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Luang Prabang

Royaume du Laos

Republic of laos






On the 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 Champasak.

However, the 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.

The French allowed Laos to retain the Luang Prabang monarchy and incorporated it in 1898 into the Union Indochinoise, founded in 1887.

Under French protection the king retained his legislative power, assisted by his dignitaries but controlled by French officials from the General Governement of Indo China.

Between 1904 and 1907 the frontiers between Siam and Laos were fixed.

After the 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.

To meet 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.


Lord Indra riding Airavata

Sculpture on Phu Kao Wat temple, Champasak


Airavata is a huge elephant which has three, sometimes 33 heads. The heads are often shown with more than two tusks. In Hinduism, Airavata (raFt) is a white elephant who carries Lord Indra, the King of Gods and Lord of Heaven.

According to the Matangalila, Airavata was born when Brahma sang sacred hymns over the halves of the egg shell from which Garuda hatched, followed by seven more male and eight female elephants. Prithu made Airavata king of all elephants. One of his names means ‘the one who knits or binds the clouds’. This is because these elephants are capable of producing clouds.

Airavata is the mount of each one of the eight guardian deities who preside over the eight points of the compass.


A reference to Airavata in the Bhagvad Gita reads:

“Of horses, know Me to be the nectar-born Ucchaisravas; of lordly elephants, Airavata and of men, the monarch.” (Chapter 10, Verse 27)



Luang Prabang


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 Prabang


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 until 1893


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 1893-1946


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



Royaume du Laos



Seal of the Kingdom of Laos


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:


The regalia

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.


Democratic People’s Republic of Laos

Sãthãlamalid Pasãthu'paait Pasãsim Lao




A new national emblem was adopted on 2 December 1975.

The Soviet-style emblem is:


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



Armed Forces




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.


Air Force


The present-day 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


Royal Guard





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.[1]


Hat-badge of the Laotian Police


The hat-badge of the Republican Laotian police is identical to the hat-badge of the Laotian Army.



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© Hubert de Vries 2012-02-27


[1] See also: http://alexdck.free.fr/INDOCHINE/ANLAO2.htm and: http://alexdck.free.fr/INDOCHINE/ANLAO.htm


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