Salavan's History

Though Salavan’s forests hide prehistoric sites including stone caskets and cave paintings, little is known about the province’s history.

Salavan’s History


According to some historians, approximately 1,500 years ago, a Mon-Khmer group, the Cham, established settlements in what is now Salavan Province. The area eventually became part of the Khmer Empire, and by the 19th century it became an outpost of the Champasak Kingdom.

However, between 1779 and 1893, the province was considered a Thai colony. Salavan then became a French Protectorate under the Franco-Siamese Treaty of October 3, 1893.

In 1959, Laos’ colonial government levelled charges that Vietnamese-trained revolutionaries were active in Salavan, and in 1962, a Royal Lao Military spokesman claimed pro-independence troops were operating in Salavan District.

From that time until Laos’ liberation in 1975, the province was caught up in a tug-of-war between Western-backed forces and Lao independence fighters. The renowned Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through Salavan’s eastern mountains, attracting some of the war’s most intensive bombing.

Reports in 1967 mention an American reconnaissance jet “disappeared” over Salavan, and in 1968, Lao revolutionaries clashed with the Royal Lao Army in remote pockets of the province. In June 1970, The New York Times reported that Pathet Lao troops took Salavan District, but Western-backed forces arrived to find it deserted. 

1971 newspapers tell of US Air Force and Navy jets openly bombarding the province, and several were shot down. Battles in Salavan continued to rage in 1972, resulting in the razing of Salavan District.

Source: Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.