The history of Lao and its people for the past seven hundred years has been the history of a national struggle. A struggle to build and preserve the Lao race as a people and our territory. Every Lao was born in a battle field. There is no Lao person whose life had not been touched by our country’s plight.
We struggle with our neighbors and other foreign powers vying for control over our country. Lao also struggles with itself as its elite vied for power and personal glory. In each fight, the result is the same and predictable: Lao became smaller in size and its people became increasingly fragmented. In every stage of our development, our country dwindled in size. As we lost our grip on the vast territory, we also lost our people in the land that was once under our rule.
In the 17th Century, the Lan Xang Kingdom was the most influential and respected sovereign in Asia. Unification was the key to Lao’s glorious past. The country became increasingly disunified; the administrative infrastructure that was once effective in feudal time disintegrated into mere clique and factions. Administrators who once put the interests of the nation before them became corrupted by self interests. We boasted our administrative and military control over a vast landscape. To the west, our control extends beyond the Mekong River; to the South, our land touched the doorstep of the Cham Empire; to the North, southern Yunan was our frontier and our eastern frontline extended deep into the Anam Empire. Only if our leaders had not become intoxicated by personal greed and self gratification, the greatness of the Lao race would still reverberate throughout the world. Strength through unification and peace were our national characters. However, Lao today is more well known for its poverty, political impotence, economic stagnation, and, worst of all, the inability and unwillingness of its “leaders” to share common interests in agreeing how the country should be developed.
In a span of about seven hundred years, the control of Lao had changed hands among foreigners. China attempted to assert its control by sending its army southward; tempered by nationalist sentiment , we fought back and preserved our national polity. The Anam Empire assaulted us from the west in hope of forcing us into submission; it did succeed for a time but lost its grip to our untamed thirst for liberty. Siam swooped in from the west hoping to suck the life blood of the Lao race dried, but we regained control of our nation, albeit less than we had been promised. The French came in the late1700s, first posing as a friend assuring us with full protection against our neighborly foes then later abandoned us at the first sign of attack in the late 1940s, hoping to maintain Lao as a colony. However, in 1949, we broke lose again from foreign domination. Despite the undeniable weakness of the Lao “leaders” who did every thing conceivable to hasten the capitulation of Lan Xang, the Lao people remain fierce lovers of freedom and liberty. No matter how arduous the struggle, no matter how long the fight, and no matter how seemingly daunting the task, when it comes to the fight for self determination, the Lao people never knew defeat and always, at the end, crowned themselves with victories. Each generation of the Lao people has in its heart the monument of our struggle; we can almost say without trepidation that every Lao person is born with an innate political consciousness.
Lao today stands at a crossroad of development. As a nation, Lao has a choice of sinking into backwardness and isolation or advancing forward into the 21st Century as a truly independent country. A country free from foreign control or influence; free from being used as an ideological guinea pig or a laboratory of disaster. The choice is startlingly clear. If Lao continues to be governed by communism, it will stagnate. The day when Lao will truly be independent might never dawn on us. Communist Lao is ruled by people who are not trained to govern a nation. For the past 25 years our foreign debts escalated; our natural resources decimated; political dissents are not tolerated; freedom and liberty, indispensable in other civilized countries, will soon become meaningless in Lao. Political control is maintained by force instead of by consent of the governed. The government in Lao today is nothing more than a money making machine for those who wield the power over the country. So long as the governing of Lao is being seen and treated as the loot of war by those in power, the Lao government will remain poor, impotent, disenfranchised, corrupt, ineffective, abusive, and intolerable. Therefore, it should not be acceptable to the Lao people.
To be democratic, on the other hand, means that Lao will open itself to a system of government characterized by electoral selection based on merits not marred by deception and incompetence. Under this system of openness, freedom and liberty will be exercised and guaranteed. Political dissent will not only be tolerated but encouraged. Through dissent and disagreement, Lao will search for its best and brightest to help lead the country and reclaim its greatness among nations.
The task of bringing democracy to Lao is not easy. It demands from all Lao people to participate in all spheres of our national reconstruction. Politically, the Lao people must avail themselves to all means and instrumentality, including force and violence when circumstances militates. The Lao people, at minimum, must be guaranteed the freedom of the press, expression, and religious belief. Such freedom must also include the right to lodge grievances against the state.
Freedom of the press shall warrant the full exercise of writing, printing and distributing of all subjects regardless of how critical it might be of the those in power. Freedom of expression shall guarantee that the Lao people can freely express their opinions on all subject matters no matter how detrimental to the state or to those in power. It is only in the market of ideas that our fundamental rights can find its fertile field to germinate the seed of political freedom. Freedom of religious belief shall also be guaranteed to our people if political freedom is to mean anything. Lao people are free to worship any religion they so desire or, if they find it more profitable, not to worship any religion at all.
In a democratic society, government exists to serve the people. To be legitimate, it must have the consent of the governed. Such a consent is not unconditional, but susceptible to withdrawal when the government exceeds that consent: either by becoming abusive in its exercise of power or uses such a power to an end not authorized by its master: the people. To that end, the freedom to lodge grievances against the government is indispensable for a democratic Lao. Be it through the electoral process or the judicial system, so long as the people can keep the power of the state in check, the temptation for abuse and corruption will be tamed at a manageable level. Those in power will have more respect for the people for it is from the people they derive their legitimacy and authority; hence, their daily bread from whom they earned and their very existence to whom they owe. It is clear that the people of today and those in days to come choose to live their lives under a democratic rule. Our people who now live under communist grip will soon break lose from that yoke of tyranny. For most of us to whom Lao and its people remain more than just a distant memory, the need for political activism is keener than ever. We must speak for those whose ability to speak has long been muted by brute force. Even with the myriad of modern comfort in the west, we cannot truly say that we live in luxury when our countrymen remain in abject poverty. Even with all the freedom and liberty we enjoy in the west, we cannot truly say that we are free when our compatriots are caged in a system marred by human rights abuses. The Lao people throughout the world have a common quest and a shared interest in fighting for our birth right: freedom and liberty.
Not too long ago, Lao enjoyed her triumph and glory. Today she lumbers in a long night lost in constant nightmare as political opportunists changed hands in looting her coffer. Our beloved country will not see another dawn of liberty unless all Lao people speak in a single voice: Free Our People. The sooner we can wrestle Lao from the yoke of communism, the sooner our people can joyfully cry: free at last.
Join us in our quest
to restore democracy in Lao
Every Lao person has a duty
to preserve & protect
Lao & its people