The Politics of Lao Monuments and Statues After 1975
THE POLITICS OF LAO MONUMENTS AND STATUES AFTER 1975
Mr. Seang Sopheak
Associate Professor Dr. Withaya Sucharithanarugse
MA in Southeast Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, 2009
MONUMENTS / STATUES / LAOS / NATIONALISM / STATE BUILDING / SOCIALISM
This thesis presents the monuments and statues in Lao’s People Democratic Republic after 1975, the year that marked the change from constitutional monarchy to communism in this country. The purpose of the study is to analyze the nationalistic implications of several of monuments and statues that have been erected in Laos both before 1975 and after 1975. As a result, monuments and statues of King Setthathirath, King Sisavang Vong, That Luang, Patuxay, Kaysone Phomvihane, King Fa Ngum, Prince Souphanouvong and a few other monuments and statues have been selected as case studies.
Political implications of the change to the new order in Laos are evident in these selected monuments and statues. Since the country became communist in 1975, the roles of monuments and statues built before 1975 have been transformed in order to fit in with the new political environment, while new monuments and statues also served the purposes of the new regime. Currently there are many planned monuments and statues to be constructed by the Lao government throughout the country. What is noticeable is that, although this regime abolished the monarchy in 1975, most of the planned monuments and statues will be dedicated to former Lao kings who are considered heroes in the history of the country.
The study found that all of the new monuments and statues that have been, or are going to be, constructed in the country constitute a means of promoting the legitimacy of the Lao government. All play important roles in building strong nationalism and national unity. Especially since Laos moved toward a market economy and the openness to the international community, it seems that, the Lao leaders have turned back the theory of “imagined community”, where modern nation can be formulated in many directions and dimension, in building their country. As a result, monuments and statues of national iconographies have been introduced in the country along with the socialist iconographies.