Inside Asia Tours: Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

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Tuesday, 17th November 2015

What does the Laotian flag symbolise?

As with many countries, the Laotian flag has seen several iterations, which have been subject to different forms of the country's government. One thing that sets Laos apart from other countries, is that it wasn't its own nation until quite recently. As such, it didn't really have its own flag as it was ruled under the French Colonial Empire until 1953.

Until then 'Laos' had a flag featuring a red background with a triple-headed white elephant standing on a five-level pedestal and a nine-level umbrella atop the elephant's head. This flag represented the ancient name of the country, which was "Land of a Million Elephants". The pedestal element of the flag depicted the five levels of the French colonial laws upon which the country rested at the time.

As for the elephant itself, its three heads depicted the three countries of which it consisted, which were Vientiane, Luangprabang and Champasak. The umbrella on top of the elephant's head is said to be a royal symbol, which is a nod to Buddhist cosmology.

After 1953

In 1953 Laos emerged from the French Colonial Empire as an independent country and when this occurred the triple-headed emblem remained as Laos' flag until 1975. On December 2nd 1975, the Communist Lao People's Democratic Party (Lao PDR) overthrew the king at the time and overtook the government.

After this, the flag showed two red horizontal stripes, with a blue horizontal stripe running parallel to the red colours. These stripes serve as the background to a white circle, which features in the middle of the blue stripe. The flag described is the current flag of Laos, and it is the only flag of a Communist country that does not use a five-pointed star as its emblem.

Not the only one

Although the white circle on a background of red and blue is the current flag of Laos, it is not the only one recognised by the country. Another flag to be found in Laos features a yellow hammer and a scythe on a red background and is the flag of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.

The flag's meaning

Similar to the French Colonial flag of Laos, the country's current flag and its features have meanings, which resonate with the changes the country has gone through. The red stripes of the flag represent the blood shed by the people who fought to make Laos a free and independent country. The blue stripe along the centre of the flag, which is thicker than the two red stripes stands for the prosperity of the country and the people in it.

As to the white circle in the middle of the flag, it symbolises the unity of the people under the the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. The white circle also typifies the bright future of Laos and it is also said to represent how the full moon looks against the Mekong River on a clear night.

Related news stories:
Why has Laotian food not been widely exported to the rest of the world? (2nd April 2015)
How to live like a local in Laos (28th January 2016)
Laos: All the essential information you need (23rd January 2015)
Eat your way through Luang Prabang?s night market (26th May 2016)