A chronology of key events:
1893 - Laos becomes a French protectorate until 1945, when it is briefly occupied by the Japanese towards the end of World War II.
1946 - French rule over Laos is resumed.
1950 - Laos is granted semi-autonomy as an associated state within the French Union.
1954 - Laos gains full independence as a
constitutional monarchy. Civil war breaks out between royalists and the
communist group, the Pathet Lao.
More than three-quarters of the people work on the land
1960s - Laos subject to extensive aerial
bombardment by the United States in an attempt to destroy North
Vietnamese sanctuaries and to rupture the supply lines known as the Ho
Chi Minh trail. It's estimated that more bombs were dropped on Laos
than were used during the whole of World War II.
1973 - Vientiane ceasefire agreement divides Laos between the communists and the royalists.
1975 - The Pathet Lao - renamed the Lao People's
Front - seizes power. King Savang Vatthana abdicates - he is later
arrested and dies in captivity. The Lao People's Democratic Republic is
proclaimed, with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) the only
legal political party. Kaysone Phomvihane becomes prime minister.
"Socialist transformation" of the economy is launched.
1979 - Food shortages and the flight of
hundreds of thousands of refugees to Thailand leads the government to
modify its approach. Some private enterprise within agriculture is
The Mekong is vital to Laos
1986 - Encouraged by the Gorbachev reforms in the Soviet Union, Laos introduces market-oriented reforms.
1989 - First elections held since 1975. All candidates have to be approved by the LPRP. Communists retain power.
1991 - Security and cooperation pact signed with
Thailand. A new constitution is endorsed. Kaysone Phomvihane becomes
president, Khamtai Siphandon becomes prime minister.
1992 - President Phomvihane dies. Siphandon becomes head of the LPRP.
1994 - "Friendship bridge" over the Mekong linking Laos and Thailand is opened.
1995 - US lifts its 20-year aid embargo.
1997 - Laos becomes a member of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). The Asian financial
crisis decimates the value of the Lao currency, the kip.
Life in Vientiane is largely low-tech
1998 - Khamtai Siphandon becomes president.
2000 - A series of bomb blasts hits the capital -
the authorities blame anti-government groups based abroad. Celebrations
of 25 years of communist rule take place in Vientiane in December.
2001 March - Khamtai re-elected president.
2001 April - International Monetary Fund approves
a new three-year loan for Laos worth $40 million. IMF officials expect
the loan to help strengthen macroeconomic stability and reduce poverty
"through growth with equity".
2001 April - Parliament introduces death sentence for possession of more than 500 grammes of heroin.
2001 December - UN World Food Programme (WFP) launches three-year initative to feed 70,000 malnourished children in Laos.
2002 February - Parliamentary elections. All but one of the 166 candidates are from the governing Lao People's Revolutionary Party.