territory of today’s Laos there was the Kingdom of Lan Xang (1354-1707).
When Lan Xang broke
up after the death of King Suriya Vongsa in 1694, one of Suriya’s grandsons
set up an independent kingdom in Luang Prabang, which competed with kingdoms
in Vientiane and
Luang Prabang monarchy was so weak that it was forced to pay tribute at
various times to the Siamese, Burmese and Vietnamese.
In the 19th
century there arose a conflict between France, wishing to expand its
commercial interests in the region and Siam which was the suzerein of Luang
Prabang and Vientiane. When King Chulalongkorn of Siam annexed openly some
provinces of Annam, France signed a convention on 7 May 1886 in which it
recognized the suzereinty of Siam in both kingdoms. In 1893, after a
destructive attack by the Black Flag wing of the Chinese Haw in 1887, King
Sakkarin (1891-1904) of the Luang Prabang kingdom, chose to accept French
protection, and a French commissariat was established in the royal capital.
allowed Laos to retain the Luang Prabang monarchy and incorporated it in 1898
into the Union Indochinoise, founded in 1887.
protection the king retained his legislative power, assisted by his
dignitaries but controlled by French officials from the General Governement
of Indo China.
and 1907 the frontiers between Siam and Laos were fixed.
defeat of France in 1940, Thailand occupied the right bank of the river
Mekong and the province of Champassak. In remaining Laos French rule could be
maintained, granting the Luang Prabang kingdom some more autonomy.
On 9 March 1945
Japan took over French rule in Indochina and forced king Sisavang Vong to
proclaim an independent kingdom on following 8 April, but after the
capitulation of Japan French protection was reaccepted on 7 September.
political unrest France granted internal autonomy to Laos on 27 August 1946
and created a united Kingdom of Laos. A national assembly was elected on 15
December and adopted a constitution on 11 May 1947. Sisavang Vong of Luang
Parbang was made king.
On 19 July 1949
a convention between Laos and France was signed, granting independence of the
kingdom within the Union Française. It received its own army, police, justice
and independent international relations.
On 13 August
1950 a post war dissident movement, the Pathet Lao was refounded.
Its goal to fight the French out of Indochina resulted in a civil war in
Laos. In 1973 a ceasefire was signed between the royal governement and the
Pathet Lao but when the Vietnam War had ended in 1975, ending western
presence in the region, the kingdom was abolished and the Democratic People’s
Republic of Laos could be proclaimed on 4 December 1975.
The emblem of the Kingdom of Laos was a three headed elephant named Airavata.
Airavata has been an important emblem for a long time in the region and probably was once associated with the Khmer Kingdom and Lan Xang. He can be found on the façades of many temples in Laos.
At the expansion of the Siamese territories after 1779, Airavata, called Erawan in Thai, became the symbol of Siam and of the Imperial Government of Siam in particular, as Airvata is the vehicle of Indra alias the Emperor of Siam. The emblem was apparently used in all kingdoms of the Empire.
An achievement western style was adopted in Siam in the beginning of the 19th century, probably by Emperor Rama III (1824-’68). The arms for Siam itself show Airavata on a blue field and is crested with the regalia between two sevenfolded umbrellas.
Emblem of the Royal
Government of Luang Prabang.
On the palace in Luang
The emblem and flag of Luang Prabang shows the emblem of the Siamese government, crested with a single umbrella, which is the emblem of an official of lower rank.
Flag of Luang Prabang
When Laos had become a French protectorate the use of the emblem was continued by the King of Luang Prabang. It was on the flag of the Protectorate, continuing the flag of the Vassal Kingdom and consisting of a red cloth with Airavata sheltered by an umbrella. In the upper left corner appeared the french tricolore for the protectorate. As Laos had ceased to be a Siamese vassal, Airavata was crested with a sevenfolded umbrella, the emblem of a sovereign ruler.
Flag of Luang Prabang
An early representation is also on the Order of Merit of the Million Elephants and the White Umbrella (1909).
Airavata was also on the seal of the Office of the Royal palace in Luang Prabang.
Pendant of the Order of
the Million Elephants
Seal of the Office of the
Palace of Luang Prabang
As on the Diplom of the
Order of the Million Elephants
Seal of the Kingdom of
The seal of the Kingdom of Laos was derived but different from the seal of the Kingdom of Luang Prabang, It shows the three-headed white elephant Airavata, crested with a haloed ritual vessel crowned with the royal pagoda crown, between two sevenfolded umbrellas and two other pieces of the royal regalia, standing on a platform of five steps.
It was probably adopted soon after the creation of the kingdom but it is known only from the time after the granting of independence in 1954. In 1975 it disappeared together with the royal family.
At the same time the emblem of the National Assembly consisted of the regalia composed of two ritual vessels and the book of constitution on top:
as on banknotes of 100 Kip
from the time of King Sisavang Vong (1946-‘59)
This emblem, haloed and surrounded by flames was also on the hat-badge of the members of the National Assembly.
Sãthãlamalid Pasãthu'paait Pasãsim
new national emblem was adopted on 2 December 1975.
Emblem: A landscape with hydro-electric
works, a forest, a road and rice-fields. In base a cogwheel issuant charged
with a rising sun and in chief a hammer and sickle in saltire all proper.
Crest: A five-pointed star Gules
Garland: Ears of rice proper.
Motto: On a red ribbon, on the
dexter: Peace, Independence, Democracy; on the sinister: Unity, Prosperity,
Social Progress; in base the name of the country. All in golden Aksone Lao script
The present national emblem was adopted 14 August 1991. It is the same as the emblem of 1975 but the hammer and sickle and the star are replaced by a picture of the That Luang Stupa in Vientiane
Æ See illustration in the head of this essay
The Royal Lao
Army (Armée Royal du Laos - ARL) was created in 1954 after the French
granted Laos complete autonomy. Its predecessor was the National Laotian Army
(Armée Nationale Laotienne - ANL) of the French Union, created in 1947
from guerrilla units gathered by French commandos. By July, 1959, it was
known as Laotian Armed Forces, and in September 1961, was renamed Royal Armed
Forces (Forces Armées du Royaume - FAR)
The emblem of the Royal Army consisted of a Çakra or Wheel of Law, charged with a trident, the arms of Vishnu.
The emblem of the Republican Army consists of a disc of the flag of the Pathet Lao (three breadths red, blue and red 1:2:1, charged with a white moon), crested with a five-pointed star and surrounded by a green ring charged with ears of rice and a cogwheel in base.
Officers and NCO’s have hat-badges of this emblem surrounded by leaves (picture).
Emblem of the Royal Laotian Gendarmerie.
Laotian People’s Liberation Army Air Force (LPLAAF) is descended from the Aviation
Laotienne, which was established by the French and later became the Royal
Lao Air Force. Pathet Lao guerrilla forces began to operate a few aircraft
from 1960, as did another rebel group led by Kong Le. Kong Le forces were
later re-incorporated into the Royal Lao Air Force. When the communists took
over in 1975, it received its present name.
Laotian Air Force Roundel
The emblem of the Royal Police consisted of a bow and arrow per pale charged with Airavata standing on a pedestal.
For officers and NCO’s the emblem was surrounded by large and small flames respectively.
Hat-badge of the Laotian
The hat-badge of the Republican Laotian police is identical to the hat-badge of the Laotian Army.
© Hubert de Vries 2012-02-27