DEFORESTATION, FORESTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN LAOS

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES IN LAOS

In 1993, in an effort to protect the country's species richness, the Lao government established 18 National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs), which cover about 24,600 square kilometers, or about 10 percent of the country. Two more NBCA were added in 1995. Most of them are in southern Laos. They include one known as Nakai Nam Theum National Biodiversity Area in the mountainous border area near Vietnam. During the 1990s researchers in this protected area discovered a new genus of cattle-like mammal along with two deer-like species.

Current environmental issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water. Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Laos doesn’t really have much problems with pollution—other than smoke from slash and burn agriculture fires and some ill effects from mining—as there are few people and relatively little industry in Laos. Environmental problems in Laos include deforestation, the effects of dam construction, the use of explosives to catch fish, and poaching of wild animals. Efforts to tackle these problems have been disrupted by corruption, lack cooperation and a lack of will.

Many of Laos’s environmental problems are related to deforestation. Expanding commercial exploitation of the forests, plans for additional hydroelectric facilities, foreign demand for wild animals and nonwood forest products for food and traditional medicines, and a growing population put increasing pressure on the forests.

Conservation in Laos faces obstacles from increased interest in mining, hydropower and timber. The strongly centralized approach to conservation—Laos is a Communist country—may spawn animosity toward conservation efforts at a local level if initiatives fail to account for local needs.

See Dams, Mining, See Mekong River.

Disappearance of Prominent Aid Worker in Laos

In mid December 2012, 60-year-old Sombath Somphone—a prominent social activist who received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005 for his social and environmental work— disappeared. Closed-circuit TV footage showed Sombath being taken to a roadside police station in the capital city Vientiane after he was stopped by traffic police. Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the footage and other accounts “indicate that Lao authorities took him into custody, raising concerns for his safety.” But Lao authorities quickly rejected the charge, asserting that Sombath had been kidnapped as a result of "a personal conflict or a conflict in business." The Lao government did not provide any evidence to support their statement, but said it was investigating the disappearance.[Source: mongabay.com, December 23, 2012 \*\]

Sombath's work focused on sustainable development in Laos. According to UNESCO, Sombath has pushed "eco-friendly technologies and micro-enterprises and to enhance education by introducing fuel-efficient stoves, promoting locally-produced organic fertilizer, devising new processing techniques and marketing strategies for small businesses, initiating garbage recycling in the capital city, and organizing extra curricular programs for the youth." \*\

Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times, “He was last seen driving home in his old, rusty jeep. And then he vanished. The disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a United States-trained agriculture specialist who led one of the most successful nonprofit organizations in Laos, has baffled his family and friends and raised alarms that a nascent liberalization of the Communist-ruled country could be sliding backward. Mr. Sombath, who won many awards for his public service, was known to be nonconfrontational and adept at forging compromises with the authoritarian government of Laos. “We have no malice against the government,” said Ng Shui Meng, Mr. Sombath’s wife, who is from Singapore and met Mr. Sombath while they both studied in the United States. “We want to live our lives quietly.” [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 10, 2013 +++]

“The disappearance has set off an enormous campaign by Mr. Sombath’s large network of friends and aid workers across Southeast Asia who know him from his development work. The campaign has put Laos, an obscure country run by an opaque Communist party, under increasing pressure to provide answers. Paradoxically for the Lao government, it is a network of cameras that the municipal police installed over the past three years to monitor “anti-social behavior” that have pointed to signs of the government’s involvement in Mr. Sombath’s disappearance. +++

Helpful workers at a local police station initially showed the family images of Mr. Sombath’s jeep stopped at a police checkpoint on the evening of Dec. 15. Mr. Sombath then appeared to be driven off in a white vehicle.Family members had the presence of mind to record the footage with their own digital devices — crucial because the government now refuses to let them view the video again despite pleas by diplomats who would like to analyze it for clues like license plates. (The video is now circulating on YouTube and is also available at sombath.org, a site put up by Mr. Sombath’s friends and dedicated to tracing his whereabouts). +++

“Since the search for Mr. Sombath began, the Lao government has issued only short statements that suggest, without offering details, that he may have been involved in a personal dispute. But those following the case closely remain unconvinced. “The bottom line is that we haven’t heard anything beyond a brief statement that doesn’t clarify anything,” Karen B. Stewart, the U.S. ambassador to Laos, said in an interview. “There’s been no full report about the status of the investigation or whatever is going on.” +++

Possible Reason for Disappearance of Prominent Aid Worker in Laos

While his activities aren't thought to have posed a direct threat to Lao PDR's notoriously authoritarian government, his participation in a recent NGO gathering may be linked to his disappearance, According to Associated Press: “As the senior NGO figure in Laos, Sombath had a high profile at the Asian-Europe People’s Forum, which is held on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting of ministerial-level leaders from both continents. The people’s forum highlighted the concerns of NGOs, whose priorities—such as safeguarding the environment and ensuring fair use of land for small farmers—are often at odds with those of the government, which emphasizes rapid economic growth. Harassing Sombath would send a message to the NGO community not to challenge the government. In a similar fashion, Laos earlier this month expelled the head representative of the Swiss NGO Helvetas for criticizing the government. [Source: mongabay.com, December 23, 2012 \*\]

Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times, “The possible motives for his disappearance remain unclear. He retired last year from his organization, the Participatory Development Training Center, but continued to be engaged with nonprofit organizations in Laos. Some speculate that going after such a high-profile personality was a warning to other private groups. “To this day I am baffled,” Mr. Sombath’s wife said. She rejects the term “activist” that many news organizations have used in describing him. “We have lived here for a long time, during periods when Laos was less open than now, when people were afraid to talk openly. We survived that period without something like this happening.” [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 10, 2013 +++]

“Mr. Sombath’s U.S. connections may have made some old-guard officials suspicious, friends and old acquaintances say. He was an exchange student in Wisconsin in high school and went to college in Hawaii. But his farming roots — both his parents were rice farmers in Laos — and his three decades of carrying out programs to help the poor won over many people. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, which honors public service in Asia. Ms. Ng frets for her husband’s health and safety at the couple’s home overlooking the Mekong River. Mr. Sombath has a prostate condition and had been prescribed daily medication. “I don’t know where he is,” she said. “I hope he is safe.” Mr. Adisorn has an extensive network of contacts inside the Lao government and has been asking about Mr. Sombath’s case. Adisorn Semyaem, an expert on Laos at the Mekong Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok said, “I assume that he is still alive but that the government is finding it very difficult to find a way out of the situation.” +++

“There is a troubling precedent for a politically linked disappearance. In 2007, Sompawn Khantisouk, the manager of an ecotourism guesthouse who was outspoken in his criticism of Chinese-owned plantations in the north of the country, disappeared and has not been seen since. +++

Forests in Laos

Laos contains some of the last great tracts of wilderness, the largest remaining tropical rainforests and some of the most pristine natural landscapes in Southeast Asia. Some say half of its woodlands consist of primary forest, in particular the tropical rainforest. Unlike the vegetation that grows in the climate of Europe and the United States, tropical rainforest is composed of three vegetative layers. The top layer features single-trucked, high-reaching trees called dipterocarps. The middle canopy consists of hardwood such as teak. Beneath, small trees, grass and sometimes bamboo can be found. Although logging sometimes occurs at an alarming rate in central Laos, the southeast part of the country is surprisingly undisturbed. The primary reason for this is Laos’s small population.

In 1641 the Dutch explorer Gerrot van Wuystoof wrote: “The mountains that surround it on every side fortify the land marvelously against the enterprises of foreigners...While forests of full grown timber grow at the foot of these mountains seeming to have planted intentionally to serve as a rampart against the great falls of rain which would cause great damage if there were not this natural obstacle.”

Much the vegetation found in Laos is associated with monsoon forests. On the forests in Oudomxay province, a tourist site for the province reported: “Giant trees are breathtaking, but the forests are more - a whole cosmos of life. If silently walking through the forest reptiles like saurian and snakes are found easily. These shy animals are threatened in more populated and industrialized areas but are still very numerous in natural forests as here in Northern Laos. Besides a high variety of vertebrates the pristine forests harbor an infinite number of insects of which butterflies are among the most colorful. A patient explorer will easily find all kinds of beetles, ants and millipedes crawling on the forest ground. [Source: Oudomxay province Tourism <^>]

“The forests of Northern Laos are also home to a huge amount of different plants. Very particular trees are found with characteristic buttress roots. This characteristic roots anchor the trees in the rainforests on the thin and poor humus layer where roots can’t go deep. Furthermore, they help gather nutrients and minerals from the ground. The local guides will be very happy to introduce a variety of non timber forest products (NTFP) characteristically collected by the local population. Besides bamboo, rattan and other plants for construction wild fruits and vegetable are very important to add to the daily diet. A much appreciated wild fruit is the sweet berry of Melastoma saigonensis. At the end of the dry season the delicate pink flowers can be found. The fruits are preferably eaten fresh. Among the most popular wild vegetables are the big varieties of ferns. These are either eaten boiled or cooked with meat, and are often sold as sour fermented vegetable on the markets. <^>

As of 2005, nearly 70 percent of land in Laos was forested (16 million hectares). However, like much of Southeast Asia, primary forest has become a rarity in Laos; about 9 percent of its forest total (1.49 million hectares) is comprised of primary forest. Forest Cover: Total forest area: 16,142,000 hectares, percent of land area: 69.9 percent. Primary forest cover: 1,490,000 hectares; percent of land area: 6.5 percent; percent total forest area: 9.2 percent. Forest Area Breakdown: Total area: 16,142,000 hectares; Primary: 1,490,000 hectares; Modified natural: 14,428,000 hectares; Semi-natural: n/a; Production plantation: 223,000 hectares; Production plantation: 1,000 hectares. [Source: Mongabay.com \~\]

Number of tree species in IUCN red list; Number of native tree species: 1,457; Critically endangered: 5; Endangered: 7; Vulnerable: 8. Area annually affected by Fire: 100,000 hectares; Insects: n/a; Diseases: n/a. Carbon storage: Above-ground biomass: 2,342 M t; Below-ground biomass: 632 M t. Forest Classification: Public: 100 percent. Use: Production: 21.6 percent; Protection: 54.7 percent; Conservation: 23.5 percent; Social services: 0.2 percent. Plantations, 2005: 224,000 hectares; percent of total forest cover: 1.4 percent; Annual change rate (00-05): 25,000,000 hectares.\~\

See Timber

Threats to Laos’s Forests

Despite a small population, undeveloped mineral deposits, and forest covering nearly 70 percent of the country, Lao's forests are threatened. Slash-and-burn agriculture, uncontrolled fires, commercial and illegal logging, and fuelwood collection resulted in the loss of 6.8 percent of the country's forests between 1990 and 2005. The deforestation rate has increased moderately since the close of the 1990s, but there is concern that the shift from a command economy toward a market-oriented economy will put increasing pressure on the forest resources of Laos.

Expanding commercial exploitation of forests, plans for additional hydroelectric facilities, foreign demands for wild animals and nonwood forest products for food and traditional medicines, and a growing population have brought new and increasing attention to the forests. Traditionally, forests have been important sources of wild foods, herbal medicines, and timber for house construction. Even into the 1990s, the government viewed the forest as a valued reserve of natural products for noncommercial household consumption. Government efforts to preserve valuable hardwoods for commercial extraction have led to measures to prohibit swidden cultivation throughout the country.

Laos has become a center point for the illegal rosewood trade. Overexploited worldwide, rosewood cutting has been outlawed in many countries including Vietnam. However, the trade has now moved into Laos and Myanmar, with rosewood eventually making its way to China for crafting into high-end furniture and other luxury goods. "Nearly all, if not all, of these rosewood exports are illegal or involve illegality at some stage in the chain," reads an the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report. [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, September 26, 2012]

Government restrictions on clearing forestland for swidden cropping in the late 1980s, along with attempts to gradually resettle upland swidden farming villages (ban) to lowland locations suitable for paddy rice cultivation, had significant effects on upland villages. Traditionally, villages rely on forest products as a food reserve during years of poor rice harvest and as a regular source of fruits and vegetables. By the 1990s, however, these gathering systems were breaking down in many areas. At the same time, international concern about environmental degradation and the loss of many wildlife species unique to Laos has also prompted the government to consider the implications of these developments. [Source: Library of Congress, 1994]

Deforestation in Laos

Deforestation is more of a problem in northern Laos, where there is a lot of slash and burn agriculture, than it is in southern Laos. In 1985 a reforestation program was initiated and laws were established in 1986 that restricted the felling of 15 types of trees, including rosewood and teak.

Illegal logging is a problem. Logging in areas earmarked to be submerged by reservoirs for dams is also a problems. In some cases the timber is harvested areas earmarked for dams that are not built. Much of the logging is done by Thai logging interests. The Laotian government has made some effort to keep Thai logging companies out.

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -78,000 hectares; Annual deforestation rate: -0.5 percent; Change in deforestation rate since the 1990s: 4.5 percent; Total forest loss since 1990: -1,172,000 hectares; Total forest loss since 1990:-6.8 percent. [Source: Mongabay.com]

In the 1950s, forests covered 70 percent of the land area; yet, by 1992, according to government estimates, forest coverage had decreased by nearly one-third, to just 47 percent of total land area. Deforestation increased steadily throughout the 1980s, at an annual average rate of about 1.2 percent in the first half of the decade according to the United Nations (UN) and other monitoring agencies. This rate represents the destruction of about 150,000 to 160,000 hectares annually, as compared with annual reforestation of about 2,000 hectares. The government, however, reported a deforestation rate double this figure. Deforestation results from clearing forestland for shifting cultivation and removing logs for industrial uses and fuel. The volume of logs (roundwood) removed for industrial purposes increased by about 70 percent between 1975- 77 and 1985-87, to about 330,000 cubic meters; however, this volume was dwarfed by that removed for domestic (fuel) purposes. Between 1980 and 1989, the volume of logs removed for fuel increased by about 25 percent, to about 3.7 million cubic meters; only about 100,000 cubic meters were removed for industrial purposes. By 1991 these figures had increased to approximately 3.9 million cubic meters and 106,000 cubic meters, respectively. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Many of Laos’s environmental problems are related to deforestation. Expanding commercial exploitation of the forests, plans for additional hydroelectric facilities, foreign demand for wild animals and nonwood forest products for food and traditional medicines, and a growing population put increasing pressure on the forests. Deforestation not only destroyed at least 150,000 to 160,000 hectares of valuable forest annually in the 1980s, but also caused erosion--leading to siltation of reservoirs, navigation channels, and irrigation systems downstream--and reduced groundwater levels. The practice of swidden cultivation not only contributes greatly to deforestation, but, in 1987, also made Laos one of eleven countries in the world that together were responsible for over 80 percent of net world carbon emissions amounting to a per capita emission of ten tons annually, compared with the world average of 1.17 tons per capita. Further, during the Second Indochina War (1954-75), Laos was heavily bombed and left with tons of unexploded ordnance and bomb craters that ultimately altered the local ecology. *

Combating Deforestation in Laos

The government's desire to preserve valuable hardwoods for commercial extraction and to protect the forest environment, as well as international concern about environmental degradation and the loss of many wildlife species unique to Laos, have motivated efforts to prohibit swidden cultivation throughout the country. This policy has a significant effect on the livelihoods of upland villagers dependent on swidden cultivation of rice. Traditional patterns of village livelihood relied on forest products as a food reserve during years of poor rice harvest and as a regular source of fruits and vegetables. By the 1990s, however, these gathering systems were breaking down in many areas. The government has restricted the clearing of forestland for swidden cropping since the late 1980s and is attempting to resettle upland swidden farming villages in lowland locations where paddy rice cultivation is possible. However, both the government's inability to ensure compliance with the measures and the attraction of Thai money for forest products inhibits implementation of the restrictions. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Although a lack of environmental planning, surveys, and legislation diminishes the likelihood of substantial improvement of the environment in the near future, a number of decrees were issued to encourage environmental protection. These decrees include general principles for protecting forestland; prohibitions on cutting certain tree species; regulations on hunting, fishing, and the use of fire during the dry season; and regulations on the management and protection of forestland, wildlife, and fish. The use of manure and compost encouraged to help rejuvenate soil. Burning also encourages many forms of forest growth. *

The government's commitment to environmental protection is affirmed in the constitution and in its policy of finding new occupations for swidden cultivators. In 1991 the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry established a land use program under the National Forest Resource Conservation and Development Strategy. The program reserves 17.0 million hectares, including 9.6 million hectares for forest protection, 2.4 million hectares for wildlife reserves and national parks, and 5.0 million hectares for production. However, the commitment is mainly on paper: the highest priority park--Nam Theun--will be flooded by a hydroelectric dam by 2000. *

In August 2012, Dr. Souvanhpheng Bouphanouvong, President of the National Assembly of Lao's Committee on Economic Planning and Finance, announced that the Lao government was working on land reform issues, which could have major impacts on Lao's forests. "A new national land policy is a priority in Laos," Dr. Bouphanouvong added. "Land disputes are a top concern of Lao's multi-ethnic population, and as a nation, we cannot ignore this opportunity to address conflicts and alleviate poverty." [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, September 26, 2012 ==]

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recommends that Laos enforce its current raw log ban, close loop holes, and improve monitoring of log flows in the country. In addition, the country should seek aid through the EU's burgeoning Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, which will make selling illegally logged wood products in Europe a crime, much like the Lacey Act has in the U.S. The EIA is also calling on the Vietnamese government to investigate companies allegedly involved in the smuggling. ==

See Slash and Burn Agriculture Under Agriculture

Corruption and the Plundering of Forests in Laos

Jeremy Hance of mongabay.com wrote: “The forests of Lao are still suffering from widespread destruction with the government turning a blind eye to a thriving black market logging trade on the border of Laos and Vietnam, according to an update report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Last year, the EIA found that powerful players, including the Vietnamese military, were plundering Laos of its forests for raw logs. Smuggled from Laos into Vietnam, the raw logs are crafted into furniture, which are eventually exported to Europe and the U.S. Now, over a year later a new report finds little has changed. "It is business as usual," the report reads. "The plunder of Laos' forests continues unchecked. A handful of powerful firms are still moving logs across the border, aided by murky exemptions from timber export controls apparently granted by the upper echelons of the Government of Laos." [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, September 26, 2012 ==]

“While Laos has banned raw logs from export, investigations by the EIA finds that this policy has become riddled with exceptions allowing well-connected government officials to aid the underground trade. "Such exemptions are issued by a small group of senior officials in the central government, and can permit 'special' quotas of logs to be exported, usually in return for investment in and ownership of infrastructure and plantation projects across the country," the report reads. ==

The report points to several well-connected companies for perpetuating the corrupt trade, including Phonesack, Nicewood, and COECCO, the latter of which is owned by the Vietnamese military. Raw logs are often paid for in cash, leaving little paper trail, and then resold across the border for much higher prices. "There's no justification for the Government of Laos to continue channeling resources into the hands of these individuals at the expense of its people," EIA Forests Campaigner Tom Johnson, said in a press release. "Equally, the Vietnamese Government, as a professed 'special friend' of Laos, must stop the unsustainable pillage of Laos’ forests by its industry—not least by its Army." ==

Vietnamese Military Illegally Plundering Laos' Forests

Jeremy Hance of mongabay.com wrote: “Dwindling forests in the Asian nation of Laos are being illegally destroyed and traded by Vietnamese companies with the Vietnamese army as one of the biggest players in this multi-million dollar smuggling operation, according to an investigation by the EIA. EIA agents went undercover as timber purchasers to discover a long trail of corruption and poor enforcement from the destruction of Laos forests to furniture factories in Vietnam to stores in the USA and Europe. Even a ban on exporting raw timber out of Laos has done little to stop the plunder of the nation's forests for outside gain. [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, July 28, 2011 *^*]

"EIA first exposed the illicit log trade between Laos and Vietnam in 2008, and our latest investigations reveal that sadly nothing has changed," EIA Head of Forest Campaign Faith Doherty said in a press release. One of the largest logging operators in the investigation was the Vietnamese Company of Economic Cooperation (COECCO). However, it was discovered that this company, which specialized in logging near dam construction sites, was owned by the Vietnamese Military Zone 4. COECCO has been logging forests with impunity for two decades, according to the EIA. *^*

“The EIA report estimates that around 500,000 cubic meters of logs make their way from Laos to Vietnam annually with logs coming from "some of the last intact tropical forests in the Mekong region." Local people (70 percent of Lao people live in rural areas) are suffering the loss of the forest resources on which they depend, while, according to the EIA, the only beneficiaries in Laos of this underground trade are corrupt officials and criminal business people. *^*

"The governments of Vietnam and Laos urgently need to work together to stem the flow of logs and curb the over-exploitation of Laos’ precious forests before it’s too late, and the Vietnamese military must be excluded from logging operations in Laos," says Doherty. "With a new Timber Regulation coming into force within European markets in 2013, both Vietnam and Laos have a lot at stake and urgently need to work with the European Union." *^*

World Bank Funding Illegal Logging in Cambodia and Laos?

A new report by environmental watchdog Global Witness found that two Vietnamese-owned rubber companies, which — with the financial support of Deutsche Bank, an arm of the World Bank and local governments — have acquired more than 500,000 acres of land in Cambodia and neighboring Laos. The companies and officials involved have made millions growing resin trees and harvesting their sap to make rubber, while thousands of poor Cambodians and Laotians lost the little they had. Villagers have been sued and prosecuted, intimidated, threatened and shot at while trying to defend their livelihoods. [Source: Denise Hruby, Global Post, May 14, 2013 |*|]

According to Global Post: “The companies in question continue undeterred despite allegedly being aware that many of their undertakings, such as the extensive logging of timber in national parks, are illegal, according to "Rubber Barons," the report released by London-based Global Witness on Monday that sheds light on the secretive operations of Hoan Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and the Vietnamese Rubber Group (VRG). |*|

“Germany's Deutsche Bank, according to the report, holds $3.3 million in a subsidiary of VRG, which is chiefly owned by the Vietnamese government, and $4.5 million in the privately owned HAGL. The International Finance Cooperation (IFC), which is an arm of the World Bank, indirectly funds HAGL through its $14.95 million share in a Vietnam-based fund that invests in HAGL. “We’ve known for some time that corrupt politicians in Cambodia and Laos are orchestrating the land-grabbing crisis that is doing so much damage in the region. This report completes the picture by exposing the pivotal role of Vietnam’s rubber barons and their financiers, Deutsche Bank and IFC,” said Megan MacInnes, who runs Global Witness’ land team. |*|

“Both Southeast Asian governments have argued that the land concessions granted to HAGL and VRG will help develop the poor countries and turn simple, self-reliant farmers into plantation workers. But in reality, the 165,000 acres HAGL, VRG and affiliated companies hold in Laos and the 445,000 acres Global Witness identified in northeastern Cambodia have brought misery and despair to communities that depend on the forests, the report shows. Bulldozers arriving are often the first sign of a fight for land the poor countryside stands to lose. Houses have been demolished, farms flattened, cemeteries dug up, and trees in which holly spirits are said to live have been uprooted. |*|

HAGL and VRG have made millions off the plantations and the illegal selling of luxury wood. Between 2001 and 2011, prices for natural rubber increased ten-fold and reached about $3,600 per tonne last year, when Vietnam became the world's third-largest producer of rubber. Most rubber is shipped to China, where it is processed and exported to the United States and Japan. As demand surges, the tight supply has fueled HAGL's and VRG's land-grabbing in Cambodia and Laos. In addition, luxury rosewood grows inside the land concessions, which is illegally logged and exported, Global Witness says.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Laos-Guide-999.com, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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