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Folkways of Indochina, 17 Buddhist Laos 01

The last programmes from the Folkways of Indochina series that I am showing focuses on Laos and the role its national religion has had on the country.

Laos is the only landlocked country in Indochina and shares borders with China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand. This situation has shaped its destiny in many ways.

On the one hand it has led to the enrichment of its culture with influences from across the region, on the other it has been plagued by wars and occupation.

Buddhism seems to have come to Laos through two routes, one overland through Myanmar, and one by sea through Cambodia.

All of its kings have been Buddhist from the very start of the Kingdom up and till the end of the monarchy in 1975, which was overthrown during the communist takeover.

This also led to a decline in learning in the temples, with many monks either killed during the war, and temples being destroyed.

Now the culture of Laos is in crisis, and despite short-term programmes from the UN which have helped, the crisis is unlikely to lift as young men seek education and development elsewhere.

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