 1 • p. VI. Pre-1975 calculations are based on those in Bulletin de Statistiques and USAID's Facts on Foreign Aid. Post-1975 figures come from the magazine Seuksa May (New Education), published by the LPDR's Ministry of Education, December 1980, as well as from graphs exhibited at the That Luang Festival in November 1980. LPDR and UNICEF (joint report and plan), Plan d'operations pour un Pro-

gramme de Services de Base en Faveur de l'Enfance en LPDR Couvrant la periode (1979-81) (Vientiane, September 1980). 14. Bulletin de Statistiques, pp. 13-14. In 1973-74, there were 24 secondary

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schools, 4 high schools, 7 technical schools, 8 teacher-training schools and 2 fine arts schools. It is unclear whether or not the PL zone schools are included in these figures, but nevertheless, there were probably less than five. This college was almost totally financed by USAID and therefore the amenities were substantially better before than now. Collective work projects, according to teachers and students, are now less rigorous and less frequent than in 1976-78. As quoted in Azizur Rahman Khan and Eddy Lee, Employment and Develop, ment in Laos (Bangkok: Asian Regional Team for Employment Promotion, July 1980). Kaysone Phomvihane, Speech to the Supreme People's Assembly, 26

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December 1979, known as the Seventh Resolution of the LPRP Central Committee. 19. In contemporary Laos, people generally refer to the Second Indochina War (1960-73) as the American War in Laos. 20. These estimates are based on our observation and discussions with official and non-official sources in Xieng Khouang and Luang Prabang provinces. We question the US State Department's claim that ''the majority of Hmong supported the French and later the American efforts to forestall a Vietnamese communist victory in Laos". For further details, see Jacqui Chagnon and Roger Rumpf, "Dignity, National Identity and Unity'', Southeast Asia Chronicle, no. 73 (1980): 2-9. 21 . See Joseph J. Zasloff, The Pathet Lao: Leadership and Organi1.11tion (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1973), who points out that "perhaps, some who have fled [to the RLG zone during the war] respect and are committed to the PL authorities." 22. For example, the administrative provincial committee of Luang Prabang has three members from each of the three major groupings. The chairperson changes every two years to a member of another group. 23. Despite the fact that these villagers were refugees, USAID refused to help officially with their resettlement, because they had done this voluntarily. See Don Ronk, "Building from Ashes of War", Asia Magazine, reprinted in the Bangkok Post, 18 November 1973, for an overview of Nam Cheng at that time. 24. For details, see "L'activite educationale dans la nouvelle periode de la revolution", roneoed translated extract from the Sixth Resolution of the Central Committee of the LPDR (Vientiane: Lao Ministry of Education, 1980).

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10 The Rewards of Revolution: Pathet Lao Policy Towards the Hill Tribes since 1975 Gary D. Wekkin It always is difficult to write with certainty about Lao affairs, the more so since the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975. Since that event, few Western scholars and journalists• have been permitted in the country; Western intelligencegathering operations reportedly have been largely ineffective; 2 and our knowledge of the new Laos has been gleaned from refugee reports of questionable accuracy and what little the LPDR government chooses to make known. Limited as the data are, however, the story told is an old and familiar one as far as the status of Laos' 1.5 million3 hill tribesmen is concerned. Despite the promises given them in the Neo Lao Hak Sat platform, and despite the crucial role they played in the success of the Pathet Lao movement, little appears to have changed since 1975 for the highland-dwelling Hmong, Hill Tai and Lao Theung minorities, which comprise 40 to 50 per cent of Laos' total population. Indeed, if the recent leadership purges in Vietnam's Viet-Bae and Tai-Meo Autonomous Zones are any indication (and developments in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam usually are, where the Pathet Lao leadership is concerned), real involvement in decision-making and socio-economic improvement for Laos' tribes may be a long time in coming. Before current LPDR policy towards the hill tribes can be evaluated, it first is necessary to examine the revolutionary past, and the hill tribes' role in it. This examination must include both the Vietnamese and the Lao revolutions, because neither revolution can be explained fully without the other, and because the hill tribesmen in both countries fulfilled the same vital function in both revolutionary wars.

Hill Tribes and the Indochinese Revolutions The significance of the hill tribes in the Lao and Vietnamese revolutions stemmed from the provision of two needs essential to the sue-

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cess of most insurgent movements: a stable, secure territorial base from which to conduct operations and a safe, convenient logistical corridor through which external assistance can be obtained. 4 Mountainous tribal domains served as both territorial bases and supply routes for the Vietminh, the Pathet Lao and the Viet Cong. In each case, these movements obtained the co-operation of a significant number of tribesmen and thus control over their strategically located territories, by exploiting historic highland-lowland antagonisms with promises of tribal self-rule under the new revolutionary regime.'

The Hill Tribes and Vietnam,s Wars for Independence and Reunification In the Vietnamese War of Independence (1945-54), the homelands of the Tho tribe became the Vietminh movement's first successful base area. Lodged in between the Red River Delta and the Chinese border, this mountainous region permitted logistical traffic between the Chinese Communists and the Vietminh, while posing a barrier to French mechanized forces from the lowlands. The 400 000 Tho tribesmen chose to align themselves overwhelmingly with the Vietminh primarily because in administering Tho territory, the French alienated their hereditary ruling elite. In 1940, the Tho rose up against the French, near Bae Son. The Vietminh took advantage of this revolt to set up a guerrilla · base in the mountainous Tho areas along the Chinese border. So great was Tho support for the Vietnamese Revolution that In terms of the utility of their territory and the committment of their population, the contribution of the Tho to the military success of the Vietminh was vital, if not absolutely decisive.'

The Vietminh rewarded the Tho and other tribal supporters by creating two Autonomous Zones in 1955 - the Viet-Bae zone under Tho general Chu Van Tan, and the Tai-Meo zone, headed by Tai leader Lo Van Hae. Their inhabitants were governed by cadres of their own tribes and were represented in the DRV National Assembly by a per capita quota of deputies about three times as high as that for the lowland population, under the provisions of the 1960 DRV Constitution. In the Vietnamese War of Reunification (1959-75), the Central Highlands region, populated by 800 000 tribesmen (Moi), served as the Viet Cong's first guerrilla base, 7 as well as the terminus of the well-known Ho Chi Minh trail. For the most part, these southern tribal peoples consist of the same Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-

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Khmer tribes that are known as Lao Theung in Laos. Like the pejorative "Kha" (slave), which the lowland Lao use to designate the Lao Theung, "Moi" is a Vietnamese pejorative term meaning ''savage'', and the highlanders usually have been treated as such by the Vietnamese. In 1959, Vietminh cadres who had remained in the south after 1954 were forced to flee to the Central Highlands to escape President Diem's ruthless campaign to consolidate his control.• There they capitalized on Moi resentment of Diem's assimilation and resettlement policies (and upon tribal casualties suffered during Diem's campaign against the cadres in their midst) by pointing to the Viet-Bae and Tai-Meo Autonomous Zones in the Communist North. Viet Cong propaganda played effectively on Moi fears that the Saigon government would take away their land and exterminate them as a people and promised in the platform of the National Liberation Front to ensure the right to autonomy of the national minorities. To set up, within the framework of the great Vietnamese people, autonomous regions in areas inhabited by minority people. To ensure equal rights among different nationalities. All nationalities have the right to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or change their customs and habits . . .'

As in the War of Independence (which ended in the Hmongcontrolled mountain valley, Dien Bien Phu), the final, decisive campaign in the War of Reunification also was fought in a strategically located highland region: the Central Highlands. The highly successful March 1975 offensive in the Central Highlands would not have been possible without the strong support of the tribes who lived there and were the key to its control. Logic suggests that the heavily mechanized 10th, 316th and 320th North Vietnamese divisions that spearheaded this campaign could not have eluded Saigon intelligence for so long and struck with such surprise at Ban Me Thuot and along Route 14, had the Moi inhabitants of those areas chosen to reveal their whereabouts to Saigon. 10 Without downplaying the years of political warfare conducted amidst the lowland agrarian majority, it is possible (as in 1954) to credit the Communists' command of the strategic highlands and its inhabitants' loyalties for the early development of an offensive capability, which shortened the revolutionary struggle in the lowlands by years.

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The Lao Hill Tribesmen and the Pathet Lao Movement As the Vietminh and Viet Cong had done, the Pathet Lao movement in Laos also obtained safe territorial bases and logistical corridors for external assistance to flow through by exploiting desires for tribal autonomy among the Lao Theung, Hill Tai and a few Hmong clans in the rugged mountains of eastern Laos. The northeastern border provinces of Sam Neua and Phong Saly, populated mostly by Hill Tai and Lao Theung, who historically have chafed under the rule of lowland Lao and (to a lesser extent) French colonial governments, provided the Pathet Lao with access to the ORV and a base area isolated from the rest of Laos by the rugged mountain terrain in between. The Bolovens Plateau area of southeastern Laos, populated by Lao Theung tribesmen, provided yet another logistical corridor: the Ho Chi Minh trail. Though not as well known, the provinces of Sam Neua and Phong Saly were as important to the success of the Pathet Lao as the trail was to the Viet Cong. These provinces had been under PL control since 1953, when an invasion by four Vietminh divisions captured them and turned them over to Prince Souphanouvong's Pathet Lao forces. 11 That the Vietminh gave Sam Neua and Phong Saly to the Pathet Lao on a silver platter did not diminish the importance of obtaining the support of the tribesmen who lived there. The Pathet Lao numbered no more than 1500 to 3000 strong when the Geneva Convention gave them ''military and administrative control'' of the two provinces in 1954. 12 They hardly could have controlled two rugged, sprawling provinces without significant help from the Lao Theung and Hill Tai populations, to whom they promised social and political equality under the new regime, plus the all-important right to a degree of local autonomy. The Lao Theung, of whom there are about 500 000 (divided into fifty different tribes) in Laos, traditionally have suffered at the hands of the lowland Lao. The first Lao who moved into this region during the great T'ai migrations, found it populated by these less advanced tribes. Many Lao Theung were enslaved and the rest driven out of the lowlands into the more mountainous, forested areas. 13 Despite the abolishment of slavery by the French colonial regime, the status of the Lao Theung had improved very little by the late 1960s. They were still in effect second-class citizens who had never been represented in the Lao National Assembly, and generally were governed locally by non-tribal administrators. In northern Laos, they still were subject to corvee draft and could be forced to work without pay.

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The Lao historically have shown the 300 000 to 500 000 Hill Tai in Laos somewhat the same treatment given the Lao Theung, though they have been less condescending because of a shared ethnic and linguistic heritage (both are T'ai-speaking, paddycultivating peoples who originated in South China). In fact, one of the main sources of tension between the Lao and Hill Tai is that of cultural traditionalism versus modernity. The two peoples have sprung from the same roots, but the Lao have progressed forward, while the Tai tribes have retained their traditional heritage. As a result, each looks down upon the other: the Lao see the Hill Tai tribes (Black Tai, Red Tai, White Tai, Tai Neua, Tai Lu, Tai Phong and Phou Tai) as backward and uneducated, while the tribesmen see their Lao cousins as corrupted by Western acculturation. The history of their interaction has been marked by bloody raids and reprisals. Neither the Hill Tai nor many Lao Theung tribes were any happier under French rule. The French did not go out of their way to protect the mountain tribes in Laos, as they had in Vietnam. Instead, tribesmen and Lao alike were ruled together under the traditional Lao administrative system, with French and Vietnamese civil servants superimposed at the top. But in establishing the colonial government's rule in highland areas where the previous Royal Lao regime's authority had failed to penetrate or had been rolled back, the French frequently .bypassed traditional tribal elites when they appointed village chieftains or district officers. In doing so, they created the same problem they had had with the Tho in northern Vietnam: they alienated tribesmen when those whom they appointed as local officials lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the tribe. There are records of this problem having arisen with the Hill Tai tribes, especially the White Tai and Tai Lu. It appears quite possible that this problem also may have occurred with the Akha and Lamet tribes among the Lao Theung. 1 • To convince the highland tribes to support the Neo Lao Hak Sat, PL political agitators pointed to the example of the Tai-Meo and Viet-Bae Autonomous Zones and gave high positions in their visible front organizations to several tribal leaders, including Sithon Kommadam of the Lao Theung around the Bolovens and Faydang Lobliayao of the Hmong in Xieng Khouang and the north-east. The extent of overall hill-tribe support elicited probably was not that widespread, but almost all observers agree that the movement enjoyed more support in the highlands than in the lowlands (perhaps as much as 60 per cent of LPRP membership was Lao Theung) and that at all times a majority of the armed forces were Lao Theung and Hill Tai. 15

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It is at first sight surprising, therefore, that perhaps two-thirds of another highland group in Laos, the 300 000 or so Hmong, Yao and Man who make up the Lao Soung (Lao of the mountain-tops), resisted rather than supported tht: Pathet Lao. These tribes occupy the highest elevations in Xieng Khouang and north-eastern Laos. The reasons for this exception to the pattern of tribal alignment with the Pathet Lao are numerous, but centre mostly around one key factor: opium. About 50 to JOO tonnes of opium were produced in Laos per annum until the war disrupted things during the mid-I 960s, and the Hmong grew over 90 per cent of that total. 16 Since each Hmong household produced three to nine kilos of opium annually, the Hmong had a higher income and standard of living than the Hill Tai and Lao Theung tribes. Consequently, the Hmong were less susceptible than many Lao Theung to the appeal of land collectivization, agricultural planning and other socialist incentives. Indeed, such policies were odious to the Hmong, whose independent spirit (the name Hmong itself means "free") impresses as being almost irreconcilable to socialist planning. 17 Far more pertinent than this factor, however, were the deeds of the Vietminh and Pathet Lao: both tried to seize the Hmong opium crops, in order to finance their movements. Opium could be traded to purchase weapons on the black market; 1 • or sold directly to the Chinese just north of Phong Saly and the Tho homelands for weapons and ammunition. For 6 kilograms of opium, a light machine-gun and 500 rounds of ammunition could be obtained; an automatic rifle and a similar amount of ammunition could be ac-. quired for 4 kilos, and a rifle and 500 rounds for 2.5 kilos. 19 Without opium to trade, the Vietminh and Pathet Lao could not have obtained arms. It is widely thought that one of the principal objectives of the 1953 Vietminh invasion of Laos was procurement of the Hmong opium crop there. The four divisions stayed in Laos until 7 May, just long enough to harvest the crop, before withdrawing to their base in the Tho homelands. Since that time, additional Communist attempts to take Hmong opium at less than fair market value have further alienated the Hmong. Also pertinent is the traditional pattern of Hmong external relations with other tribes, which is in large part structured by the opium trade. Opium is so important to the Hmong (and Man) economy that they have restricted their settlements to altitudes above 3000 feet, where the poppy grows best. But regions above that altitude are usually small in area and can support only a limited population. So the Hmong occupied many scattered mountain-tops surrounded by lower elevations where the much larger Hill Tai and Lao Theung tribes live. This scattering of the

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Hmong throughout the more numerous, mountainside and valleydwelling Hill Tai and Lao Theung has resulted in much insecurity for both sides: the Tai and Lao Theung regard the mountain-top Hmong villages as so many Trojan horses in their midst, while the Hmong feel surrounded and out-numbered. But the real tension produced by this settlement pattern stems from the fact that the Hmong must come down from the mountains to market their opium, and those who dwell on the mountainsides - especially the Tai - traditionally have forced their way in as middlemen in the profitable trade between the Hmong and the lowland merchants. 20 As a consequence, the Hmong always have fought with whoever occupied the elevations immediately below them, and picked their loyalties during the various Indochinese revolutions in opposition to whoever commanded the loyalty of their neighbours. 21 By successfully recruiting support among the Hill Tai and Lao Theung, the Pathet Lao and their Vietminh mentors automatically alienated most of the Hmong, who chose to ally instead with the French, and later with the Americans (whose helicopters and planes held out the additional incentive of getting the opium to market without having to cut in the traditional middlemen). To illustrate how automatic was the Hmong's alliance pattern, it is only necessary to compare the alignment of the Lao Hmong with that of the Hmong living in the midst of the Hill Tai and Tho in northern Vietnam during the War of Independence. Just a few kilometres east of Laos in the highlands around Dien Bien Phu, the Hmong aligned themselves with the Vietminh (and held off French rescue columns) because the French had won strong support among the Hill Tai in that region. Yet father east in the Tho homelands, where the Hmong's traditional enemies were the Tho tribesmen, who so willingly joined the Vietminh, the Hmong again fought on the side of the French. 22 On each of three different fronts, the Hmong cast their political lot chiefly on the basis of opposing their traditional enemies, and their enemies' allies. For reasons of independent spirit, security against their neighbours and control over the opium trade, the Hmong of Xieng Khouang long have hungered for autonomy and independence from any external control. When the 1960 civil war involving Kong Le's neutralists, the Pathet Lao and Phoumi Nosavan's rightists broke out, Hmong leaders Vang Pao and Touby Lyfoung took advantage of the power vacuum to launch a Hmong autonomy movement. Political leader Touby and the RLG governor of Xieng Khouang province, Chao Sai Kham (who was descended from the royal line of the old independent principality of Xieng Khouang),

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called a meeting of all district chiefs in the province at which the governor declared he was breaking away from the RLG and asked the chiefs for their support. 21 Meanwhile, military leader Vang Pao planned and began the evacuation of two hundred friendly Hmong villages to seven strategically located mountain sites surrounding the Plain of Jars, with headquarters in the Long Cheng-Sam Thong area. The Hmong infonned the Americans of their plan and of the seven locations, and asked for American help. The Americans, as they later did with the Moi tribes in the Vietnamese Central Highlands, 2 ~ took advantage of the Hmong by indulging their unrealistic hopes and providing arms, vehicles and foodstuffs. American agencies, including the Army Special Forces and the CIA, 2 ' assisted the Hmong in their relocation. In return for support of Hmong aspirations for autonomy, the Americans were able to use the Hmong to strike aggressively against the Vietminh and Pathet Lao around the Plain of Jars and Ho Chi Minh trail. After all, these were the traditional enemies of the Hmong, from whom autonomy was desired.

LPDR Tribal Policy since 1975 Having established the historical context of Pathet Lao-tribal relations and the role the tribes played in the PL movement's success, it remains to consider how the tribes have fared under the new Lao People's Democratic Republic. The NLHS twelve-point program adopted in 1968 promised: To actively assist all nationalities, especially the minorities in developing economy [sic], in study, in improving their material and cultural life, in preserving their own customs and traditional culture, and in combating dangerous diseases detrimental to the national progeny so as to help increase the country's population. To actively form a contingent of cadres and intellectuals of minority origin, thus enabling the national minorities to build a more and more advanced life and join in the management of the country. 26

It did not promise to set up autonomous areas after the Chinese or Vietnamese models. Clearly, the PL leadership believed that a country already as ethnically divided as Laos could not afford to set up formal administrative divisions along ethnic lines. Instead, the Pathet Lao looked forward to a unified Lao state in which all nationalities would have equal opportunities to participate. Ability and not race would be the criterion for filling government positions

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- hence educated minorities cadres and intellectuals would join in the management of the country. All sixty-eight nationalities in Laos thus would go forward together in creating a ''multinational" Lao state and a new Lao national identity. Upon its seizure of power in 1975, the LPRP set out to put its minorities policies into effect. In all fairness, it must be remarked that in doing so it was the first Lao regime to make more than a token effort to include tribal leaders in positions of authority. The Hill Tai Sisomphone Lovansay, Vice-President of the Supreme People's Assembly, was revealed as a powerful member of the LPRP Politburo and a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee. Two other vice-presidents of the SPA represented the Hmong (Faydang Lobliayao) and the Lao Theung (Sithone Kommadam, since deceased). The Central Committee of the Party includes Lao Theung, Boualang as a full member and Hmong, Yiavu Lobliayao as an alternate member. And in the government, Yiavu is also President of the Nationalities Committee, with the rank of Minister. Despite this representation, however, the principal organs of the state and Party are overwhelmingly filled by lowland Lao (Lao Loum), and it seems likely that this monopoly will continue for the foreseeable future. 21 Government policy under the LPDR has been more solicitous of tribal interests than at any time under the RLG. An editorial in the party journal, Sieng Pasason, stated the government's commitment to improving living standards for the tribesmen, to raising their political consciousness and to promoting education and public health. It also called for mobilization of the tribesmen in the cause of national security. The journal stressed the need to provide consumer essentials such- as salt, clothing, shoes and tools through state shops. While this would be difficult given Laos' poor roads and lack of means of transport and communication, ''We must decide to do it, and to succeed by using all possible modern and traditional means to get these essentials to the ethnic minorities,'' the editorial urged. 2 • In particular, the government has gone out of its way to appeal to the Hmong. It promised in a national radio broadcast that the many thousands of Hmong and other tribesmen who had fled to Thailand could return to their homes without retribution. 29 And in a special concession to the Hmong, the LPDR lifted the old regime's 1971 ban against opium production and trafficking so that those Hmong remaining or returning might be prosperous again. 30 On the occasion of the Hmong New Year in 1979, President Souphanouvong addressed an open letter to ''Hmong patriots'', called for ethnic solidarity behind the leadership of the Party in

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order to defeat ''reactionaries, imperialists, reactionary exiles, and the traitors of Vang Pao''. 31 This was followed up with a letter from Faydang in which he castigated those young Hmong who had left the old, women and children to suffer while they joined antigovernment guerrilla groups as mere mercenaries. 32 Besides concern for their welfare, however, there is another side to government policy towards the tribes that largely has been responsible for turning many against the regime. Tribal cultures contain ''obscure superstitions'', readers of Sieng Pasason were told, from which they must be gradually freed, and individualistic tribal ways of life are a danger ''which limits forestry development and the construction of their regions''. These are problems that can only be resolved, the government believes, by encouraging the minorities to abandon slash-and-bum agriculture for irrigated rice cultivation on the plain, and to transform individual production into collective production by moving towards co-operativization. 33 Tribal reaction to these policies will be discussed below. The two sides of government policy, the benevolent and the coercive, explain the ambivalent attitude of many tribal minorities towards the regime. The commendable policy of including all tribal groups within a ''multinational'' Lao state, contributing to a ''multinational'' Lao identity, has been resented by some tribesmen, who gave their opposition to ''attempted assimilation'' as a reason for leaving Laos. 34 Also tribesmen are suspicious of the government's motives. Refugees urged to return home fear that they would be conscripted as manpower for public works, though the government simply may be trying to reduce the pool of possible recruits for guerrilla operations conducted from Thailand. 35 Also the Hmong may be permitted to engage in opium production again mainly because the LPDR intends to control production in order to earn badly-needed foreign exchange by selling opium to Western governments and pharmaceutical companies. 36 Consequently, it seems that while the form of LPDR governance is an improvement upon the RLG, the substance of that governance may prove more nettlesome for the tribesmen than life under the old regime, whose authority seldom effectively penetrated the highlands. This seems clear from the opposition of those tribesmen most closely affected by government policies during the first five years of the LPDR, as the following examples illustrate: 1. Many tribesmen objected to being pressed into the service of the new regime. Two hundred Hmong who arrived in Thailand before Vang Pao fled reported that the Pathet Lao had tried to conscript them into the LPLA or labour gangs. 37 2. Many tribal opponents of the new regime were sent to

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''seminars'' or re-education camps, at which they were subjected to corvee labour and propaganda sessions. Among these were a number of Lao Theung students who had taken part earlier in the seizure of the USAID complex in Vientiant>. They had been sent to Sam Neua, where life was so harsh they escaped and fled to Thailand. 31 One Hmong major in Vang Pao's forces said that when the Pathet Lao took the base at Long Cheng, one hundred men were chosen to attend a nearby ''school'' for two weeks. When they did not reappear, their relatives were told they would return in another two months. Eight months later, they still had not returned. 39 Some re-education camps have held their inmates for so long that their families have been relocated in or near the camps and given land to work. 3. Attempts to collectivize tribal lands and alter traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practices, which waste space, exhaust the soil and are irreconcilable with socialist agricultural planning, have met with considerable opposition. 40 Almost half of the 770 000 hectares under cultivation in 1977 was fanned by the slashand-burn method, leading Kaysone Phomvihane to issue orders in April 1978 calling on district party committees to impose a total ban on the felling of trees to clear land for planting. 41 Many of the tribesmen who left the country for Thailand cite collectivization as one of their reasons for leaving, especially after the acceleration of the collectivization program in 1978. 42 4. A priority effort has been made to resettle the tribesmen from their highland homes to new locations in the lowlands. On the face of it, this seems very fair treatment, since the lowland soil is more productive and previously tribesmen were prevented from farming such areas. Yet although the Lao government and Quaker and Mennonite relief agencies maintain that many tribesmen (usually Lao Theung) are happy in the lowlands because they have better land, it is known that those from the higher altitudes - especially the Hmong - dislike the relocation for a number of reasons. Unused to the lowland climate, they complain of difficulties in breathing and of the high incidence of malaria and other diseases (or strains of diseases) to which they lack resistance. 43 They also have suffered many deaths and injuries from unexploded bombs while reclaiming and ploughing land in the resettlement areas. 44 Moreover, in keeping with the LPDR's drive to expand the area of land under the plough and become agriculturally self-sufficient as soon as possible, the accent in the resettlement projects has been on collective farming, including ''labour exchanges'' and ''solidarity labour units'' . Agriculture Minister Khamsouk Sayaseng stated in 1977 that a gradualist, incremental approach was being taken in areas already

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farmed by peasants, but ''The fourth and highest stage of cooperatives . . . could be set up immediately in the most devastated zones, where peasants have to start from scratch, relying on state assistance. '' 4 ' Another related Hmong complaint about the resettlement program is that the lowland sites are too accessible to the government, too closely controlled. The Hmong view the program as a security system aimed at keeping them in check. For these reasons, the LPDR has been able to entice only relatively few tribesmen to resettle in the lowlands, and of these, apparently few of the Hmong participated willingly. 46 Perhaps because of this slow progress, the LPDR decided in the summer of 1978 (two months after Vietnam announced its decision to launch the collectivization of the south) to accelerate the pace of agricultural co-operativization and convert more highlanders into lowland rice cultivators. But as this pressure increased so did tribal opposition, and by mid-1979, the co-operativiz.ation and resettlement drives were so bogged down that Soviet Premier Kosygin advised Nouhak Phoumsavanh to postpone both programs, to prevent further resistance and migration across the Mekong. 47 5. PL resettlement and collectivization policies also have involved the use of military force to elicit tribal co-operation. In late 1975, the Pathet Lao apparently carried out military operations in support of an effort to group the Hmong in ''special zones'', sparking an uprising around Long Cheng.•• (Or, as one high LPDR diplomat chose to explain his government's actions, ''Our forces only circle their outposts, but the [Hmong] insist on fighting back and breaking through the circles. '' 49) Combined Lao and Vietnamese armed forces, supported by artillery and MiG-21 aircraft, struck at rebellious Hmong villages around Mount Phou Bia, east of Long Cheng. Hmong crossing the Mekong into Thailand later reported the widespread use of poison gas and chemical warfare to drive them out of their mountain hideouts. ' 0 As a result of further fighting in 1978, thousands of Hmong and Man again fled to Thailand and China. Over the past five years, tens of thousands of tribesmen have left their country for refugee camps in Thailand and scores have been killed while attempting to leave.' 1 In early September 1975, many Hmong were killed in a concentrated artillery attack on the Ban Nam Lan camp, well inside Thai territory. ' 2

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Tribal Policy in the Future To sum up, it would seem that the hill tribes who played such an important role in the Pathet Lao movement are little better off under the new regime than they were under the old. The policies itemized above bear slight resemblance to the program of tribal improvement and equality promised in the Neo Lao Hak Sat platform. In particular, it would seem unlikely that the tribal peoples of Laos will be permitted to administer their own regions, except under close central government supervision. Not only has the LPRP never promised the Lao minorities their own autonomous areas but the Party's Vietnamese mentors have altered their own minorities policy from regional autonomy to more rapid assimilation. In 1976, the Viet-Bae and Tai-Meo Autonomous Zones were abolished, after years of concern about the Vietnam Communist Party's inability to develop a network of party cells in the zones and the growing pro-Chinese orientation of the tribes there. In 1978, as border relations between China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam worsened, Hanoi removed from authority three of the most powerful tribal leaders in the country and called for what the tribesmen have feared most - increased migration of ethnic Vietnamese from the Red River Delta into the highlands along the Chinese border. 5 3 One of those removed from power was General Chu Van Tan, the Tho tribal leader who had aligned his people with the Vietminh during the War of Independence, had been the head of the Viet-Bae Autonomous Zone since its creation in 1955 and had continued to administer the Tho after the 1976 reorganization of the Autonomous Zone. The other two Tho leaders stripped of power were General Le Hien Mai and Major-General Le Quang Ba, who were dropped from the Party's Central Committee and virtually retired from all duties. The reason for these credibilityshattering actions seems to have been the SRV's concern for the security of its borders with China. Hanoi is reported to have been upset by increasing contacts between tribal populations on both sides of the border and believed that its tribesmen were beginning to turn to Beijing rather than to Hanoi. Chinese shops just across the border contained consumer goods more numerous in quantity, better in quality and lower in price than those available in Vietnam, and Chinese authorities were accused of using this and other appeals to win the loyalty of tribesmen on the Vietnamese side of the border. 54 As so often before, the Pathet Lao have followed Hanoi's lead

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and accused China of using the large Hmong and hill Tai populations in its own territory to foment trouble among tribesmen in north-eastern Laos. In addition, Hmong remaining in Laos continue to pose a threat to government control. For a time, Hmong resistance consisted of a few small, squad-sized remnants, armed from left-over caches of American equipment, operating in the mountains around Long Cheng or making forays from Thai refugee camps into Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Sayaboury provinces. 55 However, the resistance sparked by the acceleration of LPDR resettlement and collectivization policies in 1978 was of quite a different character. It intensified at a time when the leftover American ammunition was exhausted and most of Vang Pao's forces were in Thailand or the United States, and its locus shifted from the Mekong-Thai border region to those northernmost areas that had been China's traditional sphere of influence: Phong Saly, Nam Tha and Oudomsai. With Vang Pao and the Americans gone, the thousands of Hmong remaining in Laos turned to China, which has about 2.5 million Hmong of its own. This has provided the Chinese with the opportunity to use the Lao Hmong to challenge Vietnamese control over northern Laos. The Lao government at first avoided directly accusing China, but noted that Hmong ''bandits'' were wearing Chinese made uniforms and carrying AK-47s bearing the inscription ''800'' (i.e. a gift from the 800 million). 56 Later. however, it was charged that Beijing was sponsoring a guerrilla ui •••Y in northern Laos. The Lao repeated the Vietnamese line that the Chinese were subverting Lao tribesmen and turning them against the LPDR. A ranking Lao official in Luang Prabang province even admitted that Hmong troops belonging to the Pathet Lao's acclaimed ''Chao Fa Patchay'' unit, which once had fought Vang Pao and the Americans, had defected and were conducting operations against the government from Chinese soil. 57 Thai intelligence sources told Le Monde that China is supporting about 4000 insurgents operating in Phong Saly, Nam Tha and Houa Phan provinces. 58 It is fairly certain, however, that China is not supporting tribal in·surgents in Laos on the scale that LPDR spokesmen and the Thais have suggested. US government sources privately admit that the Chinese are supporting Hmong guerrillas only at the squad or platoon level of activity: nothing done thus far even begins to approach the battalion-level operations that were commonplace when the CIA operated its secret army from Long Cheng. The irony of all this, of course, is that the tribesmen who played such a central.role during the revolution have proved to be no more manageable for the new government than they were for the former

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regime. Now that the Pathet Lao constitute the government and are responsible for maintaining security in the scattered villages and government outposts, they find it just as difficult to control the countryside as the Royal Lao Army did. Insurgent Hmong tribesmen and right-wing ex-RLA troops have adopted guerrilla tactics to tie down government forces. Indeed, those regions in which LPDR control has been most seriously challenged since 1978 are the very same tribal-populated, highland areas that the RLG never could subdue: Phong Saly, Nam Tha, Sayaboury, Oudomsai and Xieng Khouang. Without control of the strategic highland areas from which it conducted its own revolutionary movement, the Pathet Lao regime is just as vulnerable to insurgency as its predecessor was, and just as much in need of external intervention for survival. If the LPDR, or any other Lao government, is ever to chart a truly independent course in mainland Southeast Asian affairs, it first must assure the loyalty of its hill tribesmen by investing them with real control over their lives and a real stake in the regime that permits them that control. The experience of all recent Indochina regimes - colonial, pro-Western ''comprador'' and Communist - suggests that no one can control either the highland areas or Indochina itself without working out some sort of federal arrangement satisfactory to both highland tribes and lowland governors.

Notes l.

For a time, the Pathet Lao permitted only one Western correspondent (John Everingham) to reside in Vientiane. Soon even he was deported. 2. The author held interviews (on a not-for-attribution basis) with US State Department officials during 28-29 August 1980. Several references to these interviews will appear in the text below. 3. An approximate figure. The 1970 population estimate for Laos was 2 962 000; that for 1971 was 3 033 000. The Area Handbook for Loos (1972) estimates IO to 20 per cent of this total are hill Tai, 20 to 30 per cent are Lao Theung and 10 to 20 per cent are Hmong. Donald P. Whitaker et al., Area Handbook for Loos (Washington, D.C. : US Government Printing Office, 1972), p. vii. 4. See Gary D. Wekkin, "Tribal Politics in Indochina: The Role of Highland Tribes in the Internationalization of Internal Wars", in Conflict and Stability in Southeast Asia ed. -Mark W. Zacker and R. S. Milne (New York: Anchor Press, 1975), pp. 121-47. 5. For a more detailed discussion of this thesis than is possible here, see ibid., and John T . McAlister, jun., "Mountain Minorities and the Viet Minh: A Key to the Indochina War", in Southeast Asian Tribes: Minorities and Notions, ed. Peter Kunstadter (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), pp. 771 -844.

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McAlister, "Mountain Minorities", pp. 795-96. Wilfred G. Burchett, Vietnam: Inside Story of the Guerilla War (New York: International Publishers, 1968), p. 144. Ibid., pp. 130..31, 143, 175. Peter Kunstadter, "Vietnam: Introduction", in Kunstadter (ed.), Southeast Asian Tribes, p. 681. North Vietnamese Chief of Staff, Van Tien Dung refers repeatedly in his memoir of the Central Highlands campaign to the secret manoeuvring and positioning of these spearhead divisions. Sec Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory (New York: Monthly Review Presss, 1977), chs 4-6. Bernard 8. Fall, Anatomy of a Crisis, ed. R. M. Smith (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969), pp. 4647. Paul F. Langer and Joseph J. Zasloff, North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao: Partners in the Struggle for Laos (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), pp. 5 I, S1. Frank M. Le Bar and Adrienne Suddard (eds), Laos: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture (New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 1960), pp. 8, 42; and T. D. Roberts (ed.), Area Handbook for Laos (Washington, D.C.: American University Press, 1967), p. 52. See, e.g., Alfred W. McCoy, "French Colonialism in Laos, 1893-1945'', in Laos: War and Revolution, ed. Nina S. Adams and Alfred W. McCoy (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp. 80, 90; and Wekkin, "Tribal Politics in Indochina", pp. 134-36. There are no known figures on the ethnic composition of these forces, but virtually every independent source addressing this question confirms Royal Lao Defence Minister, Sisouk na Champassak 's description of the 1500 Pathet Lao troops incorporated into the Royal Lao Army under the 1957 coalition agreement: "Comprised of a strange mixture of Thai [hill Tai], Meo, Kha and a minority of Lao, these battalions constituted the elit~ of the Pathet Lao forces." Sisouk na Champassak, Storm Over Laos (New York: Praeger, 1961), p. 76. See also the statement of North Vietnamese Army Captain, Mai Dai Hap, in Langer and Zasloff, North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao, p. 143; Bernard 8. Fall, "The Pathet Lao: A 'Liberation Party' ", in The Communist Revolution in Asia, ed. Robert A. Scalapino, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J .: Prentice-Hall, 1969), p. 183; and George Mosely, "Voices in the Minority", FEER, 3 March 1967. Arthur J. Oommen, Conflict in Laos: The Politics of Neutralization (New York: Praeger, rev. edn, 1971), p. 17; and David Feingold, "Opium and Politics in Laos", in Adams and McCoy (eds), Laos, pp. 327-28. Interview, Clifford Fell Pierson, Madison, Wisconsin, 31 August 1980. Mr Pierson, Director of Social Services in Northern California for the relief organization Church World Services, commented that the Hmong are easily the most independent of the refugees passing through that organization's hands, and already are migrating from the various US communities they have been placed in to a few areas where there are large concentrations of Hmong (e.g. San Jose, California, and Montana, where Vang Pao has settled). Feingold, "Opium and Politics", pp. 335-36. McAlister, "Mountain Minorities", pp. 821-22. Ibid., p. 820; see also Bernard B. Fall, Hell in a Very Small Place (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967), p. 22. A. William Ruscoe, "Whither Montagnards?" (unpublished manuscript, University of Wisconsin, 1969), p . 7; also Feingold, "Opium and Politics", p. 324. Ruscoe had been a Special Forces adviser with a Montagnard unit in

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South Vietnam; before that his family had served as missionaries among the Moi in the Central Highlands. McAlister, "Mountain Minorities", pp. 819, 836-37. Editor's footnote to L.G. Barney, "The Meo of Xieng Khouang Province, Laos", in Kunstadter (ed.), Southeast Asian Tribes, p. 275. Ruscoe ("Whither Montagnards?", pp. 16, 18-19) details Moi desires for independence, and how Americans played on these desires. D. Gareth Porter, "After Geneva: Subverting Laotian Neutrality", in Adams and McCoy (eds), Laos, p. 194; John Lewallen, "The Reluctant CounterInsurgents: International Voluntary Service in Laos", in ibid., p. 361. Twelve-Point Program adopted by the Thid National Congress of the NLHS in November 1968, in Joseph J. Zasloff, The Pathet Lao: Leadership and Organization (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1973), Appendix D, p. 124. See the paper by Chou Norindr in this volume. Minority cadres are reported to play a larger role in provincial and local administration. Sieng Pasason, 29 December 1978, in KPLIBQ, 29 December 1978, pp. 6-7. John Everingham, "Refugees Urged to Return", FEER, 6 February 1976. Michael Morrow, "An Opiate for the Troubled Meo", FEER, 21 November 1975. KPLIBQ, 12 November 1979, p. 2. KPLIBQ, 13 November 1979, p. 1. Sieng Pasason, 29 December 1978, in KPLIBQ, 29 December 1978, pp. 6-7. Frank Lombard, "Grim Fate for These Tribesmen", Bangkok Post, 3 September 1975. Everingham, "Refugees Urged to Return". The Pathet Lao also attempted to prevent tribal refugees from leaving Laos for these same reasons. See "Meos, Laotians Clash", Voice of the Nation (Bangkok), 31 May 1975; "Pathet Lao Shoot Fleeing Meos", Bangkok Post, 2 June 1975; and Henry Kamm, "End of War has Brought No Peace to Thousands in Meo Clans," NYT, 31 July 1975. Morrow, "Opiate for Troubled Meo"; John Everingham, "Laos' Political Solution", FEER, 30 April 1976. Voice of the Nation (Bangkok), 8 March 1975. Matt Franjola, Associated Press wire bulletin (Bangkok), 23 September 1975. Brian Phelan, "Plight of the Meo", FEER, 29 August 1975. MacAlister Brown and Joseph J. Zasloff, "Laos 1976: Faltering First Steps Toward Socialism", Asian Survey 11, no. 2 (1977): 108; also Jacqui Chagnon and Roger Rumpf, "Dignity, National Identity and Unity", Southeast Asia Chronicle, no. 73 (1980): 4. · Nayan Chanda, "Laos: Back to the Drawing Board", FEER, 8 September 1978. Prasong Wittaya, "A Sticky Situation", Bangkok World, 11 June 1975. Interviews, US State Department, 28-29 August 1980. "Bridging the Food Gap in Laos", FEER, 13 February 1976. Nayan Chanda, "Laos Gears Up for Rural Progress", FEER, 8 April 1977. Chanda, "Laos: Back to Drawing Board". Nayan Chanda, "The Capitalist Road to Socialism", FEER, 1 March 1980. Bangkok World, 21 January 1976. Kach Ditthavong, Lao Charge d'Affaires in Thailand, quoted in Bangkok Post, 1 February 1976. John McBeth, "Tracing Gas Leak", FEER, 24 August 1979. Also hearings before the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific Affairs, 91st Congress, 1st Session, 12 December 1979. One American official watching the situation closely said the United States has

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expressed great concern to the LPDR, but that no official position has been taken on the question because, frankly, US intelligence reports do not contain conclusive evidence that gas and chemical warfare have been used in Laos. However, he also admitted that US intelligence on Laos currently is of poor quality (so much so that incoming reports about "highland tribal opposition to the regime'' do not specify which tribes, as if Hmong. Tai and Lao Theung were all the same), and that US intelligence and diplomatic personnel have scrupulously avoided the refugee camps for diplomatic reasons. 51. See, e.g. Voice of the Nation (Bangkok), 19 October 1975; Bangkok Post, 12 and 13 May 1975, 24 December 1975, 3 March 1976; and Bangkok World, 23 December 1975. 52. On the Pathet Lao's attempts to detain forcibly would-be refugees, see Note 35 above; on PL penetrations and attacks in Thai refugee camps, see Matt Franjola, Associated Press wire report (Bangkok), 23 September 1975. 53. Nayan Chanda, "Cholon's Merchants Feel the Border Backlash'', FEER, 5 May 1978; and "A New Threat from the Mountain Tribes", FEER, 9 June 1978. 54. Ibid.; also Nayan Chanda, "A Reluctant Laos Enters the Tug of War", FEER, 23 March 1979. 55. See "Intelligence", FEER, 5 December 1975 and 23 April 1976. Also John Everingham, "Meo Tribesmen Resist the New Regime". FEER, 13 February 1976; and Norman Peagam, "The Gradual Revolution", FEER, 10 September 1976. The 5 December report alleges that in October 1975, Hmong soldiers in the refugee camps received re-enlistment letters from their former commanders, inviting them to sign on again and return to active service in Laos. 56. Nayan Chanda, "Peking Loses Ground in Laos", FEER, 23 February 1979; and "New Threat from Mountain Tribes". 57. Luang Prabang province People's Committee Chairman, Soubhandy Phommaly, cited in Nayan Chanda, "A Nonchalant Revolution", FEER, 28 December 1979. 58. Le Monde, 3 August 1979.

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Minority Policies and the Hmong Gary Y. Lee

The Hmong have been and continue to be a contentious force in Lao politics, though little information has been available about them since the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Occasional news reports and accounts of life under the new regime given by refugees and government officials are equally contr~dictory. Hmong have sought refuge in different lands; others seem to encounter no great difficulties in remaining in their own country. This paper will focus attention on the contribution of members of this minority group to the success of the revolutionary struggle and what has happened to them since 1975. It will highlight both their past history and the prospects facing them under the new social order.

The Hmong in Laos The Hmong first migrated to Laos from China and North Vietnam in the early years of the nineteenth century. Yang Dao places the earliest arrivals between 1810 and 1820. 1 By 1850, they are said to have established themselves in many scattered settlements. 2 A French expedition up the Mekong River into Yunnan in 1883 estimated that they had moved to Luang Prabang province less than ten years before. 3 This last reference must have been to the later and larger waves of refugees from China, as a result of more than two decades of uprisings against the Chinese, culminating in the Hmong's suppression "with truly barbaric cruelty" by Chinese troops." This defeat led to massive population movements southwards. In Laos, the Hmong settled in the highlands of Houa Phan and Xieng Khouang, gradually spreading westward to Luang Prabang, Nam Tha and Sayaboury. In the early 1970s, in all these provinces they totalled some 293 000 persons. 5 For reasons which will be given later, the Hmong of Xieng

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Khouang have played the most significant role in Lao politics beyond the village level. This is true in particular of the Hmong in Nong Het, adjacent to the border of Laos and Vietnam. After their peaceful settlement in the area towards the latter half of last century, a few of their leaders were elected as ''kiatong'', to administer members of their own clan. 6 Thus there were kiatong for the Lo, Lee, Yang, Vang and Moua clans, with minor leaders acting as "phutong,, or heads of smaller groups. As the French extended their rule over Laos, heavy taxes began to be imposed on the local population. A number of Hmong refused to pay these taxes, and this led to an armed clash near Ban Ban in Muong Kham, Xieng Khouang in 1896. This was probably the first instance of open resistance on the part of the Hmong since their initial settlement in Laos. In the years that followed, the French began to intervene more and more in Hmong local affairs, either by nominating Hmong leaders as kiatong or by encouraging more interaction with other population groups. A mutual trust gradually developed between the two sides. Among the leaders during this period before the Second World War were Lyfoung and Lobliayao, the latter a kiatong in the Nong Het region and the former his son-in-law and secretary. Being more progressive and mindful of his junior status, Lyfoung sent a son of each of his three wives to school in the lowlands. They were Toulia, Touby and Tougeu, probably the first Hmong in Laos to receive formal education and later to be given positions of influence in the country's administrative system. The kiatong system was replaced by tasseng or canton administration in 1921, although the kiatong leaders were allowed to carry on with some of their old functions. For the strategic Nong Het area, the tasseng was administered by Song Tou, Lobliayao's eldest son. 7 In the mid-1930s, the French stationed a military officer in Nong Het, with soliders of Lao and Vietnamese nationalities, to oversee the Hmong. In 1938, the French became dissatisfied with Song Tou and began looking for a new Hmong leader to replace him. Lyfoung, with his previous experience in local administration, offered himself for the position. The French accepted and dismissed Song Tou. Seeing the loss of such a prestigious post as a slight to the Lo clan, Lobliayao's widow and her second son, Faydang, appealed unsuccessfully to the Chao muong (district administrator) of Muong Kham and the French commissar in Xieng Khouang. The following year, Lyfoung died · and elections were held for the position of tasseng chief between Faydang and Touby, one of Lyfoung's sons, who had just completed his secondary studies. Most Hmong voted for Touby

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because he was the more educated and because Faydang's father had alienated many Hmong in the past through his authoritarian leadership. There the matter rested until 1941, when the Japanese occupied Indochina. This new element in the situation immediately was seized upon by Faydang and the Lo clan as a means of opposing Touby's followers and their French backers in the continuing bitter struggle between the two Hmong factions. Faydang's men served the Japanese as guides and informers. 8 By the same token, Faydang made early contact with the Vietminh, with whom his guerrillas joined forces to attack Touby's pro-French partisans. In March 1945, the Japanese reneged on their agreements with the French Vichy government, arrested many French officials in Indochina and declared an end to colonial rule in Laos. Heavily outnumbered by Japanese soldiers, a number of French officers sought refuge in isolated Hmong settlements or made their escape to China through Nong Het. 9 Touby's subordinates invariably offered them sanctuary and guides, thus attracting reprisals from the Japanese and the Vietminh. When Prince Phetsarath formed the Lao Issara front and declared Laos to be an independent monarchy, free from French control, most Hmong unwittingly found themselves on the side of the enemy. 10 With the return of the French, 11 Touby began to organize new tassengs for Hmong settlements and to direct anti-Vietminh guerrilla warfare. He also was responsible for the strengthening of village militia units in and around the Nong Het area, in an attempt to contain military attacks from Vietminh-supported local resistance groups. Soon he was promoted to the position of Chao muong for the Hmong in Xieng Khouang, and his tasseng title passed on to one of his older half-brothers. This further committed him and his followers to an anti-Pathet Lao stance and renewed Faydang's determination to do equally well on the other side.

Private Feuds and Public Effects Despite claims to the contrary, 12 it is doubtful whether Faydang had any contacts with the Lao Issara before 1947, when Prince Souphanouvong returned from Thailand to recruit supporters for the "Free Lao" movement. Faydang used his contacts with the Vietminh to align his so-called Hmong Resistance League with Souphanouvong's cause. This action arose less out of any nationalistic fervour than from old grievances against Touby and the

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need to oppose him in public by joining those who worked against the French, Touby's allies. As Barney reported, whatever "Touby's men do, Faydang's men must do the opposite." 13 This seems to have been the essence of their power struggle. After a number of armed clashes between the two groups, Touby's followers mustered enough men to drive their enemy into Muong Sen, inside North Vietnam. The Hmong in Laos were left in relative peace until 1953, when the Vietminh, in a major military drive, captured parts of two north-eastern Lao provinces for the Neo Lao Issara, the new Lao Freedom Front established by Prince Souphanouvong and other Lao leftists in 1950. Faydang established himself at Nong Het, which remained from then on a Pathet Lao stronghold. For the next twenty years from the Geneva Agreements of 1954 until the third coalition iovernment of 1974, the Hmong factions maintained their respective alliances - Faydang with the Pathet Lao; Touby with the Royal Lao Government. In the 1958 general elections to form the first Lao coalition government, both rightists and Pathet Lao participated. Touby and his brother Toulia Lyfoung were elected deputies to the National Assembly, 1• while Lo Foung Pablia, a member of Faydang's group, represented the PL Hmong. In 1960, Touby was the first Hmong to gain cabinet rank as Minister for Social Welfare. After Kong Le's neutralist coup d'etat of August 1960, Touby and his followers joined the rightist opposition led by General Phoumi Nosavan. When neutralist forces were driven from Vientiane and retreated towards the Plain of Jars, a Hmong major named Vang Pao was one of the few Royal Lao Army officers to attempt to block their retreat. But the neutralist forces proved too strong for his handful of soldiers. Vang Pao, a few officials and their followers withdrew to Padang, on the northern side of the Phu Bia massif. There they were contacted in early 1961 by American and Thai military advisers, to set up a defence line against neutralist and Pathet Lao forces in Xieng Khouang. In the fallowing years, the PL Hmong worked hard to recruit Hmong and Lao Theung soldiers into the PL army. Faydang moved his base from Nong Het to Xieng Khouang town, where he worked with his Hmong military commander, Foung Tongsee Yang, otherwise known by his Lao name as General Paseut. His forces were joined from time to time by defectors from the RLA and by conscripts or volunteers from tribal minorities in Thailand, thereby swelling further their ranks. While Faydang became Vice-President of the Neo Lao Hak Sat, superseding the Neo Lao Issara Front in 1956, Vang Pao was made

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Major-General in 1964 by Prince Souvanna Phouma and given the command of the Second Military Region in north-eastern Laos. After the fall from power of Phoumi Nosavan in an unsuccessful coup against Souvanna in 1963, Touby joined the King's Council, and thereafter spent more and more of his time in Vientiane, away from major Hmong settlements and refugee centres. His influence was soon eclipsed by Vang Pao, whose position was greatly strengthened by the direct aid he received from the American Central Intelligence Agency. This financial and material assistance enabled him to impress the people with generous gifts to supporters and to students or famities in needy circumstances.• s CIA largesse also provided the necessary resources to maintain a special army of more than 10 000 men, consisting mostly of Hmong, who joined because of the salaries offered and the lack of employment opportunities in other fields. Thus it was not unusual for these irregulars to be called mercenaries in some Western press reports. Trained in Thailand by American and Thai military personnel, they were more effective in combat than most RLA forces, since they could operate in independent small units. However, heavy casualties gradually reduced the number of Hmong and by 1971 , more and more Lao Theung and Thai were being enlisted. Nevertheless, the Hmong on the RLG side came to be identified with this "secret army" and the CIA and hence were accused of having imperialist intentions and other unpatriotic designs. This was despite the fact that a far greater number of them were soldiers in the RLA regular forces and tens of thousands were not even involved in the war, except as refugees. 16 By 1973, the Hmong formed 32 per cent of the 370 000 refugees on government support in Laos, and 70 per cent of the 155 474 in Xieng Khouang province - the biggest ethnic group affected by the war. 11 About 12 000 are believed to have died fighting against the Pathet Lao from 1962 to 1975. •• This heavy toll was partly the result of military draft introduced by the RLG in its offensives against PL and North Vietnamese forces. Losses sustained by civilians were incalculable in terms of human life, property, land and household possessions - so much so that a nativistic cult developed in a number of villages among the Hmong on the nonCommunist side. An American refugee relief worker in Xieng Khouang estimated that 20 per cent of Hmong civilians died in the early 1960s as a result of sickness or enemy attacks during their flight to refugee camps. 19 The USAID relief program could do little more than· fend off starvation and hardly met the simple diet the Hmong had before they were displaced.

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The Elusive Union When the Provisional Government of National Union was formed in early 1974, Touby Lyfoung held the position of Deputy Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Two Hmong were made members of the National Political Consultative Council, to assist the PGNU with its immediate tasks of achieving political integration in the country. The PL side was represented by Lo Foung. Dr Yang Dao, the first Hmong to have obtained a doctorate degree from France, was appointed on account of his personal ''qualifications'', as a neutral acceptable to both sides. Lo Foung was ViceChairman of the Culture and Education Committee, and Yang Dao, Vice-Chairman of the Economy and Finance Committee of the Council. Over the next year, a series of developments took place that weakened the political position of the Hmong who had supported the RLG. When the King dismissed the National Assembly in July 1974, the Hmong on Vang Po's side lost the representation of their three elected members. Also, as a member of the government, Touby seemed more and more to accept the compromising mood of the Prime Minister. As a result, he came to be no longer trusted by many anti-Communist Hmong in Long Cheng and elsewhere. At the end of 1974, the irregular troops attached to Vang Pao's command were disbanded or merged with the RLA forces. Political and military pressures from the Pathet Lao already had resulted in a decline in morale among right-wing leaders and among the Hmong refugees. In March 1975, armed clashes broke out between PL soldiers and Vang Pao's troops guarding the ceasefire zone along the road linking Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The 1973 ceasefire specified that all military activities by either side were strictly prohibited. However, by April, PL units were advancing towards Vientiane. Vang Pao retaliated with aerial bombardment, which immediate]y brought accusations from the Pathet Lao that the Hmong were violating the ceasefire, in an attempt to prolong the war and to create a Hmong state of their own. Angered by these accusations, Vang Pao met Souvanna Phouma in Vientiane on 6 May, to explain that his troops were only defending their positions in the face of advancing Pathet Lao and Vietnamese forces. The Prime Minister advised Vang Pao to retreat and not to fight. Knowing he could not retreat any further, Vang Pao resigned from his position by ripping off his General's stars and throwing them on Souvanna Phouma's desk, before going back to Long Cheng. Souvanna Phouma was said to have later told the

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French Ambassador in Laos that the Hmong had served his purpose well, but it was a pity that peace in the country had to be achieved at the expense of their extinction. 20 During this -period, Yang Dao was on a official tour of socialist countries, as a member of the NPCC. In East Berlin and in Moscow, high-level officials told him in no uncertain terms that it was because of ''these damned Meo'' and their resistance against the Pathet Lao that the Lao revolution had taken thirty years. 21 Returning to Laos, he learned of the advance of PL troops towards Long Cheng, and immediately went to see Vang Pao on 11 May, to dissuade the latter from any attempt to resist the Pathet Lao. Yang Dao believed that any resistance would mean the end of the Hmong, for even royalist and neutralist forces were not supporting them. Furthermore, Vang Pao's foreign supporters had all withdrawn their aid, leaving him and his troops without necessary supplies. Realizing the futility of any further involvement in Laos, Vang Pao left for Thailand on 14 May, after an emotional appeal to his people to surrender themselves to the new authorities. A few days earlier, five members of the PGNU cabinet on the Vientiane side had been forced to resign and also had fled to Thailand, where they were joined later by two key right-wing generals, Kouprasit Abbay -and Thonglith Chokhengboun. The Provisional Government of National Union, forerunner to the much-awaited true Government of National Union, thus crumbled a little more than a year after its formation, owing to PL political manipulation of the masses and the demoralization of right-wing politicians.

The Socialist Order After the rightist Defence Minister, Sisouk na Champassak fled to Thailand, his post was assumed by his PL Deputy, General Khamouane Boupha. Khamouane gradually dissolved the mixed police guarding Luang Prabang and Vientiane, thus opening the way for PL troops to enter areas under the control of the Vientiane side. RLA troops were disarmed and local administrative committees set up to replace the old system of village headmen, tassengs, district and provincial governors. Indoctrination or ''re-education'' sessions were conducted for public servants at all levels and for civilians who traditionally had not taken the side of the Pathet Lao. These compulsory ''seminars'' and the arbitrary arrests of infl_uential people soon caused thousands of refugees to

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flee to Thailand, in addition to members of the business community and minority groups. For three days before his departure, Vang Pao had arranged with the CIA to have a few thousand Hmong flown to Thailand, along with his own family and relatives. These flights were stopped after he left Laos. As one informant said, ''There was complete demoralization among those left behind. In the first few weeks, everything was so quiet that we felt empty, leaderless. No more planes flying overhead, only people hoping and waiting, with no one to turn to for direction.'' Despite this, many Hmong quickly organized their own long march towards Thailand, to join their ''generous general''. The rich went by motor vehicle, while forty thousand more went by foot, with their children and valuables on their backs. PL troops by then were stationed all along the route to Vientiane, alongside neutralist forces. When the first column of Hmong refugees reached Hin Heup, south of Ban Son on 29 May, those ahead suddenly w~re fired upon by PL guards. More than 20 men, women and children were killed instantly, and close to a hundred others were wounded. 22 The shooting was believed to have been influenced by Lyteck Lynhiavu, a Hmong senior public servant in Vientiane and young contender for power with Vang Pao and Touby since the late 1960s. According to McCoy, Lyteck claimed to be a descendant of a long line of aristocrats from China and was trying to reclaim the Hmong leadership. 23 Vang Pao's removal from the Lao political scene was seen by him and his relatives as an ideal opportunity to impose their ambitions on the people, whether by persuasion or by force. 2 ' Although most of Vang Pao's soldiers had discarded their uniforms and weapons, a few Hmong officers in the RLA still held on to their positions, awaiting more instructions. On 14 May 1975, Colonel Kham Ai, PL commander assigned to the Second Military Region, arrived in Long Cheng. A fortnight later, he called all former right-wing military personnel to his headquarters and disarmed them, because they ''no longer had any war to fight and must now participate fully in national reconstruction activities''. 2 ' In June, they were taken to ''re-education'' centres on the Plain of Jars and later to Nong Het, where hard labour was the order of the day. Anyone above the rank of lieutenant was considered a major war criminal, and manual work was deemed an excellent means of atoning for one's sins and cleansing one's mind of capitaiist ideas. The Hmong officers were told that ''seminars'' could last thirty days or thirty years, depending on the participant's level of cooperation with Vang Pao and the number of crimes he had committed against the Patriotic Forces and their Vietnamese ''brothers'' .

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Each officer had to list the dates of armed attacks in which he had taken part, the number of PL or Vietnamese soldiers ''murdered'' on each occasion, the cattle and livestock killed or stolen, and property damages suffered by civilians. If the PL officer-in-charge was not satisfied with the officers' ''confessions'', he would reduce their food ration to 300 grammes of rice a day per person and one can of meat for each ten people. As one survivor recounts, after ''six months of seminar we became mere skeletons without strength''. 26 The officers soon realized that their so-called re-education was not political indoctrination but imprisonment. Some managed to escape, to join resistance groups in Phou Bia or their famities in other countries, but the majority either died from physical exertion and malnutrition, or continue to be imprisoned in fear for their lives and for the safety of their families. Not only were military officers dispatched to ''seminars'' but also high-ranking public servants and senior leaders of traditional right-wing leanings. Before the end of 1975, Touby and one of his sons were sent to one of the many re-education centres in ·Sam Neua, together with thousands of other Hmong and Lao of similar backgrounds. It is rumoured that Touby died of malaria some time in 1978, after spending three years doing hard labour as part of his political redemption. Apart from Touby and his son, other Hmong forced to attend ''seminars'' included four RLA colonels (Ly Nou, Blong Thao, Moua Pao and Neng Yi), as well as Lyteck and two of his brothers. Sadly for Lyteck, who eagerly co-operated with the Pathet Lao and who went to his "seminar" willingly, he is reported to have died after undergoing medical treatment for a minor illness. With the formation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Faydang became Vice-President of the Supreme People's Assembly, alongside two other minority leaders, Sisomphone Lovansay (Tai Dam) and Sithone Kommadan (Lao Theung). Nhiavu Lobliayao, Faydang's younger brother, was appointed Chairman of the Nationalities Committee, while Maysouk (Tai Lu) was named Minister of Industry and Commerce. None of the other Hmong and Lao Theung on the NLHS Central Committee identified by Zasloff in 1973, 27 such as Phiahom Sombat, Nhia Fung, Apheui, Am Lo and Am Vu, was included among the government's thirty-nine members or the Assembly's forty-five. Two of the Hmong with the NPCC in 1974, Lo Foung and Yang Dao, had disappeared from the Lao political arena by the end of 1975. Yang Dao escaped to France after becoming convinced that the Pathet Lao intended to destroy the Hmong people. Lo Foung,

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