VIENTIANE, Laos - Laos officially marked its capital Vientiane's 450th anniversary yesterday with celebrations focused on stimulating national pride among its new generation of citizens.
Parades, fireworks and cultural performances were held at the National Stadium yesterday evening to showcase history and the country's move toward modernisation. Vientiane was made the Laotian capital in 1560 when King Xetthathirat decided to move from Xiang Thong, later known as Luang Prabang, to avoid Burmese invaders.
The celebrations, which began earlier this week to coincide with the annual That Luang festival, were marked by a gala event at the National Stadium yesterday evening attended by prominent locals, expats and foreign guests. The event was broadcast live for the general public.
Also marking the occasion were trade fairs and festivals at the That Luang Plaza and Laos International Trade, Exhibition and Conference Centre, which began on Monday and will run until tomorrow. Traders were prohibited from selling provocative clothing such as short skirts, hot pants and spaghetti-strap blouses because it "goes against the Laotian culture".
The Lao People's Revolutionary Party, which started ruling the country in 1975, also marked the 35th anniversary of its reign this week.
President Choummaly Sayasone, who is also the party's secretary-general, reminded his fellow citizens last night of the many years spent to turn Vientiane into a peaceful, stable and prosperous capital. He said the performances were meant to remind the public, especially young people, that Laos was an independent country.
Laos has its own civilisation and unique culture, which its citizens should be proud of, Laotian diplomat Yong Chanthalangsy said.
"The celebration should remind my fellow citizens of how our ancestors struggled for independence and to preserve our civilisation. We should be proud, carry on their spirit and develop the country for the future," he said.
The message was not just aimed at local residents but also Laotians who moved overseas during war.
Yong, who represents Laos at the UN office in Geneva, said the government had extended 400 invitations to Laotians living overseas for the anniversary celebrations, and tens of thousands of visas were granted to non-Laos passport holders to visit the country.
Today, there will be a Wax Castle procession to the That Luang temple and the celebrations will be brought to an end tomorrow morning with alms given to Buddhist monks at That Luang Plaza.