Although there were some local rebellions against French rule—mainly by the tribes of the hills and mountains—widespread Laotian resistance to the French did not begin until after World War II, when Japan, which had assumed control over Indochina during the war years, was defeated.In 1945 the Laotian prime minister, Prince Phetsarath, declared Laos an independent kingdom and formed a group known as the Lao Issara, or "Free Lao." Some Laotians supported a return to French colonization, feeling that their country was not ready for immediate independence.

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Minority groups in this small, mountainous country include the Mon-Khmer, the Yao, and the Hmong.

Approximately 85 to 90 percent of employed persons in Laos work in subsistence agriculture.

Rice is the country's principal crop; other significant agricultural products include corn, tobacco, and tea.

The majority of Laotians practice Theravada Buddhism, a form of Buddhism popular in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka.

Each kingdom struggled for power, causing the weakened Lao states to become vulnerable to the more powerful nations of Siam (Thailand) and Vietnam.

While the Siamese took Vientiane, the Vietnamese took other parts of Laos.By the mid 1800s, almost all of northern Laos was controlled by Vietnam, and almost all the southern and central parts of the country were controlled by Thailand.Only the area around Luang Prabang remained independent.The Lao Issara, however, were strongly opposed to French rule in Laos.The prime minister's half-brother, Prince Souphanuvong, called for armed resistance and sought support from the anti-French movement in neighboring Vietnam, the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh.This Laotian political group became known as the Pathet Lao ("Lao Nation").