Coalition Governments and Civil War
In the following years a power struggle broke out between the pro-Western forces supported by the USA (Prince Boun Oum [* 1911 or 1912, † 1980], Prime Minister 1948-50 and 1960-62), the neutralists (Souvanna Phouma) and the pro-communist von North Vietnam supported the Pathet Lao (Souvanna Vong) movement. Souvanna Phouma (between 1951 and 1975 four times Prime Minister) accepted representatives of the Pathet Lao into his government in 1957 as part of a compensation policy (“First Coalition Government”).
King Sisavang Vong, who died in 1959, was succeeded by his son Savang Vatthana (* 1907, † 1978?), The last monarch of Laos (1959–75). When, after the overthrow of Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma (1958), the Pathet Lao was forced out of government responsibility and persecuted by pro-Western forces, a civil war broke out. Through the interference of v. a. the USA, the USSR and North Vietnam, the country was increasingly drawn into the East-West conflict. In May 1961 the Laotian parties to the conflict concluded an armistice; In the wake of the Geneva Laos Conference (1961/62), which affirmed the country’s independence and established its neutrality, a new (“second”) coalition government under Souvanna Phouma was established in 1962formed, which the Pathet Lao left in 1963; the civil war that broke out again, in the course of which the Pathet Lao gained control of two thirds of the country, was increasingly associated with the Vietnam War from the mid-1960s (inclusion of the area controlled by the Pathet Lao in the North Vietnamese supply system of Ho Chi Minh Path, American air raids on the Tranninh Plateau, advances by South Vietnamese troops). After the conclusion of a peace treaty (1973) and the formation of a “government of national unity” (1974) – a “third coalition government” – under Souvanna Phouma, after the victory of the communist forces in the Vietnam War in 1975 there was a (coup-like) power shift in favor of the Pathet Lao.
The People’s Democratic Republic of Laos
According to aceinland, the abolition of the monarchy was followed on December 2, 1975 by the proclamation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos with Souvanna Vong as President (1975–86) and Kaysone Phomvihane as Prime Minister (1975–91). The sole ruling state party was the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LRVP) (founded in 1955) in 1975. Since then, Laos has been under strong Vietnamese influence; the domestic political changes triggered a stream of refugees to Thailand. In 1988 the first county and provincial elections took place, in 1989 the first parliamentary elections after the communist seizure of power; however, all candidates had been confirmed by the National Development Front, which was affiliated with the state party. A new constitution was only passed in 1991.
1986–91 Phoumi Vongvichit (* 1909, † 1994) was President, followed by Kaysone Phomvihane from 1991–92, held by Nouhak Phoumsavanh (* 1914, † 2008) from 1992–98 and Khamtay Siphandone from 1998–2006. He was also Prime Minister 1991–98 and Secretary General of the LRVP from 1992–2006. In 1998 Sisavath Keobounphanh (* 1928) became head of government, followed in 2001 by Bounnhang Vorachith.
In the elections to the National Assembly in 2002, the ruling communist LRVP won 108 of the 109 seats (as in the 1997 elections, only one non-communist candidate was able to prevail), in the parliamentary elections on April 30, 2006, the party secured 113 of the now 115 seats.
The eighth party congress of the LRVP in March 2006 resolved the sixth five-year plan (2006-10) under the motto of “accelerated development”. The party congress defined the social development stage reached as “people’s democracy with a socialist orientation”. At the party, a change in leadership was initiated: In place of Khamtay Siphandone stepped Choummaly Sayasone (* 1936) as Secretary General of the LPRP (21. 3. 2006) (8. 6, 2006) and as president. Bouasone Bouphavanh (* 1954) became Prime Minister in June 2006. He was followed as head of government in December 2010 by Thongsing Thammavong (* 1944).
On April 30, 2011, regular parliamentary elections were held. The number of parliamentary seats was increased from 115 to 132. Choummaly Sayasone was re-elected president that same year. Domestically, the leadership continued to focus on accelerating economic development, but did not take steps towards a noticeable democratization of the country. At the 10th party congress of the LRVP on January 22nd, 2016, the former head of government and current vice-president Bounnhang Vorachith Choummaly replaced Sayasone in the office of general secretary. On April 20, 2016, the newly elected National Assembly on March 20, 2016 also confirmed the appointment of Bounnhang Vorachithto the President. The former Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (* 1945) took over the post of head of government.
In the 1990s, Laos concluded border agreements with several neighboring countries (in December 1993 with China, in June 1994 with Burma, in October 1995 ratification of the treaties on the definition of borders in the triangle of Laos, China and Burma). A friendship treaty signed with Vietnam in 1977 was renewed in 2002. In July 1997, Laos became a member of ASEAN and took over its presidency from 2004–05 (10th summit meeting in Vientiane in 2004), again in 2016. Relations with the People’s Republic of China dominate foreign trade relations. In 2013 Laos became a member of the WTO.