Laos Army Day celebrates the founding of the Lao People’s Army on 20th January 1949 by Kaysone Phomvihane in the former revolutionary stronghold of Huaphan province.
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One of the most important events in the Laos calendar, Army Day is a public holiday and takes place on 20th January of every year. Visitors to the country will find a number of military parades and ceremonies taking place close to whichever of the hotels in Luang Prabang City Centre they have chosen to stay in. 2012 sees the 63rd anniversary of the celebration and traditionally this day is a serious and sombre affair, with memorial services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Vientiane attended by the President and Prime Minister.
In Luang Prabang, celebrations tend to be slightly less sombre and there is a sports competition for members of the police force, who competing in four different sports, volleyball, petanque (sometimes known as boules), football and a game unique to South East Asia, sepak takraw. Sepak takraw is a popular sport across the region and is similar to volleyball.
However, it differs in that it uses a rattan ball rather than a leather one and players are only allowed to touch the ball with their feet, chests, knees and heads. It is hoped that this event will become an annual competition to hone the quality of police athletes to a standard that will enable them to compete on a national level. The event is an important element in selecting police athletes to represent their province in the National Games, which are held later in the year.
The country of Laos was formed in the 14th century when it was known as the Kingdom of Lan Xang (Land of a Million Elephants). It became a French protectorate in the 18th century and remained so until 1949 when it gained independence; it is this event that is celebrated on Army Day.
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