Afterward, an international conference held in Geneva separated Vietnam at the 17th parallel to prevent Ho Chi Minh's communist government from assuming control over the entire nation.
The elephant was symbolic of the ancient kingdom of Laos, known as "The Kingdom of a Million Elephants." The parasol represented the monarchy and the five steps of the pedestal symbolized the five main precepts of Buddhism.Laos has a tropical climate, with a rainy season that lasts from May to November and a dry season that lasts from December to April.Laos has about 4,400,000 residents and an estimated population growth rate of 2.2 percent each year.In Laos, however, Buddhism is heavily influenced by the cult of phi (spirits) and Hinduism.The Laotian flag has three horizonal bands, with red stripes at the top and bottom and a blue stripe in the middle. Many Laotian Americans identify more with the pre-1975 flag of the Kingdom of Laos than with the present-day flag of the country.The Lao kingdom reached its height in the late 1600s, under King Souligna Vongsa.
After his death in 1694, three claimants to the throne broke the kingdom into three distinct principalities, the kingdoms of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champassak.Each kingdom struggled for power, causing the weakened Lao states to become vulnerable to the more powerful nations of Siam (Thailand) and Vietnam.While the Siamese took Vientiane, the Vietnamese took other parts of Laos.Laos then became a protectorate, or colony, of France.By 1899, Vientiane had become the administrative capital of French Laos with French commissioners holding administrative power in all the provinces.By the mid 1800s, almost all of northern Laos was controlled by Vietnam, and almost all the southern and central parts of the country were controlled by Thailand.