3 forgotten wars worth remembering

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

3 forgotten wars worth remembering

When people talk about American wars, the Revolution, Civil War, First and Second World War, and Vietnam are always the ones people go to. And while they were extremely important conflicts, the significance of the smaller fights shouldn’t be understated, as they’re the ones that lay the groundwork for topics that history books love to cover. Here are three forgotten wars worth remembering.

The Barbary Wars (1801-1815)

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The first two lines of the United States Marine Corps hymn mention the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli. The first line is a reference to the Mexican-American War, still a fairly well-known conflict even if the details are a bit hazy. The second line talks about the Barbary Wars, a conflict almost no one’s heard about.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a collection of North African states called the Barbary States were practicing state-sanctioned and supported piracy. It was a common enough practice, with many European countries doing the same any time they were at war with a neighbor, which was frequently. After the Revolution, the British government told the Barbary States that U.S. vessels no longer enjoyed the protection of the British navy and were open to attack. The American navy was virtually nonexistent at this point, which meant U.S. ships were easy targets.

As the U.S. navy grew in strength, it meant they could respond to the attacks with force, which eventually culminated in two wars: one with Tripoli from 1801 to 1805 and one with Algiers from 1815 to 1816. Both ended in United States victories and helped establish the U.S. as a significant player on the world stage, though it’d still be decades before the U.S. was taken seriously as a world power.

The Moro Rebellion (early 1900s-1913)

The European tradition of empire building isn’t a practice that’s generally associated with the United States, but we did dabble in it, which is where the Moro Rebellion comes in. In 1898, under President McKinley, the U.S. annexed the Philippines and provoked a nationalist rebellion on the part of Filipino natives. That war was primarily limited to the majority-Catholic northern islands and lasted until 1902.

From there, the U.S. set its sights on the southern islands, which had higher Muslim (also called Moro) populations, who began a bloody guerilla war in the jungles of the Philippine islands that lasted until 1913. Today, when it’s talked about, it’s portrayed as a religious conflict, with Muslim insurgents fighting Christian invaders. While that was certainly an element in the fight, the major conflict was closer to the classic invaded vs. invader narrative. The Moro simply didn’t want to bow to a foreign government after living under Spanish rule for 300 years.

The Secret War in Laos (1964-1973)

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The true extent of the American involvement in East Asia during the Vietnam War is only just emerging, mostly thanks to how secretive the government was during the conflict. From 1964 to 1973, the American military ran an extensive bombing campaign in Laos as they tried to disrupt North Vietnamese movements over the Laotian border. In that campaign, American planes dropped more bombs on Laos than were dropped in all of World War II, and the public was simply never told that there was anything happening. It’d be as if we went through the entire second World War without ever hearing anything about what the Air Force did.

What’s worth remembering about the secret war in Laos is that it marked one aspect of a hugely significant change in the way the American government conducted itself in combat. Secrecy has always been important—necessary even—but before Vietnam and Laos, the military’s operations were fairly transparent. The secret war was the first time the public was treated with malice and distrust.

Trusting The Government: U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, All The Same?

Trusting The Government: U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, All The Same?

 

I was born in the mid 1950’s and grew up watching Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news. Mr. Cronkite was by most considered to be the “most trusted man in America.” Whom is it that you totally trust the most in American news media or within the political realm today? With all the news outlets of today all trying to get you to watch or listen to them I find it difficult to put much trust in any of them. There are two main reasons for that, one is that each of these outlets are companies, they are ‘for profit’. Two is the consideration of where are they getting their information?

 

I am in my early 60’s now so during the past 50 years or so we here in the U.S. have been constantly told that we are the good guys and governments who are Communist are the bad guys. From all of the reading and studying that I have done over the years I really don’t doubt that these Communists governments are far less than friendly toward their own population nor to others. Communists seem to think military first and usually military only and it is a proven fact that very few people who are military oriented are very good public leaders. Military frame of mind and civilian frame of mind seldom seem to end up within the same person. Then again within the non-communists countries the people have to put up with politicians who seem to change their mind like farts in a breeze. Here in the U.S. we the people have learned a lot since the NSA murdered John and Bobby Kennedy back in the 60’s. When Nixon was President he illegally expanded the war in Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia. We had military personal who died there or were captured there that our government turned their back on as well as their families basically saying they must have deserted. When the U.S. officially left Vietnam Nixon got on TV and said there were no more POWs in southeast Asia, knowing very well that he was lying to the people. Reality comes down to the fact of truth or not the truth, trust or not being able to trust.

 

Now I am going to talk about current events here in the U.S. and this reality of trust or no trust. On a personal level can you trust a person on really serious matters when you absolutely know as a fact that they have lied to you many many occasions?  In the last 24-36 hours we have been hearing on the news that Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. spy drone. The early news strongly hinted that the drone was over Iranian land which by all forms of international law would have been a violation committed by the Americans and Iran would have had every right to shoot it down. By international law every country which borders a body of water has 12 miles sovereignty except for China’s Communists government who seems to want to claim at least a few thousand miles sovereignty but that is another story for other articles. Now the U.S. government is saying that the drone was 21 miles off of Iran’s coast and if this is true then basically Iran committed and act of war against the U.S. and the U.S. government would have the right to retaliate against Iran. The issue is, how can we trust our own government when they and especially our President is a habitual liar? President George W. Bush’s lies paved the way for us to start a war with Iraq. Personally I believe that he was just trying to show his Daddy that he could ‘one-up’ him and take out Saddam. Think of the cost of those lies in terms of thousands of people dead and about a trillion dollars of taxpayer money thrown into that bloodbath. Today’s news headline said that some of the Republicans in the Senate were upset that President Trump called off a bombing raid in Iran that would have started an all out war with them and their allies. Going to war with anyone should not be a partisan matter and going to war should not be in the hands of one person. If we are going to enter a war this war should be voted on and passed by at least 2/3 of the Congress and the Senate. This is not a computer game, many thousands of people will die. So, what is the truth on this matter, can you or I honestly trust anything that Mr. Trump says? Personally I don’t. Credibility is something that our leaders no longer have, their word is not good enough any more. If we go to war with Iran they have many allies including many sleeper cells within our own borders, many Americans on American land will die, life as we have always know it here in the States will be over. But, how the hell can we the people ever know if what we are being told is the truth, or just another lie.

 

5 Of The Most Stunning Waterfalls In The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Stunning Waterfalls in the World

5

Most Stunning Waterfalls in the World

The power and beauty of waterfalls have inspired travelers for centuries. The most stunning of the bunch aren’t necessarily the biggest or the ones that boast the largest volume of water flow. Sometimes it’s the surroundings, graceful composition or incredible location that makes them worthy of a visit.

We scoured the globe and found five awesomely impressive waterfalls to add to your bucket list:

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Credit: R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock.com

The Iguazu Falls are nothing short of breathtaking. The tremendous collection of 275 cascades range from 60 to 82 meters tall, and they spread over two miles, making this the biggest waterfall system in the world. The 700-meter long Devil’s Throat is undoubtedly the most spectacular sight, funneling the Iguazu River’s water down its 82-meter drop.

Iguazu Falls is protected by National Parks in both Argentina and Brazil. Arrange a visa for both countries beforehand so you can see the falls from different perspectives.

Kuang Si Falls, Laos

Kuang Si Falls, Laos

Credit: Preto Perola/Shutterstock.com

Nestled in the pristine jungle on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Falls wins major points for location. It may not be the biggest in the world, but it made its way onto the list courtesy of its tranquil vibe and stunning cobalt-blue water.

Kuang Si Falls is composed of three distinct tiers that break off into multiple cascades and snake their way into several big rock pools. The welcoming water begs visitors to take a dip on a hot day. It’s chilly, but we bet that rope swing will encourage you to jump in.

Follow the dirt path, letting the sound of gushing water guide you to the waterfalls’ tallest point. The 50-foot crevasse gushes water that flows from an unseen origin, one hidden in the dense green canopy above. The curious will venture a bit farther and embark on the steep, 30-minute climb to reach the top of the falls. Your reward is viewing the source—a private oasis with shallow pools tucked in a jungle.

Plitvice Falls, Croatia

Plitvice Falls, Croatia

Credit: Mike Mareen/Shutterstock.com

A visit to this park should be a priority for any nature or outdoor lover. The Plitvice National Park, bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, boasts 16 spectacular cascading lakes. Each body of water flows into the next as the sequence of lakes follows the water flow. The spilling over of these lakes creates some 90 waterfalls throughout the park. A vista more stunning than the last awaits around each turn, making it difficult to pinpoint a highlight. However, you have to see the giant, haphazard spillover of Veliki Slap (aka the Big Waterfall) and complete the trek to the viewpoint above.

Insider Tip: Break up your tour of this sprawling park into two days. Spend one day exploring the Upper Lakes section and the second exploring the Lower Lakes section. Both areas are walkable and it’s advised to take your time so you don’t miss an inch of its splendor.

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Yosemite Falls, California, U.S.A.

Yosemite Falls, California, U.S.A.

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At 739 meters, this plunging-tiered waterfall is the highest in California. Located in Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Falls is one of its greatest attractions. The Upper Yosemite Falls spouts water out of a stoic cliff face, letting it tuble down a staggering 440 meters. This section alone makes Yosemite Falls one of the tallest waterfalls in the U.S. The middle section drops another several hundred meters via a series of cascades. Finally, the Lower Yosemite Falls dives 90 meters into the base pool. You can reach the top of the falls with a strenuous hike. However, there are plenty of excellent viewpoints throughout the length of Yosemite Valley.

Insider Tip: Visit in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Credit: Torsten Reuter/Shutterstock.com

In the 1800s, the local Kololo tribe named this mighty flow of water Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “The Smoke That Thunders.” This seems like the most fitting name for Victoria Falls, a cosmically powerfully waterfall fed by the Zambezi River, with clouds of spray that can be seen from miles away.

Victoria Falls is commonly referred to as the largest waterfall in the world in terms of combined width and height. It stretches nearly 2 kilometers along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border before plunging into a gorge more than 100 meters below. Facing the falls is another cliff of the same height, creating a fatally enticing entrance to Middle Earth.

Multiple viewing platforms create perfect vantage points for visitors and dramatic photo opportunities. Getting up close and personal with Victoria promises to be a spiritual experience.

Insider Tip: Victoria Falls can be viewed from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We recommend posting up in the Zambian town of Livingston for cheaper accommodation, cheaper National Park entrance and multiple viewing platforms.

In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth—And Fears Of Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
(OPED BY OLDPOET56)—(ANY COUNTRY THAT ACCEPTS CHINA’S MONEY IS IN REALITY SELLING THEIR SOVEREIGNTY AND THEIR LAND TO THE COMMUNISTS LEADERSHIP IN BEIJING AND THEIR MILITARY WHEN YOU CAN’T PAY BACK THEIR HIGH INTEREST LOANS.) 

 

In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth — And Fears Of Debt

LISTEN·3:57QUEUE

Giant concrete pylons rise from the Mekong River north of Luang Prabang, where a bridge is under construction.

Ashley Westerman/NPR

In Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country, the Mekong River is a lifeline. From a slow boat heading up the river in Laos, you’ll see fishermen working in their boats, riverside farms where bananas grow, and domesticated buffalo lazing. Occasionally a ferry chugs by. From time to time, steps leading to a riverside village become visible on the banks through the foliage. The wind is swift, and the brown fresh water laps up onto the side of the boat.

Just over 9 miles north of Luang Prabang, a startling aberration appears: five giant concrete pylons rising out of the water.

Red cranes top each of the pylons. A bridge is being built here. On either bank, the row of pylons continues until it almost hits the mountainsides, with scaffolding and other heavy construction equipment scattered below.

When it’s finished, the bridge will be part of a new China-Laos railway. Its planned 250-plus miles of track are meant to connect China’s southern Yunnan province with Laos’ capital, Vientiane.

Laotian officials have promised the high-speed railway, slated to open in 2021, will be good for the country.

“Once completed, the railway will benefit Lao people of all ethnic groups, facilitate and reduce costs of transportation, stimulate the development of agricultural and industrial sectors, tourism, investment and trade, as well as generate income for Lao people and the country,” Lao Minister of Public Works and Transport Bouchanh Sinthavong said during the groundbreaking ceremony outside Luang Prabang in 2016.

The railway is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a $1.3 trillion project that looks to establish a vast network of investment and infrastructure spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

Ashley Westerman/NPR

But for many Laotian people, the benefits aren’t yet clear.

The risk of debt distress

The railway is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a $1.3 trillion project that looks to establish a vast network of investment and infrastructure spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

Brian Eyler, Southeast Asia program director at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., describes the plan as a “grand vision” that involves China building bridges, railways, ports, highways and airports all over the world.

“Not necessarily to link China to the rest of the world,” he explains. “But to create channels to bring natural resources and commercial inputs back to China so that China’s economy can keep growing.”

As a direct neighbor to China with ample access to the critical Mekong River, Laos is seen as a “linking country,” Eyler says. The China-Laos railway is part of a line that will eventually extend from Kunming, the Yunnan provincial capital, through Malaysia and all the way south to Singapore.

It’s an expensive project for one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. According to the World Bank, while Laos’ economy has grown consistently over the past decade, the country’s GDP was still only about $16 billion in 2017. The International Monetary Fund ranked Laos 36th out of 42 Asian countries in 2018.

Of the almost $6 billion cost for the China-Laos railway, the Chinese government will pay 70 percent. Laos will finance the remaining 30 percent with loans from Chinese financial institutions.

Eyler says China is a new power player in Laos, whose government most likely found this influx of cash for much needed infrastructure projects attractive. But many wonder if the Laotian government has the ability to pay back such large loans.

“And it’s not just the railway’s debt that’s of concern, but it’s the accumulating mass of debt related to Chinese projects in Laos that have put the country very much on alert for … overleveraged debt,” Eyler says.

Concerns about debt are not unique to Laos. Many experts have expressed misgivings over how China is financing large infrastructure projects in developing nations. A 2018 report by the Center for Global Development identified eight countries, including Laos, among 68 potential Belt and Road Initiative borrowers as being “at particular risk of debt distress.”

A Vientiane resident is not convinced. She does not want NPR to use her name for fear that giving an interview to a journalist will result in retribution from the Laotian government.

The Chinese government has claimed that the rail project would create thousands of jobs for local people, but many Laotians say they don’t know anyone who has been employed.

Ashley Westerman/NPR

Her concern about the railway: “Because we borrow money from the Chinese government to build this railway and how much the Lao people have to owe, and pay back. The debt,” she says. “So I’m not quite sure about the benefits.”

Feeling left out

As Laos is a tightly controlled communist state, there likely isn’t much dialogue between the Laotian government and the public, Eyler notes. The benefits of the railway to the Laotian people haven’t been well-articulated, he says.

Just seeing the way in which the railway is being constructed has given residents pause. Despite the Chinese government’s claiming that the project would create thousands of jobs for local people, many Laotians say they don’t know anyone who has been employed.

“All the construction work was handed off to China Railway Group, and Chinese engineers and laborers have descended on [Laos] in droves. … Not even the Laotian government is clear on the exact number of Chinese workers in the country,” the Nikkei Asian Review reported in 2017.

As a direct neighbor with ample access to the critical Mekong River, China sees Laos as a vital link. The China-Laos railway is part of a line that will eventually extend from Kunming, the Yunnan provincial capital, south to Singapore.

Ashley Westerman/NPR

Chinese state-run media have published various articles claiming the railway is changing local lives for the better. But on the ground, residents have told journalists that thousands were ordered off their land to make way for the railway and aren’t being compensated as promised.

Some people living along the path of the new railway see its completion as tantamount to a Chinese invasion.

In Luang Prabang, a man who did not want to use his name for fear of government retribution says he understands why people would like a new train. It’s faster, cheaper and makes traveling easier.

“But I worry that when the trains are completed, there will be many, many Chinese [moving] in from China to live in Laos and they will take the job[s] from local people,” he says.

He says even the promise of more tourists coming into Luang Prabang isn’t necessarily appealing. According to the local tourism office, the number of visitors to Luang Prabang in 2000 was just under 102,000. In 2018, more than 755,000 tourists came to the city — an increase of more than 600 percent. And in recent years, the tourists have overwhelmingly been Chinese. But Chinese tourists rely on Chinese-run tour groups, stay in Chinese-owned hotels and eat at Chinese-owned restaurants, the man says.

“All the money go back to China, not for Laos people,” he says.

Some say they wish the money for the railway could be used to fix their country’s crumbling roads and schools. Others are deeply concerned about the potential impact of the new railway on Laos’ ecosystem as it cuts through the country’s dwindling foreststunnels through its mountains and disrupts the landscape of the Mekong River.

Conservationists working to rehabilitate Laos’ critically low elephant population — just 400 in the wild — are worried that these animals won’t survive more habitat fragmentation and disruption from such large infrastructure projects.

Both the Luong Prabang resident and the Vientiane resident say many others in their communities share their misgivings about the railway.

“Zero of my friend[s] agree with it,” says the Vientiane resident. “However, we cannot go against because it’s already been decided by the top people and we just have to accept.”

How preserving folktales and legends help raise environment awareness in the Mekong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

How preserving folktales and legends help raise environment awareness in the Mekong

The Mekong Basin. Photo from the website of The People’s Stories project. Used with permission

In 2014, several indigenous communities in the Mekong started recording their stories and legends with the help of a group of researchers who are exploring how these narratives can help exposing the destructive impact of large-scale projects in the region.

The Mekong is one of Asia’s great river systems which flows through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is rich in biodiversity and a vital source of livelihood for millions of farmers and fisherfolk.

In recent years, several large-scale projects such as hydropower dams have displaced residents while threatening the river basin’s ecosystem. Despite protests, the construction of dams has continued, especially in Laos and Thailand.

In partnership with Mekong Watch, a Japan-based group advocating sustainable development in the region, several community elders in the Mekong began recording some of their stories and legends in 2014 that revolve around nature. Mekong Watch believes that these stories “have played an important role in protecting nature by avoiding the over-exploitation of natural resources.”

Mekong Watch asserts that part of the commons that need to be protected are not just natural resources but also “intangible heritages” that can be shared and accessed by the local community. Toshiyuki Doi, senior adviser of Mekong watch, adds:

People’s stories should be regarded, recognized, and respected as Mekong’s commons, especially these days when they are losing their place in local communities to more modern media, and are not passed on to next generations.

Areas in the Mekong where researchers conducted fieldwork. 1. Kmhmu’ in northern and central Laos; 2. Siphandon in southern Laos; 3. Akha in northern Thailand; 4. Thai So and Isan in northeastern Thailand; 5. Bunong in northeastern Cambodia. Used with permission.

The group was able to collect a total of 102 stories in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Stories were recorded, transcribed, and translated into the national languages of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia before an English version was made. Mekong Watch published these stories as pamphlets in both printed and digital formats, and used them during environment workshops they conducted at the communities.

Since late 2016, we have used people’s stories to provide environmental education to children in rural Laos and Thailand. We have hosted workshops in schools and local communities to guide children, and sometimes adults, to collect stories from elderly people, learn from the stories, and turn them into reading materials.

An example of a workshop involves the retelling of the story of ‘The Owl and the Deer ’from Kmhmu’ people in central and northern Laos. The story is about an owl who lost his ability to see during the day after cheating a deer.

During a workshop, young participants are asked: “What kinds of animals appear in the story?”, “Can you see these animals in your village?”, and “If there are fewer of these animals in your village than before, why do you think this has happened?”

After this, participants are encouraged to connect the story to the deterioration of the environment in their communities.

In Champasak Province, south Laos, the legend of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin and the Sida bird is used to highlight how a dam project is disrupting the seasonal migration of Mekong River fisheries.

Another story also from southern Laos is instructive on the value of resource management:

The story about the Rhino Head was recorded on November 16, 2014, at the Songkram River bank in northeast Thailand. The narrator was Mun Kimprasert, aged 68. Photo by Mekong Watch, used with permission.

Once, a soldier stepped into a spirit forest. He discovered a lot of tobacco leaves there and collected them. However, when trying to leave the forest, he could not find an exit. It was because he took more tobacco leaves than he could possibly consume for himself. No matter how hard he searched, he could not find a way out of the forest. Realizing what might have been the problem, he finally decided to return the tobacco leaves to the forest. The moment he dropped them on the ground, he was able to see an exit in front of him.

In northern Thailand, a story by the Akha people about the origin of the swingteaches self-sacrifice through a heroic episode of a brother and a sister who put the world in order.

In northeast Thailand, a folktale about Ta Sorn narrated by Tongsin Tanakanya promotes unity among neighbors in a farming community. Another story recalls how the hunting of a rhinoceros led to the formation of salt trading in this part of the country.

In Bunong, located in northeast Cambodia, there are stories about rituals to fix bad marriages and planting and harvest ceremonies narrated by Khoeuk Keosineam. There is also the legend of the elephant as retold by Chhot Pich which reveals how villagers who once poisoned a river were punished by the gods and turned into elephants. It explains why elephants were comfortable living with humans but, after several generations, they forgot their origins and went to live in the forest.

Hea Phoeun from the Laoka Village, Senmonorom, Mondulkiri Province in Cambodia shares a village ritual on how to fix an ‘unfit’ marriage. Photo by Mekong Watch, used with permission.

For Mekong Watch and the threatened communities in the region, preserving these stories is integral in the campaign to resist projects that would displace thousands of people living in the Mekong:

These stories can help form their identity as a community member and identify with the environment. By means of stories, the communities search for ways to accommodate and/or resist changes that are taking place in the Mekong river basin.

Laos: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This South-East Asian Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Laos

Introduction Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
History Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, founded in the fourteenth century by Fa Ngum, himself descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracking back to Khun Borom. Lan-Xang prospered until the eighteenth century, when the kingdom was divided into three principalities, which eventually came under Siamese suzerainty. In the 19th century, Luang Prabang was incorporated into the ‘Protectorate’ of French Indochina, and shortly thereafter, the kingdom of Champassack and the territory of Vientiane were also added to the protectorate. The French saw Laos as a useful buffer state between the two expanding empires of France and Britain. Under the French, Vientiane once again became the capital of a unified Lao state. Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the country declared its independence in 1945, but the French re-asserted their control and only in 1950 was Laos granted semi-autonomy as an “associated state” within the French Union. Moreover, the French remained in de facto control until 1954, when Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy. Under a special exemption to the Geneva Convention, a French military training mission continued to support the Royal Laos Army. In 1955, the U.S. Department of Defense created a special Programs Evaluation Office to replace French support of the Royal Lao Army against the communist Pathet Lao as part of the U.S. containment policy.

Laos was dragged into the Vietnam War, and the eastern parts of the country were invaded and occupied by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which used Laotian territory as a staging ground and supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos and supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The result of these actions were a series of coups d’état and, ultimately, the Laotian Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and the communist Pathet Lao.

In the Civil War, the NVA, with its heavy artillery and tanks, was the real power behind the Pathet Lao insurgency. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack against the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing and leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand.

Massive aerial bombardment by the United States followed as it attempted to eliminate North Vietnamese bases in Laos in order to disrupt supply lines on the Ho Chi Minh/Trường Sơn Trail. Between 1971 and 1973 the USAF dropped more ordnance on Laos than was dropped worldwide during World War II (1939−45). In total more than 2 million tonnes of bombs were dropped (almost 1/2 a tonne per head of population at the time).

Pha That Luang in Vientiane, the national symbol of Laos.

In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao, backed by the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese Army (justified by the communist ideology of “proletarian internationalism”), overthrew the royalist government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on December 2, 1975. He later died in captivity.

After taking control of the country, Pathet Lao’s government renamed the country as the “Lao People’s Democratic Republic” and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station military forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was ordered in the late 1970s by Vietnam to end relations with the People’s Republic of China which cut the country off from trade with any country but Vietnam. Control by Vietnam and socialization were slowly replaced by a relaxation of economic restrictions in the 1980s and admission into ASEAN in 1997.

The Tai Dam are an ethnic group from Laos that escaped the country as a group. After thousands of years of political oppression, the Tai Dam people vowed to unite as one group and find a country they could call their own. The Tai Dam are known as “the people without a country.” More than 90 percent of Tai Dam refugees emigrated to the state of Iowa after the governor agreed to take the Tai Dam as a group and have organizations sponsor families. In 2005, the United States established Normal Trade Relations with Laos, ending a protracted period of punitive import taxes.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Utah
Land boundaries: total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use: arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 333.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: floods, droughts
Environment – current issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Demographics 69% of the country’s people are ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and the politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao belong to the Tai linguistic group who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium AD. A further 8% belong to other “lowland” groups, which together with the Lao people make up the Lao Loum.

Hill people and minority cultures of Laos such as the Hmong (Miao), Yao (Mien), Tai dumm, Dao, Shan, and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Mountain/hill tribes of mixed ethno/cultural-linguistic heritage are found in northern Laos which include the Lua (Lua) and Khammu people who are indigenous to Laos. Today, the Lua people are considered endangered. Collectively, they are known as Lao Soung or highland Laotians. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer tribes, known as Lao Theung or mid-slope Laotians, predominate. Some Vietnamese and Chinese minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves; after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The term “Laotian” does not necessarily refer to the ethnic Lao language, ethnic Lao people, language or customs, but is a political term that also includes the non-ethnic Lao groups within Laos and identifies them as “Laotian” because of their political citizenship. In a similar vein, the word “Lao” can also describe the people, cuisine, language and culture of the people of Northeast Thailand (Isan) who are ethnic Lao.

The predominant religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism which, along with the common Animism practiced among the mountain tribes, coexists peacefully with spirit worship. There also are a small number of Christians, mostly restricted to the Vientiane area, and Muslims, mostly restricted to the Myanmar border region. Christian missionary work is regulated by the government.

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. Midslope and highland Lao speak an assortment of tribal languages. French, still common in government and commerce, has declined in usage, while knowledge of English, the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has increased in recent years.

People Population: 6,677,534 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 41% (male 1,374,966/female 1,362,945)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 1,846,375/female 1,885,029)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 91,028/female 117,191) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 19.2 years
male: 18.9 years
female: 19.5 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.344% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 34.46 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 79.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 56.29 years
male: 54.19 years
female: 58.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.5 children born

Laos dam collapse leaves hundreds missing, unknown number dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

Laos dam collapse leaves hundreds missing, unknown number dead

Villagers take refuge on a rooftop above flood waters from a collapsed dam in the Attapeu district of southeastern Laos, July 24, 2018.

 AP

BANGKOK — A hydroelectric dam collapsed in southeastern Laos, leaving an unknown number of people dead and hundreds missing, state media said Tuesday. Rescue efforts were underway as top government officials rushed to the site and public appeals were launched for aid.

The official Lao news agency KPL said the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Attapeu province collapsed Monday evening, releasing large amounts of water that swept away houses and made more than 6,600 people homeless.

The dam was constructed by a joint venture led by South Korean companies, with Thai and Lao partners. The project was still under construction, KPL reported. It described the portion that collapsed as a “saddle dam,” which is an auxiliary dam used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith “suspended the planned monthly meeting of the government for August and led his Cabinet members and other senior officials to Sanamxay (district) to monitor rescue and relief efforts being made for flood victims,” KPL said. Many areas of Laos have recently been hit by floods from heavy seasonal rains.

Provincial authorities issued a call for emergency aid – clothing, food, drinking water, medicine, cash and other items – from the “party, government organizations, business community, officials, police and military forces and people of all strata.”

Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia, has transitioned from communism to a market economy but remains a single-party state where freedoms are limited. There is virtually no freedom of the press, and foreign reporters who visit operate under tight restrictions, limiting the flow of information.

Electricity from several hydroelectric dams provides a large share of Laos’ export earnings, with Thailand being a major buyer.

KPL said the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy project cost an estimated $1.02 billion.

According to the website of the company that built and runs the dam, it is majority-owned by two South Korean companies, SK Engineering and Construction and Korea Western Power. Most of the financing for the project came from Thai lenders. The Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Co. Ltd of Thailand holds a 25 percent stake and the Lao Holding State Enterprise holds 24 percent.

The dam was built to divert the Houay Makchanh, Xe-Namnoy and Xe-Pian rivers into reservoirs that feed into a 410-megawatt power plant designed to generate 1,879 gigawatts of power a year, with 90 percent of the power being exported to Thailand and the remaining 10 percent used locally. The project is a 27-year concession and was due to begin operating in 2019, a year later than originally planned.

The project is on a volcanic plateau divided by a river gorge and the catchment area accounts for 17 percent of the Mekong river’s annual flow.

According to assessment documents, about 30 villages were affected by the project with more than 2,000 people in eight villages resettled. Roughly 10,000 people live in the affected area, with most belonging to ethnic minorities.

The project was supposed to be a cash cow for SK E&C for years. The company is part of the SK Group, one of South Korea’s top three conglomerates. Its units include SK Hynix, the world’s second-largest chipmaker, and SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest telecom carrier.

Thailand was to receive a stable supply of electricity while Laos was supposed to receive taxes, royalties and other income estimated at $33 billion per year.

South Korea’s Yonhap News agency said SK E&C has dispatched its president to Laos and has set up an emergency team in Seoul. SK E&C did not respond to several calls seeking comment.

Yonhap said SK E&C was still trying to find out whether water had overflowed the dam or if the dam had collapsed.

Yonhap quoted an unidentified SK E&C official as saying rain in the area was three times more than the usual amount, and that one of five auxiliary dams had overflowed.

It said SK E&C is focusing on the rescue operation, using boats and other equipment to search for missing people.

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History of Laos

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM GOOGLE PLUS)

Pathet Lao

The term Pathet Lao (land of Lao) is generally used to describe the communist movement of Laos that began in 1945 and continued until 1975, when Laos became communist. It was one of three groups active in the politics of Laos, the other two being the Royal Lao Government (RLG) and the neutralists.

Laos became a French protectorate in 1893. During World War II, the Japanese took control of Laos and declared it independent from French colonial rule on March 9, 1945. After Japan’s surrender, an independent Lao Issara (Free Laos) government was proclaimed on September 1, joined by the Pathet Lao, with its strong nationalist leanings.

There was a Lao committee section in the Indochinese Communist Party, and the separate existence of the Lao communist movement was established in 1945. The leader of the Pathet Lao, Prince Souphanuvong, had met the Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh in 1945 and gained control of central Laos with the help of Vietnamese troops.

The prince had nurtured the communist movement and was prepared to fight against the French, who had seized the capital city, Vientiane, in 1946. Laos was soon engulfed in the First Indochina War, and the Pathet Lao fought along with the Vietminh and the Khmer Rouge. The granting of limited independence on July 19, 1949, by the French was not accepted by the communists.

However, Souvanna Phouma joined the new French-sponsored government in February 1950, where Souphanouvong proclaimed the parallel government of Pathet Lao along with its political organ, Neo Lao Issara (Lao Free Front).

The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954, ended its colonial rule in Indochina. The Pathet Lao was recognized as a political party with control over Phong Saly and Sam Neua Provinces and began to consolidate its position.

In December 1959 the military-dominated government of Phoumi Nosavan arrested the Pathet Lao members of the National Assembly, although Souphanouvong escaped. Laos was plunged into civil war. North Vietnam supported the Pathet Lao by sending arms, ammunitions, and troops.

The U.S. government included Laos in its containment strategy defense against North Vietnam and China. Another attempt was made to bring peace to Laos with the Geneva Accords of 1962. But the attempt failed, and Laos was soon embroiled in the Vietnam War.

A three-pronged coalition between the Pathet Lao, the royal government, and the neutralists did not last long, and the United States and Hanoi stepped up economic and military assistance to their respective allies.

War in Laos became a sideshow in the Vietnam War, marked by heavy civilian death toll. The Pathet Lao military advance captured more territory and by 1972 controlled four-fifths of the land and half the population of Laos.

Finally, the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements on Vietnam in 1973 led to accelerated negotiations in Laos. An agreement on Restoring Peace and Achieving National Concord on Laos was signed in the same year. With the United States out of South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese conquered the south in 1975.

After the fall of South Vietnam, the Pathet Lao assumed effective control of Laos, and the coalition government in Laos was dissolved. On December 2, 1975, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) was formed with Souphanouvong as president.

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row

A Chinese boat, with a team of geologists, surveys the Mekong River at border between Laos and Thailand April 23, 2017. Picture taken April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
By Brenda Goh and Andrew R.C. Marshall | KHON PI LONG, THAILAND

China’s plan to blast open more of the Mekong River for bigger cargo ships could founder on a remote outcrop of half-submerged rocks that Thai protesters have vowed to protect against Beijing’s economic expansion in Southeast Asia.

Dynamiting the Pi Long rapids and other sections of the Mekong between Thailand and Laos will harm the environment and bring trade advantages only to China, the protesters say.

“This will be the death of the Mekong,” said Niwat Roykaew, chairman of the Rak Chiang Khong Conservation Group, which is campaigning against the project. “You’ll never be able to revive it.”

Niwat said blasting the Mekong will destroy fish breeding grounds, disrupt migrating birds and cause increased water flow that will erode riverside farmland.

Such opposition reflects a wider challenge to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe.

Second Harbour Consultants, a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth China Communications Construction Corp (CCCC) (601800.SS) said it was surveying the Mekong for a report that China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would use to decide whether blasting should go ahead.

It added that it was not tasked with the blasting work, which would need to be tendered.

The company said in an e-mail it had held meetings with local people “to communicate, build confidence and clear doubts.”

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearing the Mekong for bigger ships is not officially a part of One Belt, One Road, a project announced in 2013; China blasted sections of the river in Laos several years earlier.

But some Chinese engineers involved in the survey speak of it as a part of the broader plan, and it is consistent with Beijing’s Silk Road objectives.

Even in its Southeast Asian backyard, where it has sympathetic governments and ancient historical ties, China sometimes struggles to convince ordinary people that One Belt One Road will benefit them.

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have approved the survey work, which is funded by China, but further studies and approvals are needed before blasting.

KEEPING A LOW PROFILE

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan plateau and cascades through China and five Southeast Asian countries.

China has built a series of dams along its stretch of the river that Thai campaigners say has impacted the water flow and made the regional giant hard to trust.

Chinese flags now flutter from company speedboats, while CCCC Second Harbour has met with Thai protesters three times since December in a bid to avert opposition to their work.

A unit of the conglomerate faced violent protests in January in Sri Lanka, where people objected to plans for an industrial zone in the south.

Chinese engineers on the Mekong said they were worried that Thai protesters would board the rickety cargo ship where they slept, prompting them to moor it on the Laotian side of the Mekong each night.

“We are afraid for our team’s safety,” one engineer told Reuters, declining to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

“We keep a low profile here,” he added. “We want to do this project well and benefit Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, these four countries. This is not just for China.”

China wants to remove rocks and sandbanks to allow ships of up to 500 tonnes to sail from its landlocked province of Yunnan to the sleepy Laotian town of Luang Prabang.

That would expedite the shipping of Chinese freight deep into northern Laos, said Paul Chambers, an expert in international relations at Thailand’s Naresuan University.

“Luang Prabang may seem sleepy, but northern Laos … represents a hub of Chinese influence,” he said.

LOCALS REMAIN WARY

Despite reassurances from CCCC Second Harbour, some locals still believed the engineers were marking out areas for blasting, said Niwat, who represented campaigners in meetings with the Chinese company.

His group draped a large white banner reading “Mekong Not For Sale” on the bank overlooking the Pi Long rapids, whose name in Thai means “lost ghosts.”

“At the moment we’re only thinking about the economy and the earning figures without considering the unimaginable value of the eco-system to humanity,” he said.

The military seized power in Thailand in 2014 and banned gatherings of five or more people.

But Narongsak Osotthanakorn, governor of Chiang Rai – the Thai province where the Mekong is currently being surveyed – said people could “protest freely” against the Chinese plan.

Narongsak said the survey was the first stage in a process that would include an environmental study, public hearings and negotiations between China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

While he wouldn’t say whether or not he supported blasting, Narongsak said local people had much to gain from increased river trade. “I think no country would be happy to lose the benefits,” he said.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)