Lao People's Revolutionary Party
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|Lao People's Revolutionary Party
Phak Pasason Pativat Lao
|General Secretary||Choummaly Sayasone|
|Founded||22 March 1955|
|Headquarters||Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic|
|Youth wing||Lao People's Revolutionary Youth Union|
|National affiliation||Lao Front for National Construction|
|Politics of Laos
The Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Laotian: ພັກປະຊາຊົນປະຕິວັດລາວ) is a communist party that has governed Laos since 1975. The policy-making organs are the Politburo, Secretariat and the Central Committee. A party congress, which elects members to the politburo and central committee, is held every five years. The congress used to also elect a secretariat, but this body was abolished in 1991. In 2007, 113 of the 115 members of the National Assembly of Laos were from the LPRP.
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The party has its origins in the Indochinese Communist Party founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930 (see Communist Party of Vietnam). The ICP was entirely Vietnamese at its inception but grew throughout French Indochina and was able to found a small "Lao section" in 1936. In the mid-1940s, a campaign to recruit Laotian members was instigated and in 1946 or 1947, Kaysone Phomvihan, a law student at the University of Hanoi, was recruited, along with Nouhak Phoumsavan.
In February 1951, the Second Congress of the ICP resolved to disband the party and to form three separate parties representing the three states of Indochina. In reality, the ICP was a Vietnamese organization and the separate parties created were dominated by the Vietnamese parties regardless of their national affiliations. A movement known as the Pathet Lao (Land of Laos) was founded and Prince Souphanouvong became its figurehead leader. It was in theory a communist resistance movement meant to fight alongside the Viet Minh against French colonialism during the first Indochina War. But it never really fought much of anyone and was organized as a reserve organization of the Viet Minh. On March 22, 1955, at its First Party Congress, that the clandestine Lao's People's Party or Phak Pasason Lao was officially proclaimed. The First Party Congress was attended by 25 delegates representing a party membership of 300 to 400. The Party Congress was supervised and organized by the Vietnamese. Central Committee of Party includes Kaysone Phomvihane, Nouhak Phoumsavan, Bun Phommahaxay, Sisavath Keobounphanh, Khamseng ( May 1955, supplemented Souphanouvong, Phoumi Vongvichit, Phoun Sipaseut and 1956 supplemented Sisomphon Lovansay, Khamtay Siphandone,...).
The LPP and its successor the LPRP kept their existence secret until 1975 preferring to direct its activities through fronts such as the Pathet Lao.
In 1956 a legal political wing of the Pathet Lao, the Lao Patriotic Front (Neo Lao Hak Xat), was founded and participated in several coalition governments. In the 1960s the North-Vietnam controlled Pathet Lao were given tasks in Vietnamese-occupied areas of Laos. The Pathet Lao participated in a war between their North Vietnamese backers and the U.S.-backed Laotian government. Never very successful on their own, the party still gained power indirectly by North Vietnamese control in the northern and eastern sectors of the country. The Pathet Lao were never a particularly strong military force unless supported directly by the North Vietnamese army.
In February 1972, at the Second Party Congress, the name of the Lao's People's Party was changed to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party.
In 1973, a peace agreement was signed that brought the Pathet Lao into the government and was supposed to result in the Vietnamese leaving the country. The Vietnamese army did not leave. In early 1975, the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese began attacking government outposts again. Without the support of the US, the anticommunist elements in the government had little choice other than to gradually allow the Pathet Lao to take power. In the spring of 1975 Pathet Lao forces consolidated their power throughout the country. The royal government fell in May 1975 and the LPRP took power. The LPRP on taking power showed itself to be closely connected to Vietnam. The LPRP signed a treaty of friendship which allowed Vietnamese army units to base themselves in Laos and also brought political advisors from Vietnam into the country. The LPRP economically isolated Laos by cutting off trade with all neighboring countries except for Vietnam.
When the LPRP first revealed itself to the public in 1975, the Central Committee comprised twenty-one members and six alternates. By the Fourth Party Congress, its size had expanded to fifty-one members and nine alternates. The average age of a Central Committee member in 1986 was fifty-two, with the oldest seventy-seven and the youngest thirty-three. The number of women on the Central Committee rose from three to five, including Thongvin Phomvihan, then General Secretary Kaysone's wife, who was chair of the LPRP's People's Revolutionary Youth Union and, in 1982, the first woman appointed to the Central Committee.
In 1979 the Lao Front for National Construction was founded to extend the reach of the LPRP in society, with a particular emphasis on governmental and cultural participation.
The Third Party Congress did not meet until April 1982. Since then Party Congresses have been more regular with the Fourth Party Congress being held in November 1986, and the Fifth Party Congress in March 1991 with further congresses every four or five years since then.
When evidence of change in the communist world began to appear, Kaysone propounded the New Economic Mechanism in 1986, invoking Lenin, but soon moved control of state enterprises to autonomous firms, and by 1989 edged more deliberately toward a market economy.
The LPRP has shown itself to be remarkably resilient. Transitions of power have tended to be smooth, the new generation of leaders has proven more open to reform, and the Politburo now has some ethnic diversity. Organised opposition to the LPRP is weak.
From a membership of a few hundred at its founding the party grew to 11,000 members by 1965 and 21,000 members by 1972. When the party seized power in 1975 it claimed a membership of 25,000; and by 1991, at the convening of the Fifth Party Congress, the LPRP claimed its membership had increased to 60,000 or just over 1% of the population.
The Central Committee of the party was composed of 21 members and 6 alternates in 1975. This expanded to 51 members and 9 alternates by 1986 and 59 members in 1991.
The Politburo is the centre of political power in the party with its membership drawn from and chosen by the Central Committee. The Politburo consisted of seven members in 1972 growing to eleven members by 1993.
At the Fifth Party Congress, the party abolished the nineperson Secretariat of the Central Committee and changed the designation of the head of the party (Kaysone) from general secretaryl to chairman. Until it was abolished, the Secretariat wielded influence second only to that of the Politburo.
Kaysone Phomvihan was the party's general secretary from its founding in 1955 and remained the party's key figure until his death in 1992. His title changed to Party Chairman in 1991. Nouhak Phoumsavan was the second most powerful figure in the party throughout from the party's founding until Kaysone's death when he became the party's titular leader.
The party is currently led by Choummaly Sayasone since 2006. Former leader Khamtai Siphandon succeeded Nouhak Phoumsavan in 1998 (although some accounts have him succeeding Kaysone in 1992). Other recent leading figures have included Sisavath Keobounphanh and Boungnang Vorachith, who have each served as prime minister. Party's Secretary-General and State President,Chairman of the National Assembly, Prime Minister, Vice President is most important members of the Politburo LPRP.
Members of the Politburo elected at the 9th Party Congress:
- Lt General Choummaly Sayasone
- Mr Thongsing Thammavong
- Colonel Boungnang Vorachit
- Dr Thongloun Sisoulith
- Mrs Pany Yathotou
- Major General Asang Laoly
- Major General Douangchay Phichith
- Mr Somsavat Lengsavad
- Dr Bounthong Chitmany
- Dr Bounpone Bouttanavong
- Dr Phankham Viphavan
Secretariat of the Party Central Committee:
- Lt. Gen. Choummaly Sayasone
- Bounnhang Vorachit (PCC Standing Secretariat)
- Dr Bounthong Chitmany
- Dr Bounpone Bouttanavong
- Dr Thongban Seng-aphone
- Chansy Phosikham
- Soukan Mahalath
- Maj. Gen. Sengnuan Xayalath
- Cheuang Sombounkhanh
The party operates according to the principles of democratic centralism. Due to the covert nature of the party in its first two decades it remains semi-secret in its operations though it is becoming more open as a new generation takes control.
The LPRP is a Marxist-Leninist party patterned after the Vietnamese Communist Party and strongly influenced by the Soviet Union and the USSR's Communist Party. In the late 1980s the party attempted to follow the example of Gorbachev's perestroika reforms by introducing market measures and reducing controls over state run enterprises as well as abandoning attempts at agricultural collectivisation. These reforms have been expanded in the 1990s. However, the Laotian party was reluctant to follow the Soviet example of glasnost and has avoided loosening the party's political monopoly in the country or allowing for a free press. The party would allow economic liberalization and a degree of cultural freedom but would not allow anyone to question the rule of the party over the country.
- 1st Congress (March 1955)
- 2nd Congress (3–6 February 1972)
- 3rd Congress (27–30 April 1982)
- 4th Congress (13–15 November 1986)
- 5th Congress (27–29 March 1991)
- 6th Congress (18–20 March 1996)
- 7th Congress (12–14 March 2001)
- 8th Congress (18–21 March 2006)
- 9th Congress (17–21 March 2011)