VIENTIANE, Laos — Almost 28 years after the Communist Party overthrew the monarchy, the government of Laos on Sunday unveiled a statue of a 14th century king in an unusual recognition of achievements by one of the country's past rulers. The government also announced plans to honor 12 more kings.
With pomp and pageantry, scores of Laotians dressed in period costumes and riding elephants arrived at a new public park in Vientiane, the capital, where white drapes were removed from a 14-foot bronze statue of King Fa Ngum.
Fa Ngum is believed to have established the Kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants) in 1353, the forerunner of the modern Laotian state.
According to the state media, honoring Fa Ngum and other kings is seen as a way to boost national unity and patriotism and reinforce traditional Buddhist values.
After rituals in temples across Vientiane, a theatrical parade including senior politicians, monks, sportsmen, actors and celebrities, with accompanying musicians, elephants and horses, walked alongside the Mekong River to the new park.
The government declared Sunday a national holiday in honor of the "father of Lao unity" and the 650th anniversary of the founding of Lan Xang.
State television announced Sunday government plans to build statues of 12 more kings.