It is 1979 in Laos; and our featured banknote is published.
The national emblem on the banknote below, circular on the left, displays the hammer and sickle in the midst of traditional Laotian scenes. An artillery tank and a river gunboat flank a column of infantry marching towards the viewer.
750 years of monarchy ended with the Laotian civil war in 1975; and out banknote was issued just four years later. A new regime was in power, and their ideology adhered to communism’s ideals. Their banknote announces a readiness to defend themselves.
It was a bitter time in was a confusing era. Laos had transitioned from colonialism to independence in perhaps the worst way possible; they had become a pawn in a proxy war of new Cold War superpowers.
The ancient peoples of Laos became a colony to France in the late 19th century. French control continued into WW2 until Japanese power overran most of the Indochinese peninsula. With Japan’s defeat imminent, Laos proclaimed independence in 1945. But defeated France, rejuvenated through the allied victory in WW2 in 1945, moved to reassert its power and reestablish its colonial rule in Laos and the surrounding regions. Laos resisted but it was not until nine years later, in 1954, when France abandoned all claims to Laos.
That 9 year period saw the empowering of communist Soviet Union through their detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949 and the victory of the communist party in China under Mao in 1949.
The United States thought appropriate to take a stand against communism in Laos’ neighbor, Vietnam, about this time. US foreign policy became known as “containment”. In 1958, North Vietnam invaded Laos to establish the Ho Chi Minh trail, the logistical supply route between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. With the escalation of the Vietnam War, this supply route became the subject of intense military fighting, and this region of Laos became the subject of possibly the most intense bombing in history.
To much of the world, Laos was an unknown nation. Centered in the middle of the Indochinese peninsula, Burma and Thailand on its left, Vietnam on its right, Cambodia below and China above, to much of the world, Laos remained lost in the monsoon nourished jungles, without access to the Sea, unknown to the modern world.
The other side of our banknote highlights ambitions in the textile industry. Massive rolls of cloth are being manufactured by modern machinery in this tribute to a growing manufacturing base.
From this industry post: Growth in the Lao textile and garment industry has been impressive from a base of only two companies in 1990 to 116 in 2006 employing 30,000 workers. Laos became a market-oriented economy in the mid-1980s, meaning it had a short learning curve to pick up the basics about the industry.
From a WTO report (approximately year 2004): The textile and garment industry is of great importance to the Lao economy. Currently, the industry comprises ninety-six factories and employs more than 25,000 workers. In 2003, garment exports, valued at US$115 million, accounted for approximately a third of total exports, second to electricity. Laos exports ready-made garments to forty-two countries.