by Bob Padula
spent three weeks in South East Asia, as part of
an around-the-world trip which ultimately took me
to Europe and Canada. This overview of Laotian
broadcasting may be of interest, based on my "on-the-ground"
monitoring from the area!
is a land-locked country, with an area of about
237,000 sq.km. It is bordered by Myanmar, Thailand,
China and Vietnam, and the capital is Vientienne
(Vientiane). Other major towns are Savannakhet,
Pakse, and Luang Prabang. Local time in Laos is
UTC + 7 hours.
The main language is Lao, with
four ethnic categories of Lao-Lu, Lao-Tai, Lao-Theung,
and Lao-Seung, all of which are mutually understood.
Laotian vocabularies is enriched by loan words from
Pali, the scriptural language of Theravada Buddhism.
French, English, Chinese and Vietnamese are also
spoken in the principal urban centres.
English transliteration uses
the word Lao across a wide spectrum of understandings,
meaning the language Lao, the country Lao,
the people Lao, etc. The word Laotian
is vanishing, but is still used by the outside world.
Lao languages are part of the
Thai family, centred on Thailand. Those not trained
in linguistics may find serious difficulty in distinguishing
Lao variants from Thai. In the Thai and Vietnamese
border areas, a common dialect is widespread.
I spent several days in Laos,
and I was able to recognise some differences between
spoken Thai and Lao. The sound we know as "a"
in English is accentuated as a "sliding vowel"
in both Thai, but not so extreme in Lao. The English
spoken by Thai nationals is marked by the same intonations
as in the parent Thai, with little variation in
stress. To some people whose main language is English,
the English spoken in Thailand and Laos often sounds
very "flat" and guttural.
Radio broadcasting in Laos is
quite basic, as compared with other countries of
the region. There is one national Government network,
"Lao National Radio" originating from
the capital Vientienne, heard on 576 kHz medium-wave,
200 kW, 2200-0330, 0400-0730 and 0930-1500. This
is also carried on shortwave, using 6130, with 50
kW, intended for Laos.
Content is mainly Lao variants,
with Hmong other dialects. It is understood that
educational programming in English and French are
carried irregularly, but these were not located.
In Vientienne, only three mediumwave
transmitters were heard, carrying Lao programming:
576 kHz National network
702 kHz local/city network
810 kHz not identified
In Luang Prabang, in Northern
Laos, only one mediumwave station appeared to be
operating in the local daytime, using 705 Khz, carrying
mainly local programming, but relaying the national
network from Vientienne at various times.
This channel is not compatible
with ITU allocations for Region 3. This operation
may be intended to reduce interference effects in
the secondary service area for the Vientienne high-powered
transmitter using the standard allocation of 702
Very little activity was noted,
with channel separation of 0.25 MHz. In Vientienne,
six stations were audible:
87.5, 90.55, 91.5, 93.75, 103.75,
In Luang Prabang, only one FM
station was audible in the local daytime, using
93.0, in parallel with the ME outlet on 705 kHz,
with local and National network programming.
Vientienne: There are two Government
transmitters operating. One of these uses 50 kW,
on 6130, 2200-0330, 0400-0730, 0930-1500. The intended
target zone is "Laos". Programming is
in parallel with the high-powered mediumwave outlet
575 and FM on 103.75. This transmitter was installed
A second transmitter of 25 kW
is also used, on 7145, for what is announced as
the "International Service". This is registered
with the ITU from 0100-1800, with the target area
designated as Laos, with programming in English,
Thai, Vietnamese, French, and Khmer.
This transmitter originally operated
on 6130 and was moved to 41 mb when the 50 kW facility
was put on line on 6130.
The exact schedule was not confirmed,
but the evening broadcasts were audible in the block
1130-1400 with 30 mins in each of the above languages.
Other services listed are 2330-0030 (a "breakfast"
service) in Vietnamese and Khmer, and a midday service
0500-0630 in French Thai and English. I believe
the Lao segments to be relays of the domestic service.
A third transmitter of 3 kW is
listed, but unheard, on 7150, 0100-1800, also intended
for "Laos". This is the transmitter which
previously carried the International Service on
7112, several years ago.
A forth transmitter is registered,
with 1 kW, on 3315, 0100-1800, again for "Laos",
but not heard recently.
Outside of Vientienne, the number
of regional transmitters has been reduced in recent
years and now appears to number only one, but it
is not known whether this is an official Government
The following was noted as active:
4661. 1040-1230*, *1300-1400*,
*2315-0030. This is listed in WRTH at Sam Neua,
in Hua Phan province, near the extreme North East
border with Vietnam. This is a very small town,
and transmitter location is questionable. Reception
in Luang Prabang was excellent, and I suggest that
this station is actually located in Luang Prabang,
and not as listed. WRTH lists Luang Prabang on 6971,
but no activity observed on that channel at any
6765. A mystery station! This
is a single-sideband station suppressed carrier
operation, and was heard with good strength from
Northern Laos during the morning and evening. I
do not suggest that it is located in Laos, but there
is high probability that it is! It opens with a
Western style musical tuning signal, with English
and Laotian announcements, announcing times and
frequencies, including a message that the transmission
was "This is radio..... broadcasting for Western
tourists". Transmissions were heard *0930-1030*,
*1200-1300*, *0000-0100*. *1330-1400*. Content was
mainly in Laotian, with what appeared to be news,
with national music.
From a reception location in
the south, in Vientienne, signal strength was much
My Sangean radio does not have
SSB capability, so it was quite frustrating!
Vietnamese regional stations
Care is needed when monitoring
the 4 and 6 Mhz region for the South Asian regionals.
From thousands of km away, Lao can sound very similar
Vietnamese regionals were noted
4796 Son La
6380 Lai Chau
6492 Cao Bang
6664 Lao Cai
in Laos is very modest, with all broadcasting operations
servicing local and regional communities, for MF,
HF, and VHF. Lao National Radio is a full member
of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, and HF transmissions
are coordinated with other members of the Union,
reporting to the ITU in Berne.
Published on September