The Lao alphabet (Lao: ອັກສອນລາວ [ʔáksɔ̌ːn láːw]) is the primary script used to write the Lao language and other minority languages in Laos. It was also used to write the Isan language, but was replaced by the Thai script. It has 27 consonants (ພະຍັນຊະນະ [pʰāɲánsānā]), 7 consonantal ligatures (ພະຍັນຊະນະປະສົມ [pʰāɲánsānā pá sǒm]), 33 vowels (ສະຫລະ [sálā]), and 4 tone marks (ວັນນະຍຸດ [ván nā ɲūt]).
The Lao alphabet was adapted from the Khmer script, which itself was derived from the Pallava script, a variant of the Grantha alphabet descended from the Brahmi script, which was used in southern India and South East Asia during the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Akson Lao is a sister system to the Thai script, with which it shares many similarities and roots. However, Lao has fewer characters and is formed in a more curvilinear fashion than Thai.
Lao is written from left to right. Vowels can be written above, below, in front of, or behind consonants, with some vowel combinations written before, over and after. Spaces for separating words and punctuation were traditionally not used, but a space is used and functions in place of a comma or period. The letters have no majuscule or minuscule (upper- and lowercase) differentiation.
Prince Souvanna Phouma (7 October 1901 – 10 January 1984) was the leader of the neutralist faction and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Laos several times from 1951–1954, 1956–1958, 1960 and 1962–1975.
He was the son of Bounkhong, the last vice-king of Luang Prabang and a nephew of King Sisavang Vong of Laos, given a French education in Hanoi, Paris and Grenoble, where he obtained his degree in architecture and engineering.
In 1951, Souvanna became Prime Minister of Laos under the National Progressive Party banner with a landslide victory, winning 15 of the 39 seats in the National Assembly. He was prime minister until 1954. After elections in December 1955, Souvanna Phouma returned to the prime ministership on a platform of national reconciliation. In June 1958 Souvanna was again forced to resign by the rightists. The king accepted the vote as legal the next day when he signed Royal Ordinance No. 282, dismissing Souvanna Phouma's government and giving powers provisionally to the Revolutionary Committee. Royal Ordinance No. 283, approved a provisional government formed by Prince Boun Oum, who acted as front man for Phoui Sananikone. He was one of the Three Princes, whom Sisavang Vatthana appointed to form a coalition government between the rightists and Pathet Lao but it collapsed, and the Laotian Civil War began.