– Introduction to the Laotian Heritage and Freedom flag
Like the American’s Stars and Stripes flag, the Laotian Heritage and Freedom flag is laden with symbolism and historical meaning, which makes Laotian Americans feel a great emotional bond with its “colors.”
Laos was called the Land of Million Elephant. From 1960 to 1973 the United States now documents that a secret war occurred in Laos where hundreds of thousands of people were killed as control for Laos was thought after as it was considered one of the most important areas that was protecting Southeast Asia to become communist. If Laos was loss to communism, it was thought that many countries in Southeast Asia would also become communist including Thailand, Malaysia, Philippine, and Indonesia, etc. Laos shares a border with all other countries in the region, with Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar and China’s Yunnan province to the north. Laos is the key to the region, similar to that of the Germany’s Berlin Wall that was protect communist to flows to the west.
As the Laotian National flag displaying “three head white elephant on a red background” fluttering proudly against the blue sky. The colors shown are that of a free Laos. It is the flag under which hundreds of thousands of Laotian and Americans have fought shoulder to shoulder and died for, defending freedom against an internationally inspired and communist led aggressive war against the Kingdom of Laos. The war ended in 1975 in the subjugation of Laos in no way reflects negatively on the symbolism of those “colors.” In fact, the very survival of that flag is the survival of the idea of freedom, which remains the ideal of all free men on earth.
The Laotian Heritage and Freedom flag has a red background the width of which is equal to two thirds of its length. In the middle of the background a three headed elephant on top of a stand with an umbrella (or parasol) on top. This old flag was used during the monarchial times.
The three headed elephant image is Buddhist/Hindu in origin – it’s called Airavata (or Erawan in Thai & Cambodia). The elephant has always been a symbol of greatness, wisdom and as a vehicle of transportation.
Many former Lao kings prized these huge elephant beasts, especially the light color/albino breeds. To this day, the current Lao government still keeps a few for special occasions and celebrations. The three headed mythic elephant symbol had the same number as there were principalities in the country. Thus the three heads came to represent the former small kingdoms of Vientiane, Luangprabang, and Champasak.
The umbrella also has certain meanings. In Sri Lanka and India, Buddhist temples were in the shape of huge domes and on top of the dome there would be a small umbrella (or parasol) surrounded by square railings. The highest point of the dome or pillar, in this case, the umbrella represents the Buddhist cosmological myth of Mt. Meru being the center of the universe. The stand on which the elephant is standing on represents the laws of the country/kingdom. The flag’s red color background represents the color of blood flowing through the human body, symbolic of Laos’s unflagging struggle for independence throughout its recorded history.
As Laotian flag bonds Laotian Americans with their historical past: The identity of the “ERAWAN” (Three Headed White Elephant) has help to inspire the Laotian people to survive as a nation even after a millennium of Chinese and French domination. Thus, the “Three Headed White Elephant” flag came to be irrevocably associated with the Laotian people, their national territory, and their history.
Since the communist seized control of Laos over 35 year ago to today, (December 2nd 1975 to July 4th, 2010) more than half a million Lao citizens were forced to leave their homeland and were camped in major refuge camps in Thailand: Nongkhai, Napho, Ubon, Sikiu etc.; hundred thousands more have perished in the re-education camps; hundred thousands more were unable to swim across the Mekong River and hundred of thousands more are still being held without charge or trials. I left Laos 29 years ago and fortunately found my way to America as a political refugee to begin a new life in United State of America. No longer is it safe for me to go back home (native Laos) because I of my political activeness in the U.S. I am considered and enemy of the current communistic regime in Laos. I am proud to be supportive of democracy and human rights movements in Laos. However, I never forget where I came from, and I will not go back to surrender to Laos Communist. Since Laos was loss to the Communist, Laos has been loss as well. The one thing symbolic hope we have left now is the three-Headed-White Elephant flag. It will stay with us forever.
The flag championed by free Laotian everywhere was flown for the first time at a ceremony marking the official recognition by France of Laotian unity and independence. The three-Headed-White Elephant flag continued to be the official flag of the Kingdom of Laos, which was recognized by the United Nations (1957), until December 1975.
A CHOICE OF HOPE AND LOVE OF FREEDOM
To Laotian Americans, the Laos Communist flag is a reminder of death. It is flag full of blood where a million and half Laotian lives have been sacrificed for the war-mongering goals of the Lao Revolutionary Party (or Laos Communist). Some 300,000 civilians were shot and some buried alive, and over 100,000 religious leaders and political prisoners have been executed in “re-education” camps since 1975.
Most Laotian Americans, having fled persecution and reprisals, find the display of the “Laos Communist” flag insulting, offensive, and culturally insensitive. It is like flying the swastika flag of Nazi Germany in the presence of Jewish-Americans.
The choice of the Laotian flag affects Laotian and Americans alike. Over 1000 Americans laid down their lives in the Laos secrete war for a noble cause – the cause of freedom and democracy. Witness the “Laotian freedom as it is” flag proudly hoisted at the Arlington National cemetery in Virginia on Memorial Day. It is the same flag that decorates the medals on the chests of millions of Laotian and American veterans of the Laos War. At least 300,000 Laotian (Lowland Lao and Laotian ethnic Hmong) “Freedom Fighter who fought side by side with Americans during the Laos War” died on the high mountain of starvation and drowning in Mekong River, in their attempt to flee communist persecution. For the half million Laotian who have fled communist totalitarianism since 1975 and have successfully settled in United States of America “the Land of the Free”, the Laotian heritage and freedom flag will always be a symbol of hope, love and freedom. It is the banner around which all free Laotian identify themselves with and rally –as it represents the dream of a free Laos.
- Copyright © 2004-2010 Laos Institute for Democracy. All rights reserved
- Posted by Lao Heritage Flag at 8:33 PM