The flag of Laos was adopted on December 2, 1975, when the country became a People’s Republic. The flag is rectangular with three horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes are red and half the height of the center stripes, which is blue. In the center of the flag is a white circle.
Laos’s flag is one of only a few Communist flags that does not include the five-pointed star often associated with communist regimes. The colors on Laos’s flag have symbolic meaning. The red stripes symbolize the blood shed by the people of Laos during their quest for freedom, and the blue stripe stands for wealth and prosperity. The white circle has three symbolic meanings: it represents a full moon over the Mekong River, the unity of Laos’s multiethnic population under the communist government, and the country’s hopeful future.
The original flag of Laos was quite different from the country’s current flag. During the Royal Kingdom of Laos (1952-1975), the flag of Laos featured a three-headed elephant in front of a red background. Since ancient times, Laos has been called the “Land of a Million Elephants,” and the white elephant is a common symbol for many Southeast Asian countries. The three-headed white elephant on Laos’s flag is the Hindu god Erawan, which can have up to thirty three heads. The three-headed version on Laos’s old flag represents the country’s three former kingdoms: Vientaine, Luangprabang, and Champasak. The elephant sits atop a five-tiered pedestal, which symbolizes the country’s laws. Above the elephant is an umbrella with nine layers, representing a royal Buddhist symbol.
From 1953 until 1975, the Royal Kingdom of Laos was at war with the Pathet Lao, a communist political movement in Laos. When the Pathet Lao assumed control of Laos in 1975, forcing Laos’s king to resign his power, the communist regime adopted Laos’s current flag.