Chai Bouphaphanh

Back when Chai Bouphaphanh went by Chairuth, the name his friends could still pronounce, Laos was recovering from a long war. It was 1978, three years after Saigon fell in neighbouring Vietnam in April 1975. In that country, the communists of North Vietnam had beaten the Americans, and in Laos, a communist government likewise succeeded the old American-backed regime.

To most outsiders, civil war in Laos, the only land-locked country in Southeast Asia, was a sideshow, a minor proxy in the Cold War and really a footnote to Vietnam.