Dokmaideng Playland was a theme park located in Vientiane, Laos. Not a lot of information exists in relation to the park. Laos has only recently begun reopening to the world having been isolated since the 1970s when the communists overthrew the monarchy. Since the turn of the century, Laos has joined its neighbours Cambodia and Vietnam in opening up to tourists.
Laos as a country dates back to the 14th century and the kingdom of Lan Xang. Prince Fa Ngum had been exiled from the Khmer Empire and set about conquering a number of principalities in the Mekong River Basin. He made Theravada Buddhism the state religion and founded a capital at Luang Prabang. In 1520, fearing a Burmese invasion, the capital was moved to Vientiane. The Burmese did eventually invade during a period of instability but were driven out.
In 1637, Sourigna Vongsa ascended to the throne, beginning the country’s golden age. He expanded the frontiers and the people prospered. Unfortunately, he had no heir and upon his death, the country was divided in three. The Kingdom of Luang Prabang was quickly capture by Burma and the Kingdom of Champasak was taken by the Siamese. The Kingdom of Vientiane became a vassal state of Siam. A rebellion in Vientiane in 1826 led to King Chao Anouvong being captured and taken to Bangkok where he later died. Vientiane was annexed by Siam as a result.
When Luang Prabang was captured by the Chinese Black Flag Army in the the late 19th century, the French drove them out and added the territory to the protectorate of French Indochina. Soon afterwards, the territories of Vientiane and Champasak were also annexed. King Sisavang Vong of Luang Prabang became ruler of a unified Laos, and Vientiane once again became the capital. The French never had much interest in Laos beyond it being a bufferzone between Thailand and Vietnam.
World War II began in 1939 and by May of 1940, Germany had invaded France. They installed a puppet government and replaced the Third French Republic with what became known as Vichy France. As a result, they had little option but to allow the Japanese to enter French Indochina which they did on 22 September 1940. Seeing a weakness, Prime Minister of Plaek Phibunsongkhram of Thailand planned an invasion. He had overthrown the king of Siam in 1932 and renamed the country Thailand. He had his eye on territorial expansion. Thaland invaded French Indochina in January 1941 and made significant gains. Following mediation from the Japanese, the provinces of Champassak and Xaignabouli in Laos and Battambang in Cambodia were ceded to Thailand.
When France was retaken by the allies in the war, Japan dissolved French control of its former colonies in Indochina. Luang Prabang had been separated from the southern provinces and King Sisavang Vong of Luang Prabang was imprisoned by the Japanese. Prince Phetsarath was left behind as prime minister. Japan surrendered in August 1945, leaving Luang Prabang as an independent country with King Sisavang returned to the thrown. On 15 September, Prince Phetsarath declared the unification of the Kingdom of Laos with the southern regions and was dismissed by the king as a result.
After the war, the Chinese disarmed the north of the country and the British disarmed the south. Britain was happy to facilitate a French return to their former colony. The monarchy of Luang Prabang had the promises of a united Kingdom of Laos assured by French president Charles de Gaulle and so agreed to re-establish French protection. Prince Phetsarath and his Lao Issara or Free Laos movement had taken control of much of the country including Vientiane. By April 1946, the French captured the city and continued on to Luang Prabang, forcing the Lao Issara into exile in Thailand.
On 27 August 1946 an agreement was signed that a unified Kingdom of Laos would become a constitutional monarchy within the French Union. The provinces that Thailand had captured in 1941 were returned to their respective countries. The Viet Minh and France fought the First Indochina War starting in 1946 and in 1953, France granted independence to the Kingdom of Laos. Almost immediately, a civil war broke out between the Royal Lao Army and the communist North Vietnamese and Soviet Union-backed Pathet Lao guerillas.
In 1975 the Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died under suspicious circumstances. The country became known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and forged closer ties with Vietnam while shutting out the rest of the world.
Laos began re-emerging from isolation in the late 1990s and joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1997. Trade relations with the United States were normalised in November 2004. Since then, the country has made an effort to increase tourism.
It is against this background that Dokmaideng Playland exists. Built, it is believed, some time in the 1980s the secrecy which surrounds the theme park is not surprising given the Communist government’s isolation of the country for so long. Rather than address its past and nature of the abandonment, Dokmaideng Playland is simply ignored.