Asia, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia - Indochina, Southeast Asia, Uncategorized

Laos – Military Might (1979 era, 20 kips)

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.

 

Laos 20 kip 1979 back

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.

 

Laos 20 kip 1979 front (2)

 

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.

 

Asia, Earth, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia - Indochina, Southeast Asia

Laos – Elephants in Logging Industry (1979, 5 Kips)

Laos 5 kip (1979) back

Laos was known for centuries as Lan Xang.  Lan Xang, which translates as “The Land of One Million Elephants”, is the precursor kingdom to modern Laos.  It dominated the Indochina region from the 14th to the 18th century. The Laotian monarchy provided 750 years of continuity for the traditions of Lan Xang through the the Khun Lo Dynasty ending in 1975, the concluding year of the Civil War, in which Communists came into power.

Elephants have long been associated with power and kingship and wealth in Indochina.   In the 15th century, war broke out between Vietnam and Laos, Lan Xang, which has become known as the War of the White Elephant.

By the time of this sad 2012 article, elephants have been reduced vastly in number with an uncertain future.

Detail from Laos 5 kip (1979) back
Laos 5 kip (1979) front, including the national emblem of the newly (since 1975) communist state with hammer and sickle emblazoned above illustrations of local Laotian scenes.
Detail from Laos 5 kip (1979) front.  A shopping scene of Laotians at the local market.
Detail from Laos 5 kip (1979) front

The National Emblem adorns the front of our featured 1979 banknote, and is illustrated here. Left-center illustrates the electricity powering the nation, while right-center is the forest on the traditional paddy field; the road forward is between the two.

 

 

Laos, Coat of Arms, front of 2013 banknote

At left is the National Emblem of Laos on the front of a 2003 banknote.  Much will be seen to be the same, and some changes are self-explanatory.  The hammer and sickle, symbolizing the union of the industrial and agricultural workers, the great symbol of the Soviet Union, is, of course, absent.  The rapid demise of the Soviet Union came with stunning surprise to the leaders of Laos, as indeed it came to much of the world.  I am curious as to the alteration in the script wrapping the rice stalks on the right, as well as that below the gear at center.  The script below the gear in the center is the name of the State, which apparently has not changed since 1975.  If a reader has any insight on this, I would very much appreciate your contribution by way of comment or email.

 

Asia, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia - Indochina, Southeast Asia

Laos – Culture (2003, 1000 kips)

Laos, Laotian Ethnic Groups Women: Lao Lum, Lao Sung and Lao Theung, Pha That Luang pagoda in Vientiane.

Traditionally there are three ethnic groups of Laotians, and they are illustrated beautifully on our banknote by these three ladies.   The Lao Soung, or Lao Sung, are the highland dwelling peoples constituting about 10% of the populace.  The Lao Theung, or Lao Thoeng, indicates the midland Lao peoples and represents about 25% of the populace.  The Lao Lum, or Lao, are the majority ethinc group, representing about 50% of the populace.

Over the left shoulder of our three ladies is the Pha That Luang pagoda.  Regarded as dating from the 3rd century, that is almost 2000 years old, this is the most significant pagoda in Laos.  It is rumored to contain the breastbone of the Buddha himself. It is said that the architecture contains numerous references to Laotian culture which has furthered its significance as an icon of Laotian nationalism.  It is said that the three levels of the pagoda each reflect a dimension of Buddhist doctrine.

Laos, Cattle, Power lines, Elephant, Deity
Laos, National Emblem

The National Emblem adorns the front of our banknote and is illustrated her.  The Pha That Luang Pagoda is at center top.  Left center is the modern empowering hydroelectric dam while right center is the forest on the traditional paddy field; the road forward is between the two.  The name of the state is inscribed below the one-half gear wheel on the bottom,
Fully ripened rice stalks encircle the whole, each wrapped, and inscribed between them, with the five words of the Laotian Motto: Peace, Independence, Democracy, Unity, Prosperity”.

 

Asia, Earth, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia - Indochina, Southeast Asia

Laos – Modern Irrigation (1988, 500 kips)

Laos is a rugged, landlocked region in the midst of the Indochina peninsula. 80% of its land is hilly to mountainous.  Land suitable for agriculture, arable land, is located primarily along its major river, the Mekong, and its tributaries.  From rainy to dry seasons the elevation of the Mekong can fluctuate 20 meters.  The Mekong remained “untamed” along its entire length, that is, not a single spanning bridge, until 1994 when the Friendship bridge was opened, connecting Laos with Vietnam.

In 1893, Laos became a French colony. During WW2 it came under dominion of the Japanese, returning to France following the war. In 1954, Laos secured independence from France. Landlocked, surrounded by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China, for decades remained largely unknown to the rest of the world. That is changing.

Laos, modern irrigation systems
Laos, the fruit harvest