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INTRODUCTION


 
Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN... See More



GEOGRAPHY


Location:

 Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic Coordinates:

 18 00 N, 105 00 E

Area:

 Total: 236,800 sq km
Land: 230,800 sq km
Water: 6,000 sq km

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly larger than Utah

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 5,083 km
Border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km

Coastline:

 0 km (landlocked) (Rank: 222)

Maritime Claims:

 None (landlocked)

Climate:

 Tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)

Terrain:

 Mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

Elevation Extremes:

 Lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
Highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m

Natural Resources:

 Timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Land Use:

 Arable land: 4.01%
Permanent crops: 0.34%
Other: 95.65% (2005)

Irrigated Land:

 3,000 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 333.6 cu km (2003)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 Total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
Per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural Hazards:

 Floods, droughts

Environment - Current Issues:

 Unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - International Agreements:

 Party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection

Signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - Note:

 Landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand

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PEOPLE AND SOCIETY


Nationality:

 Noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
Adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic Groups:

 Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26% (2005 census)

Languages:

 Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

Religions:

 Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5% (2005 census)

Population:

 6,477,211 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 36.7% (male 1,197,579/female 1,181,523)
15-64 years: 59.6% (male 1,908,176/female 1,950,544)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 107,876/female 131,513) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 21 years
Male: 20.7 years
Female: 21.3 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 1.684% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 26.13 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 8.13 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 -1.16 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Urbanization:

 Urban population: 33% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 4.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 VIENTIANE (capital) 799,000 (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 580 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 59.46 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 65.49 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 53.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 62.39 years
Male: 60.5 years
Female: 64.36 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 3.14 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 6.5% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 0.272 physicians/1,000 population (2005)

Hospital Bed Density:

 1.2 beds/1,000 population (2005)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 72% of population
Rural: 51% of population
Total: 57% of population
Unimproved:
Urban: 28% of population
Rural: 49% of population
Total: 43% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 86% of population
Rural: 38% of population
Total: 53% of population
Unimproved:
Urban: 14% of population
Rural: 62% of population
Total: 47% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 0.2% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 8,500 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Fewer than 200 (2009 est.)

Major Infectious Diseases:

 Degree of risk: very high
Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
Vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria

Note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)(2009)

Children Under 5 - Underweight:

 31.6% (2006)

Obesity - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 1.2% (2000)

Education Expenditures:

 2.3% of GDP (2008)

Literacy:

 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 73%
Male: 83%
Female: 63% (2005 Census)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 9 years
Male: 10 years
Female: 9 years (2008)

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GOVERNMENT


Country Name:

 Conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Conventional short form: Laos
Local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
Local short form: Pathet Lao (unofficial)

Government Type:

 Communist state

Capital:

 Name: Vientiane (Viangchan)
Geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E
Time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative Divisions:

 16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xekong, Xiangkhoang

Independence:

 19 July 1949 (from France)

National Holiday:

 Republic Day, 2 December (1975)

Constitution:

 Promulgated 14 August 1991; amended in 2003

Legal System:

 Civil law system similar in form to the French system

International Law Organization Participation:

 Has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Suffrage:

 18 years of age; universal

Executive Branch:

 Chief of state: President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006); Vice President BOUN-GNANG Volachit (since 8 June 2006)

Head of government: Prime Minister THONGSING Thammavong (since 24 December 2010); First Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit (since 8 June 2006), SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27 March 2001)

Cabinet: Ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly

Elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held on 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly for five-year term

Election results: CHOUMMALI Saignason elected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100%; BOUASONE Bouphavanh elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 97%

Legislative Branch:

 Unicameral National Assembly (132 seats; members elected by popular vote from a list of candidates selected by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party to serve five-year terms)

Elections: last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016)

Election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 128, independents 4

Judicial Branch:

 People's Supreme Court, People's Provincial and Municipal Courts, People's District Courts, and Military Courts

Note: the president of the People's Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the National Assembly Standing Committee; the vice president of the People's Supreme Court and the judges are appointed by the National Assembly Standing Committee

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed

International Organization Participation:

 ADB, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador SENG Soukhathivong
Chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923

Diplomatic Representation From the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador Karen B. STEWART
Embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam, Vientiane
Mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, APO AP 96546
Telephone: [856] 21-26-7000
FAX: [856] 21-26-7190

Flag Description:

 Three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band; the red bands recall the blood shed for liberation; the blue band represents the Mekong River and prosperity; the white disk symbolizes the full moon against the Mekong River, but also signifies the unity of the people under the Pathet Lao, as well as the country's bright future

National Symbols:

 Elephant

National Anthem:

 Name: "Pheng Xat Lao" (Hymn of the Lao People)
Lyrics/music: SISANA Sisane/THONGDY Sounthonevichit

Note: music adopted 1945, lyrics adopted 1975; the anthem's lyrics were changed following the 1975 Communist revolution that overthrew the monarchy

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ECONOMY


Economy - Overview:

 The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party Communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking - growth averaged 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. It has a rudimentary, but improving, road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications. China has signed a deal with the Lao to build a high speed rail system in the country. Construction on the $7 billion project is slated to begin in April 2011 and will take five years. Electricity is available in urban areas and in many rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 30% of GDP and 75% of total employment. The government in FY09/10 received $586 million from international donors. Economic growth has reduced official poverty rates from 46% in 1992 to 26% in 2010. The economy has benefited from high foreign investment in hydropower, mining, and construction. Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004, and is taking steps required to join the World Trade Organization, such as reforming import licensing. Related trade policy reforms will improve the business environment. On the fiscal side, Laos initiated a VAT tax system in 2010. Simplified investment procedures and expanded bank credits for small farmers and small entrepreneurs will improve Lao's economic prospects. The government appears committed to raising the country's profile among investors. The World Bank has declared that Laos's goal of graduating from the UN Development Program's list of least-developed countries by 2020 is achievable. According Laotian officials, the 7th Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2011-15 will outline efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $15.69 billion (2010 est.)
$14.56 billion (2009 est.)
$13.54 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $6.341 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 7.7% (2010 est.)
7.6% (2009 est.)
7.8% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $2,500 (2010 est.)
$2,300 (2009 est.)
$2,200 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 29.2%
Industry: 32.4%
Services: 38.3% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 3.69 million (2010 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 75.1%
Industry and services: NA (2010 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 2.5% (2009 est.)
2.4% (2005 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 26% (2010 est.)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 3.3%
Highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 36.7 (2008)
34.6 (2002)

Budget:

 Revenues: $1.136 billion
Expenditures: $1.338 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 17.9% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -3.2% of GDP (2010 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 5.7% (2010 est.)
0% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 4.3% (31 December 2010)
4% (31 December 2009)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 22.613% (31 December 2010)
24.775% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Money:

 $691.1 million (31 December 2009)
$438.2 million (31 December 2008)

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $1.08 billion (31 December 2009)
$717.9 million (31 December 2007)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $787.9 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$564.6 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $2.643 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.805 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $1.95 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.22 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Agriculture - Products:

 Sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry

Industries:

 Copper, tin, gold, and gypsum mining; timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction, garments, cement, tourism

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 17.7% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 1.553 billion kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 1.4%
Hydro: 98.6%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 0% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 2.23 billion kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 341 million kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 999 million kWh (2010 est.)

Oil - Production:

 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 3,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 0 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 1,918 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$195 million (2010 est.)
$9.3 million (2009 est.)

Exports:

 $1.474 billion (2010 est.)
$1.053 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

 Wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold

Exports - Partners:

 Thailand 31.1%, China 23%, Vietnam 12.9% (2010)

Imports:

 $2.06 billion (2010 est.)
$1.461 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

 Machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods

Imports - Partners:

 Thailand 65.6%, China 14.6%, Vietnam 6.6% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $713.4 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$618.6 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $4.635 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$4.721 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Lao Kip to Any Currency

Kips (LAK) per US dollar -
8,320.27 (2010)
8,516.04 (2009)
8,760.69 (2008)
9,658 (2007)
10,235 (2006)

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COMMUNICATIONS


Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 103,100 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 4.003 million (2010)

Telephone System:

 General assessment: service to general public is poor but improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas

Domestic: multiple service providers; mobile cellular usage growing very rapidly

International: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) and a second to be developed by China (2008)

Broadcast Media:

 2 television stations operating out of Vientiane - 1 government-operated and the other jointly-owned by the government and a Thai company; roughly 15 provincial stations operating with nearly all programming relayed via satellite from the government-operated station in Vientiane; relays from Hanoi provide access to a Vietnamese television station; broadcasts available from stations in Thailand and Vietnam in border areas; multi-channel satellite and cable TV systems provide access to a wide range of foreign stations; state-controlled radio with state-operated Lao National Radio (LNR) broadcasting on 5 frequencies - 1 AM, 2 SW, and 2 FM; LNR's AM and FM programs are relayed via satellite constituting a large part of the programming schedules of the provincial radio stations; Thai radio broadcasts available in border areas and transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are also accessible (2008)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 3, FM 34, shortwave 3 (2010)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 28 (2010)

Internet Country Code:

 .la

Internet Hosts:

 1,468 (2010)

Internet Users:

 300,000 (2009)

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TRANSPORTATION


Airports:

 41 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 32
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
Under 914 m: 21 (2010)

Pipelines:

 Refined products 540 km (2010)

Roadways:

 Total: 39,568 km
Paved: 530 km
Unpaved: 39,038 km (2009)

Waterways:

 4,600 km (primarily on the Mekong River and its tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m) (2010)

Merchant Marine:

 Total: 1
By type: cargo 1 (2008)

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MILITARY


Military Branches:

 Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2011)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 18 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum 18-month service obligation (2010)

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 1,574,362
Females age 16-49: 1,607,856 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 1,111,629
Females age 16-49: 1,190,035 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 71,400
Female: 73,038 (2010 est.)

Military Expenditures:

 0.5% of GDP (2006)

Military - Note:

 Serving one of the world's least developed countries, the Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF) is small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; its mission focus is border and internal security, primarily in countering ethnic Hmong insurgent groups; together with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the government, the Lao People's Army (LPA) is the third pillar of state machinery, and as such is expected to suppress political and civil unrest and similar national emergencies, but the LPA also has upgraded skills to respond to avian influenza outbreaks; there is no perceived external threat to the state and the LPA maintains strong ties with the neighboring Vietnamese military (2008)

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TRANSNATIONAL ISSUES


Disputes - International:

 Southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; talks continue on completion of demarcation with Thailand but disputes remain over islands in the Mekong River; concern among Mekong Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River will affect water levels; Cambodia is concerned about Laos' extensive upstream dam construction

Illicit Drugs:

 Estimated opium poppy cultivation in 2008 was 1,900 hectares, about a 73% increase from 2007; estimated potential opium production in 2008 more than tripled to 17 metric tons; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem (2007)

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Last Updated: December 2011

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