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By Grant Evans

A good written account the way it all occurred and the way and why Laos used to be the catalyst for the the USA Viet Nam struggle.

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Extra resources for A Short History of Laos: The Land in Between

Sample text

The mandala of Siam thus combined, uneasily, elements of a newly emerging absolutist state system and an older system in which power had been more dispersed and had allowed for the emergence of new men of prowess. Clearly this diversive dynamic was at work in Chao Anou, who not long after his elevation to the throne of Vientiane began to use the manpower at his disposal to build new Buddhist monuments and to wrap around himself the mantle of a Buddhist king. He nevertheless appeared to remain a faithful vassal of Bangkok, and in 1819 intervened in Champasak at Bangkok’s request after the local ruler, Chao Manoy, was unable to quell an uprising led by a man called Sa, a phu viset, a ‘man of supernatural power’, who had gained a large following among the upland minorities there.

Tribal Tai, being non-Buddhist, were on the margin, and no doubt an important motivation for conversion to Buddhism among these Tai was to escape categorisation as kha. All the Tai states were polyethnic, made up of Khmer, Mon, highlanders, ‘sea gypsies’, among others. There was no expectation of a uniform language in everyday discourse, although Buddhism provided a universal ritual language, pali. Of course, physical differences and differences of everyday practice were observed and curiously noted, even among the Buddhists themselves, but they seemed to give rise to few ethnic generalisations.

The army of Pegu then occupied Vientiane, but soon withdrew. Thereafter, briefly, Sethathirat was in charge of the only substantial Tai kingdom in the region. He died mysteriously in 1571 19 Laos—PAGES 12/4/02 2:10 PM Page 20 A Short History of Laos while campaigning in the southern reaches of the kingdom. A succession dispute invited renewed intervention by Pegu, who installed as their vassal a younger brother of Sethathirat who had been carried off in the years previous. For the next 30 years Lan Xang was a vassal state of Pegu, although towards the end of this period the latter’s power was waning.

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