Friday, February 19, 2010
The Lao People
Lao is an ethnic group in South East Asia. The majority of the Lao live in Laos and in Thailand. In Thailand the Lao are concentrated to the Isan province even if many have immigrated to other areas such as Bangkok. The Lao speak different dialects of Lao and Isan languages which is often regarded as one language.
The peoples of Lao's history is recognized in conjunction with Laos and Isan's history. These two regions belonged to the same Kingdom called Lan Xang. Im 1778-1779 Lan Xang was invaded and concerned by Siam. The success of Siam was much due to their technical advantage on the battlefield. During the 17th century Lan Xang starts an uprising against Siam in their struggle for independence. As a consequence of this a forced migration of the Lan Xang to the other side of the Mekong to Isan took place. Many of the Lao found themselves as slaves under the Siam rule. This in turn made Laos a underpopulated region.
These is somewhat 3 million Lao in Laos and they compromise around 50% of the total population. The rest of the population is so called mountain peoples. The Lao in Laos is by large so called Lao Loum (Lowland Lao). The make up a third of the Thai population in Thailand with about 15 million people, of which 1 million live in Bangkok. There are other ethnic Lao people in central Thailand, but they have by large assimilated with the Thais. Minor pockets of Lao are also to be found in Cambodia, especially in Strung Treng which once belonged to Laos. An estimated 500.000 expatriate Lao's live around the world. Most of these expatriates left during and after the Vietnam war and of fear of the Pathet Lao (Lao Communist Party).
The Lao people speak Lao and Isan, two languages with different dialects. The dialect in Vientiane have become the dominant in Laos. A dominant dialect do not exist in Isan. The main differences in the dialects is more to do with the usage of Thai loan words.
Isan and Laos is a poor region due to poor soils and dry climate. Most people are self sufficient farmers and therefore there are few urban areas to be found. The inhabitants in Laos and Isan belong to the Theravada Buddhism. Food in the regions are similar with fish sauce, chilli, and rice being daily ingredients. Contemporary Lao cooking have been influenced by French and Vietnamese elements. The traditional music is called Mor lam.