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Far East Kingdoms

South East Asia

 

French Laos (South-East Asia)
AD 1887 - 1940

FeatureAsia as a whole consists of five broad regions which include South-East Asia. It was South Asia which witnessed the earliest presence of anatomically modern humans in the form of Homo sapiens, with small groups either remaining in what is now India from their earliest point of arrival after leaving the Near East, or migrating along the coastline to reach South-East Asia and Oceania. Other groups headed north to enter East Asia roughly around 60,000 BC (see the Hominid Chronology feature link for more).

Around 2000 BC, Chinese rice and millet farmers spread southwards into a region which stretched between Early Vietnam and today's Burma. This was the first pulse of interbreeding with local hunter-gatherers, with the second taking place around the end of the first century BC.

These events and many lesser integrations produced a people who bore a highly mixed ethnic heritage, albeit one which was initially provided by Thai migrants as they pushed southwards into South-East Asia from the eighth century AD kingdom of Nanzhao in south-western China. That movement increased when the Mongols invaded China, entirely sidelining the collected native Akha people (an imposed name which means 'slaves').

Interactions which were occasionally hostile with the neighbouring Khmer (Cambodian), Siamese (Thai), and Burmese kingdoms between the fifth and mid-nineteenth centuries indirectly imbued Laos with elements of Indian culture, including Buddhism which remains important today.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD the Thai established the principality of Muong Swa (now Louangphrabang), which was ruled by various Thai leaders and was woven into Laotian legend and myth. The first Laotian state was the powerful kingdom of Lan Xang, which flourished between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries.

Modern Laos is a creation of the colonial French of the nineteenth century. Largely its territory formerly belonged to Lan Xang. This state grew rich on trade which passed through it from China to the rest of the region, but internal conflict tore it apart. Three kingdoms formed out of the collapse, those of Champasak, Luang Phrabang, and Vientiane, all of which were picked off by French colonial advances of the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

In 1893 the territory of those three states was forcibly merged along with Siam's province of Xieng Khouang into a French protectorate which formed part of French Indochina. Although the kingdom of Luang Phrabang survived, true power lay in the hands of the protectorate's French governor-general (commandant-superior) who himself answered to the governor-general of French Indochina. The region remained a French protectorate until the Second World War and Japanese Occupation.

Laos beach huts

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Palaeo-Anthropology and Palaeolithic archaeology in the people's republic of China, Wu Rukang & John W Olsen (Left Coast Press, 2009), from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from The Macmillan Dictionary of Archaeology, Ruth D Whitehouse (Macmillan, 1983), and from External Links: and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and East Asia Palaeolithic (Claire Smith, Ed, Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, 2014), and Stone Age Asia (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Laos (World Statesmen).)

1887 - 1895

Auguste Jean Marie Pavie

French vice-consul (to 1894), then commissioner-gen.

1893

France creates a new state formation known as Laos out of the kingdoms of Champasak, Luang Phrabang, and Vientiane, and the province of Xieng Khouang. Laos is added to French Indochina. The kingdom of Luang Prabang survives, but the other provinces are placed under the direct authority of a French official.

French colonial residence in Laos
The French colonial presence in Laos built the Bureau de la Residence in 1915 (today it serves as the offices of the country's Ministry of Information and Culture)

However, Siam has been refusing to give way to French advances along the Mekong, so French ships make a show of strength off Bangkok. Later in the year, on the advice of their British advisors, Siam withdraws from the eastern bank of the Mekong and gives official recognition to the French protectorate within the evacuated territory.

1895 - 1899

Marie Auguste Armand Tournier

French commandant-superior of Bas-Laos.

1895 - 1897

Joseph Vacle

French interim commandant-superior of Haut-Laos.

1895 - 1896

Léon Jules Pol Boulloche

French resident-superior (Sep-Mar).

1897 - 1898

Louis Paul Luce

French interim commandant-superior of Haut-Laos.

1898 - 1899

Joseph Vacle

French interim commandant-superior of Haut-Laos.

1898

Laos is fully integrated into French Indochina, largely formalising the act of 1893. A colonial governor is later installed in Vientiane and Laos is reorganised from the provinces of Haut-Laos and Bas-Laos into ten provinces.

The royal seat at Luang Prabang is still recognised as being the official controller of its own province but the royal court soon gains a layer of French-appointed officials. The remaining nine provinces are governed directly by the French governor in Vientiane.

Wat Xiengthong temple in Luang Prabang, Laos
Wat Xiengthong, one of the most renowned temples in Luang Prabang, has a prominent place in local life, having been built in the sixteenth century and being the location for every royal coronation until the revolution

1899 - 1903

Marie Auguste Armand Tournier

French resident-superior (Apr-Feb).

1901

A revolt breaks out in the south of Laos, principally on the Bolaven plateau and involving groups of Lao Theung who are led by a self-proclaimed holy man and his messianic cult.

In the north there is unrest from tribal hill chiefs at the imposition of French rule. It is primarily Khmu and Hmong minority groups which lead the resistance to change, but they later concentrate their efforts in protecting the local opium trade.

1901 - 1910

Ong Keo

Rebel leader in the south. Killed.

1901 - 1910

Ong Keo's challenge against French control over Laos - and that of his supporters - is not fully suppressed until he is killed in 1910. His successor and second-in-command, Ong Kommandam, later becomes an early leader in the Lao nationalist movement.

1903 - 1906

Georges Marie Joseph Mahé

French interim resident-superior (Feb-May).

1904 - 1907

French annexation of its French Indochina protectorate of Laos - a state formation which is its own creation - is completed by treaties which are agreed with Siam in 1904 and 1907. However, the 1904 treaty results in the formal dissolution of Champasak on 22 November of that year, a kingdom which has little value to the French.

In fact, once the relatively sparsely-inhabited Laos loses its usefulness as a conduit for a desired French annexation of Siam - now allied firmly with Britain - Laos as a whole is generally allowed to become a backwater territory.

Wat Phou temple ruins in Champasak
The ruins of Wat Phou temple in Champasak, today a province and town but once also the seat of an independent kingdom for the best part of two centuries

1906 - 1907

Louis Saturnin Laffont

French interim resident-superior (May-Apr).

1907 - 1912

Georges Marie Joseph Mahé

French resident-superior again (Apr-Jan).

1910 - 1911

Antoine G A E Outrey

French acting resident-superior (Aug-Jul).

1912 - 1913

Louis Antoine Aubry de la Noë

French interim resident-superior (Jan-Jul).

1913

Claude Léon Garnier

French acting resident-superior (Jul-Oct).

1913 - 1914

Jean Édouard Bourcier Saint-Chaffray

French interim resident-superior (Oct-Feb).

1914 - 1918

Claude Léon Garnier

French acting resident-superior again (May-May).

1918 - 1931

Jules Georges Théodore Bosc

French resident-superior (May-Mar).

1921 - 1923

Joël Daroussin

French interim resident-superior (Apr-Jan).

1925 - 1926

Jean-Jacques Dauplay

French interim resident-superior (May-Jan).

1928

Paul Raimond Octane Le Boulanger

French interim resident-superior (May-Dec).

1931

Paul Raimond Octane Le Boulanger

French interim resident-superior (Mar-May).

1931

Pierre André Michel Pagès

French resident-superior (25 Mar only). Did not take office.

1931

Yves Charles Châtel

French resident-superior (May-Jun).

1931

Paul Raimond Octane Le Boulanger

French interim resident-superior again (Jun-Nov).

1931 - 1932

Jules Nicolas Thiebaut

French interim resident-superior (Nov-Feb).

1932 - 1933

Aristide Eugène Le Fol

French resident-superior (Feb-Dec).

1933 - 1934

Adrien Anthony Maurice Roques

French acting resident-superior (Dec-Jan).

1934

Louis Frédéric Eckert

French interim resident-superior (Jan-Jul).

1934

Adrien Anthony Maurice Roques

French acting resident-superior again (Jul-Aug).

1934 - 1938

Eugène Henri Roger Eutrope

French resident-superior (Aug-Apr).

1934 - 1935

Frédéric Claire G L Marty

French interim resident-superior (Nov-Oct).

1938 - 1940

André Touzet

French resident-superior (Apr-Nov).

1940 - 1941

Japanese influence from 1940 is instantly very strong, but turns into full invasion of French Indochina in 1941 (although there seems to be disagreement about that occupation as Hammond's states 1940 and Rulers says 1945, which is when the Japanese over the region's administration). Laos remains a protectorate of Vichy France, but now under new masters in Japanese Occupation Laos.

French Indochina
French colonial holdings in South-East Asia were generally referred to as French Indochina, but officially they were the Indochinese Union until 1947, and then the Indochinese Federation

Japanese Occupation of Laos (South-East Asia)
AD 1940 - 1945

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD the Thai established the principality of Muong Swa (now Louangphrabang) in central South-East Asia, It was ruled by various Thai leaders and was woven into early Laotian legend and myth. Evolving out of Muong Swa, the first Laotian state was the powerful kingdom of Lan Xang, which flourished between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries AD.

Modern Laos was largely created as a result of colonial French organisations in the nineteenth century. Much of this territory had formerly belonged to Lan Xang prior to its being pulled apart by internal conflict. Three kingdoms formed out of the collapse, those of Champasak, Luang Phrabang, and Vientiane, all of which were picked off by French colonial advances of the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

In 1893 the territory of those three states was forcibly merged along with Siam's province of Xieng Khouang into a French protectorate which formed part of French Indochina. Although the kingdom of Luang Phrabang survived, true power lay in the hands of the protectorate's French governor-general (commandant-superior) who himself answered to the governor-general of French Indochina.

The neighbouring Viet state was enforcedly taken under Japanese Occupation in 1940-1941, and Laos was no different. Here it happened with French permission, but then German-occupied France had no other option but to agree. Laos was forced by Japan to give back to Thailand those territories which French Indochina had secured in 1904, although the Japanese overlordship generally administered Laos with a relatively light hand.

The French were able to continue many of their usual duties until spring 1945. Then, with Japan being forced onto the back foot in the Pacific, it removed the Vichy French administration of Indochina and authorised Cambodia, Laos, and Annam to declare independence within the Japanese 'Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere'. It was little more than a ploy to gain extra support in the war, but Japan was swiftly defeated which allowed a return of full French administration.

Laos beach huts

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the John De Cleene Archive, from Palaeo-Anthropology and Palaeolithic archaeology in the people's republic of China, Wu Rukang & John W Olsen (Left Coast Press, 2009), from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from The Macmillan Dictionary of Archaeology, Ruth D Whitehouse (Macmillan, 1983), from Kingdoms of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Gene Gurney (New York, 1986), and from External Links: and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and East Asia Palaeolithic (Claire Smith, Ed, Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, 2014), and Stone Age Asia (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Laos (World Statesmen).)

1940 - 1941

Adrien Anthony Maurice Roques

French interim resident-superior of Laos (third time).

1940 - 1941

The country is gradually dominated and then occupied by Japan from 1940 onwards. From about October of that year, Thailand under the military domination of Lord Plaek Phibul Songkhram begins attacking the eastern banks of the Mekong between Vientiane and Champassak province, intent on creating a pan-Thai empire.

Early Bangkok in 1900
This photo shows a floating dock on the River Chao Phraya in Bangkok around 1900, over a century after the city's founding by King Rama I of Siam (Thailand)

This erupts into a full Thai invasion of Laos in January 1941, but initial victories soon give way to a stalemate when the French colonial authorities of French Indochina win a great naval victory at Ko Chang.

The Japanese mediate a ceasefire, compelling the French colonial government to cede Champasak and Xaignabouli province in Laos and Battambang province in Cambodia to Thailand. This ends the war but makes the French realise that they are losing control.

1941 - 1945

Louis Antoine Marie Brasey

French resident-superior. Prisoner (10 Mar-9 Jun).

1941 - 1945

The French Indochinese authorities not-so-secretly encourage a sense of nationalism and patriotism amongst their Laotian subjects. French schools are suddenly being built in large number, and the king of Luang Prabang receives assurances that any military expansion of his kingdom will not be prevented.

1945

In spring 1945, Japan removes the Vichy French administration of Indochina and authorises Cambodia, Laos, and Annam to declare independence within the Japanese 'Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere'. The idea is to receive local support in its failing Pacific campaign, but many French officials are imprisoned and executed.

Japanese troops surrendering at Guadalcanal
Japanese evacuation from Guadalcanal was largely successful thanks to bombing attacks on the US fleet, with very few Japanese troops surrendering to the allies, but it marked the beginning of a series of setbacks for Japan

The kingdom of Luang Prabang is incorporated by the Japanese authorities into this region on 7 April 1945, primarily within territory which forms part of occupied Laos.

1945

Sako Masanori

Japanese commander in Vientiane (Mar-Aug).

1945

Ishibashi

Japanese supreme counsellor in Luang Prabang.

1945

The Japanese are driven out of Laos on 27 August 1945 and, on 15 September, a united kingdom of Laos is proclaimed. This is without French permission being granted, although French Indochina is rapidly heading towards war. French commissioners attempt to re-establish themselves in the country, although their controls are now weaker.

1945 - 1946

Hans Imfeld

French acting (to 29 Sep) commissioner (29 Aug-6 Apr).

1946 - 1947

Jean Léon François Marie de Raymond

French commissioner (6 Apr-Jul).

1946

Having lost his position and prestige not only as king of Laos but also of Luang Prabang, on 23 April 1946 Sisavang Vong accepts the new constitution and is restored to the throne by supporters who are desperate to halt the regional slide into anarchy. However, France re-establishes its domination in the region by restoring its protectorate of Laos within French Indochina.

King Sisavang Vong of Laos
Born in 1885, King Sisavang Vong was the last ruler of the Lao kingdom of Luang Prabang and the founding monarch of the kingdom of Laos

French Indochinese authorities recognise the unification of Laos on 27 August 1946, although the kingdom remains under French 'protection' and part of Indochina. Even so, Sisavang Vong restores the title 'king of Laos'. On the same date the principality of Champasak is extinguished.

1947 - 1948

Maurice Marie Auguste Michaudel

French interim commissioner (29 Jul-20 Mar).

1948 - 1949

Alfred Gabriel Joseph Valmary

French interim commissioner (20 Mar-Aug).

1949 - 1955

The kingdom of Laos ends its membership in French Indochina on 19 July 1949 to become an associated state within the 'French Union', although some sources state that it leaves this union in 1956, the date of the union's termination.

On 22 October 1953 Laos becomes fully independent, shortly before French Indochina is officially dissolved. Laos joins the United Nations just two years later, on 14 December 1955.

Founding of the United Nations
In San Francisco, USA, in summer 1945, representatives of fifty countries signed the United Nations charter to establish a new, international body which was tasked with upholding the human rights of citizens the world over

1949 - 1953

Robert Louis Aimable Régnier

French commissioner (8 Aug-Apr).

1953 - 1954

Miguel Joaquim de Pereyra

French high commissioner (27 April-Jan).

1954 - 1955

Michel Georges Eugène Breal

Last French high commissioner (6 Jan onwards).

1954 - 1955

On 7 May 1954 the Viet Minh defeat the French at Dien Bien Phu, effectively ending French involvement in Indochina. The democratic republic of Vietnam is confirmed in the north of the country (North Vietnam), but this does nothing to end the fighting.

Even so, the newly-declared republic is recognised internationally by the Geneva Accords, with Hanoi as its capital. South Vietnam is also recognised, officially dividing the country in two. The kingdom of Laos continues to struggle with its own stability. France withdraws from Indochina, ending its involvement in the increasingly complicated situation.

 
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