In the week since the pro-Communist Lao took over the reins of government in Laos, the capital Vientiane has undergone a rapid transformation.
GV Street in Vientiane
GV Army lorry with troops in back
GV Streets with traffic including "samlos"
GV President Prince Souphanouvong walks out onto steps of Government House with Prince Souphana Phouma
CU President making speech
GV Officials listening (2 shots)
SV President shaking hands with quests (2 shots)
GV Political banner across road
GV & SV Woman watering vegetable patch (2 shots)
CU Communist slogan printed on tee-shirt in window
SV Banners hanging over shop front
GV Street scene with samlos and traffic
Initials BB/1810 AMN/PN/BB/1830
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Background: In the week since the pro-Communist Lao took over the reins of government in Laos, the capital Vientiane has undergone a rapid transformation.
Shops lining the streets of the capital of the new People's Republic of Laos are closed as many of Vientiane's rich merchants have fled the country, crossing the Mekong River into Thailand.
The streets of the city are less congested. Three-wheeled "samlos" (bicycles) have replaced cars and motorcycles, forced off the roads because of serve petrol shortages.
The central market, usually bustling with activity every morning, does little business. Market stalls are empty. There is little food to sell.
Laos -- a landlocked nation of three million people-- normally relies on shipments of food and other commodities from Thailand. But in mid-November, the Thai-lao border formed by the Mekong River was closed to traffic as relations between the two countries steadily deteriorated.
The food that is smuggled across the River from Thailand is for sale at exorbitant prices. Some food items have increased by four times their previous value.
The new Laotian government was officially announced on 4 December at a news conference. The new President is Prince Souphanouvong, who for more than two decades led the military and political struggle of the Pathet Lao forces. The premier is kaysone Phomvihan, a member of the Pathet Lao Politburo.
News of the formation of a new cabinet hit Vientiane's street the same day.
Under the new communist government, laotians are encouraged to grow their own vegetables in their own gardens. All available space within Vientiane will be cultivated. A new decree enables government workers to leave their jobs at four o'clock every afternoon to work for the one hour in their gardens.
Slogans, proclaiming the new government, have been erected throughout the city. A large number of workers have been employed in painting new signboards and banners. There is even a T-shirt with Communist slogans for sale in Vientiane.
Laos became independent in 1953 from France. Then followed 20 years of intermittent civil war, which ended with the 19733 peace accord. The Pathet Lao have been the effective masters of Laos since last year. But it was not expected that the 700-year-old monarchy would be abolished until after the general elections next April.
SYNOPSIS: Vientiane -- capital of Laos -- has undergone a transformation in the week since the pro-Communist Pathet Lao took over the government. Shops lining the street are closed. Most of the rich merchants have fled the country. The streets are less congested, with three wheeled samlos returning to the scene because of severe petrol shortage.
The new President is Prince Souphanouvong. For more than twenty years he led the military and political struggle of Pathet Lao forces. The new Premier is Kaysone Phovihan, a member of the Pathet Lao Politburo. The Pathet Lao have been the effective masters of Laos since last year. But it was not expected that the 700-years-old monarchy would be abolished until after the general elections next April. King Savang Vatthana abdicated on the third of December to make way for the new People's Republic of Laos.
News of the formation of the new government hit the streets immediately. Since then there have been many changes. Food is scare so the people are encouraged to grow their own. Workers are allowed to return home an hour earlier to work in their gardens. Foods is smuggled across the Mekong River from Thailand and sold at exorbitant prices.
Some Western influence -- like this Communist tee-shirt -- can still be seen. Many workers have been employed to make slogans proclaiming the new government. The city centre is a lot quieter now. the central market, usually bustling with activity every morning, does little business with scarcely anything to sell. Previously, most of the food arrived from Thailand but there has been a steady deterioration in relations between the two countries.