LAOS: Thorns Appear in Lotus Land

The Pathet Lao builds a harsh new world

For centuries Laos was a sleepy country of rice fields, water buffaloes and a notably pacific people who seemed to find little to fault in their fertile lotus land.

But two decades of civil war and three years of Communist rule have taken the bloom off. Under the Puritan discipline of the Pathet Lao, who seized control in 1975, the gentle life of the Laotians has undergone a harsh transformation.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Phong Saly province, a remote region that juts into...

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