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Vientiane (Viangchan) Capital and chief port of Laos, on the River Mekong, close to the Thai border, n central Laos. It was the capital of the Lao kingdom (1707–1828). The city became part of French Indochina in 1893, and in 1899 became the capital of the French Protectorate. It is a major source of opium for world markets. Industries: textiles, brewing, cigarettes, hides, wood products. Pop. (1996) 189,600.