Salavan is a province of Laos, located in the south of the country. Its earlier name was Saravan which was changed by Thai to Salavan in 1828. It was part of the Champasak Kingdom in an area known as Muang Mang inhabited by minorities of Mon-Khymer groups. Salavan Province covers an area of 16,389 square kilometres.
Though Salavanh’s forests hide prehistoric sites including stone caskets and cave paintings, little is known about the province’s history except its wartime past. Historians suggest the area was an outpost of the Champasack Kingdom in the early 19th century. Newspaper reports from the 1940s discuss Thai troops clashing with “Indochinese” forces in Salavanh, including bombing raids by French planes.
From then until Laos’ liberation in 1975, the province was caught up in a tug-of-war between Western-backed forces and Lao independence fighters, and the renowned Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through Salavanh’s eastern mountains, attracting some of the most intensive bombing the world has ever seen.
Western news archives expose America’s “Secret War” in Laos was not well kept. In 1959, Laos’ colonial government leveled charges that Vietnamese-trained revolutionaries were active in Salavanh, and in 1962, a Royal Lao Military spokesman claimed pro-independence troops were operating in Salavanh District.
Reports in 1967 mention an American reconnaissance jet “disappeared” over Salavanh Province, and in 1968, Lao revolutionaries clashed with the Royal Lao Army in remote pockets of Salavanh. The following year, a US fighter jet was shot down about 20 miles northeast of Salavanh District, and in June 1970, The New York Times reported that Pathet Lao troops took Salavanh District, but Western-backed forces arrived to find it deserted. 1971 newspapers tell of US Air Force and Navy jets openly bombarding the province, and several were shot down. Battles in Salavanh continued to rage in 1972, resulting in the razing of Salavanh District.