Laos Country Guide



Pathet Lao

The Pathet Lao was a Laotian communist nationalist movement founded in 1950. They were closely associated with other communist movements in Indochina including the Vietnam People's Army (North Vietnam), Viet Cong (South Vietnam) and Khmer Rouge (Cambodia). From the 1960s to 1970s, the Pathet Lao fought against the Royal Lao Government and took control of the country in 1975.
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The town of Vieng Xai provides a striking insight in the recent history of not only Laos, but the whole of Indochina. In 1964, the US began intensive bombing of the Pathet Lao communist movement including their bases in Xieng Khouang. Under much bombardment, the Pathet Lao moved east to Vieng Xai and established their headquarters in the limestone karst cave networks around the town. A whole "hidden city" was established, which supported around 20,000 people.

Pathet Lao cave in Vieng Xai by Christopher Voitus

During 9 years of almost constant American bombings, the Pathet Lao sheltered in these caves, and lived in a largely subterranean environment. Schools, hospitals, and markets as well as government ministries, a radio station, a theatre and military barracks were all hidden in the caves. After the 1973 ceasefire, Vieng Xai briefly became the capital of Laos, before that function was moved to Vientiane in 1975. Today you can visit the caves and there are formal daily tours.

Inside the Pathet Lao cave by Oliver Spalt

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