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Notes Of The Lao PDR, Labor And Consumerism: 5 Kip (Laos, 1979)-Article

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

This small Laotian banknote represents the 2nd denomination of the Lao PDR Kip (Series 1979). The PDR Kip was introduced on16 December 1979. As a replacement for the Pathet Lao “Liberation” Kip, which replaced the Royal Kip, in areas under Pathet Lao control (1976-1979). At a exchange rate of 20 “Liberation” Kip to 1 Royal Kip. While the “Liberation” Kip was replaced at a rate of 100:1.

Unlike the previous banknotes of Royal Kip, PDR Kip features only Lao script. As the Pathet Lao saw the French language as a symbol of colonialism. All banknotes of the Series 1979 were retired in 2003. As inflation had caused their value to become impractically low.


The observe features a group of shoppers, at government-owned store. When the Pathet Lao overthrew the monarchy in 1975. A Soviet-style command economy was adopted, based on state enterprises and cooperatives. This was replaced in 1986, by the "New Economic Mechanism". Where state-owned business was gradually replaced private ownership.

As beforementioned all text is printed Lao script, although with standard numerals. The header reads "ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ", translated as the "Lao People's Democratic Republic". At the lower right is the note's serial number, it reads "CA 1394202".

To the right of the note's illustration is the National Emblem of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. This version of the National Emblem replaced the previous Kingdom of Laos Coat of Arms. It remained in use from 1975-1991, becoming revised after the Fall of the Soviet Union. An outline of a large light blue flower, can be seen printed on the note's surface.

In regards to the observe frame, it resembles traditional stonework. A pair of decorative embellishments can be seen along the sides. They feature number "5"s, representing the note's 5 Kip value.


The reverse depicts a pack of Asian Elephants, at a logging operation. In rural southeast Asia, elephants are used akin to living tractors. The Asian Elephant's trunk is particular muscular, capable of of skillfully manipulating loads up to 300 kg (660 lb). The elephant's handler known as a mahout, often has deep bonds with their elephant.

The reverse text is fairly simple, yet is surrounded by decorative embellishments. The header reads "ທະນາຄານແຫ່ງ", translated as the "Bank of Laos". There are number "1"s on the upper-right and lower-left corners, representing the note's value. On the left is a floral guilloché pattern, it reads "Five Kip" in Laotian.

The reverse border resembles traditional stone work, featuring a creeping vine pattern. Notably as the border is printed towards the note's center. It simplifies viewing the full surface watermark. Which features a repeating "Hammer and Sickle" pattern, when back lit.

The Asian Elephant

The endangered Asian Elephant is the largest animal native to South and Southeast Asian. Although once widespread from the East Asian coast to portions of West Asian. Current populations are mostly distributed in isolated pockets. These pockets include populations of the Indian, Sri Lankan, and Sumatran subspecies. \

Asian Elephants are smaller than their cousins the African Elephant. Asian elephants are descended from ancient African populations and thus have a number of subtle differences. Asian elephants have smaller ears, less loose skin, and an arched back. Their trunks have only one tip, instead of two.

Asian elephant heads have 2 domes and are the highest part of their body. As opposed to African elephants that have 1 dome, that is slightly lower than their shoulders. The number of toes differ between the 2 species. Both have 5 front toes, although Asian elephants have 4 back toes. While African elephants have only 3 back toes.

Asian elephant males slightly larger, than females of the same species. Although less so than their African cousins. A male elephants are 2.75 m (9.0 ft) tall and weigh 4,000 kg (8,800 pounds). While male elephants are 2.75 m (9.0 ft) tall and weigh 4,000 kg (8,800 pounds).

Asian Elephants being trained for traditional logging, in Southeast Asia.
Asian Elephants being trained for traditional logging, in Southeast Asia.

Unlike African Elephants, the Asian Elephant have longer history of domestication. With the earliest depictions dating to 3,000 BCE, by the Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BCE to 1300 BCE). This tradition continues into modern times in South and Southeast Asia. Particularly rural areas where elephants are used in traditional logging.

From a young age elephants are trained by a howdah or keeper. Who creates a close bond with their mount. Generally most tamed elephants are used for carrying people or cargo. Although logging remains in demand as a specialized type of labor.

The advantage of using elephants is their mobility and ease of maintenance. As elephants can feed from the natural environment. Unlike modern machinery, elephants can walk between trees and cross waterways. They also reduced environmental damage in comparison to tracked skids, which drag logs causing more damage.

Although it should be noted this form of traditional logging has been declining. Leading to elephant keepers to seek other forms of employment. Such as working as tour guides, providing tourist rides along nature trails. Some have sought employment as forest rangers, using their skills to stop poachers and illegal logging operations.

One particular area of interest are temple elephants. Which are used in religious Buddhist and Hindu religious processions and festivals. These elephants are occasionally ornately dressed and painted for parades. Although are more often used to receive donations at major temples.

A mahout washing his elephant, at Kanchipuram Temple.
A mahout washing his elephant, at Kanchipuram Temple.

Lao PDR Kip Gallery

(Gallery contains all banknotes of the 1979 Series)


Additional Notes

  • The note's dimensions are 106 x 52 mm or 4.17 x 2.05 in, smaller than a US Dollar.

  • The preferable method to preserve this note are side-opening protective sleeves, cut to size.

  • The Lao PDR Kip ISO code was LAK, it uses and ₭N as it's symbols.

  • The Kip is subdivide into 100 Att, although inflation has made it's use virtually non-existent.

  • Similar to the Uzbek Som, the Kip retires and adds denominations based on inflation.

  • The lowest commonly accepted denomination is the 500 Kip banknote.

  • The US Dollar and Thai Baht are occasionally used in place of Lao Kip.

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