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Flag of Laos
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Laos
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Map of Laos
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of Laos
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Introduction ::Laos
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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 return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
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Geography ::Laos
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Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
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18 00 N, 105 00 E
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total: 236,800 sq km
country comparison to the world: 83
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km
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slightly larger than Utah
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total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
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0 km (landlocked)
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none (landlocked)
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tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
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mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
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lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
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timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
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arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
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1,750 sq km (2003)
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333.6 cu km (2003)
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total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)
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floods, droughts
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unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
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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
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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 ::Laos
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6,834,942 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
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0-14 years: 40.8% (male 1,400,126/female 1,386,480)
15-64 years: 56.1% (male 1,898,995/female 1,936,892)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 92,070/female 120,379) (2009 est.)
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total: 19.3 years
male: 19 years
female: 19.6 years (2009 est.)
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2.316% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
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33.94 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
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10.78 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
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NA (2009 est.)
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urban population: 31% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 5.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
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total: 77.82 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 23
male: 86.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 68.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
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total population: 56.68 years
country comparison to the world: 190
male: 54.56 years
female: 58.9 years (2009 est.)
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4.41 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
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0.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97
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5,500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 122
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fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
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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)
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noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian
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Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26% (2005 census)
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Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5% (2005 census)
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Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 68.7%
male: 77%
female: 60.9% (2001 est.)
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total: 9 years
male: 10 years
female: 8 years (2006)
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3% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 146
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Government ::Laos
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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)
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Communist state
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name: Vientiane (Viangchan)
geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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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
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19 July 1949 (from France)
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Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
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promulgated 14 August 1991
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based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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18 years of age; universal
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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 BOUASONE Bouphavanh (since 8 June 2006); Deputy Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), 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 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister nominated by president and elected by 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%
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unicameral National Assembly (115 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 30 April 2006 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 113, independents 2
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People's Supreme Court (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)
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Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed
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NA
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ADB, APT, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, 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)
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chief of mission: Ambassador PHIANE Philakone
chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923
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chief of mission: Ambassador Ravic R. HUSO
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
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three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band
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Economy ::Laos
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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 no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications, though the government is sponsoring major improvements in the road system with support from Japan and China. Electricity is available in urban areas and in many rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about 40% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The government depends upon aid from international donors for over 80% of its capital investment. The economy has until recently benefited from high foreign investment in hydropower, mining, and construction. The fiscal crisis of late 2008, and the rapid drop in commodity prices - especially copper - has slowed these investments. Several policy changes since 2004 may help spur growth. Laos, which gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004, is taking steps to join the World Trade Organization. Related trade policy reforms will improve the business environment. On the fiscal side, a value-added tax (VAT) regime, which began with a few large businesses in early 2009, should slowly help streamline the government's inefficient tax system. Economic prospects will improve gradually as the administration continues to simplify investment procedures and as a more competitive banking sector extends credit to small farmers and small entrepreneurs. The government appears committed to raising the country's profile among investors. Foreign donors have praised the Lao government for its efforts to improve the investment regime. The World Bank has declared that Laos' goal of graduating from the UN Development Program's list of least-developed countries by 2020 could be achievable.
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$13.98 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
$13.01 billion (2007 est.)
$12.1 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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$5.26 billion (2008 est.)
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7.5% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
7.5% (2007 est.)
8.3% (2006 est.)
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$2,100 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 185
$2,000 (2007 est.)
$1,900 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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agriculture: 39.2%
industry: 34.3%
services: 26.5% (2008 est.)
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2.1 million (2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 117
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agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (2005 est.)
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2.4% (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
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30.7% (2005 est.)
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lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.5% (2002)
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34.6 (2002)
country comparison to the world: 88
37 (1997)
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revenues: $811.6 million
expenditures: $955.9 million (2008 est.)
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8.6% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 133
4.5% (2007 est.)
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NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 21
12.67% (31 December 2007)
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NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 6
28.5% (31 December 2007)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 145
$327.9 million (31 December 2007)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 129
$717.9 million (31 December 2007)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 156
$285.8 million (31 December 2007)
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sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
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copper, tin, gold, and gypsum mining; timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction, garments, cement, tourism
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11% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
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3.075 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
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3.068 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
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268 million kWh (2007 est.)
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475.9 million kWh (2007 est.)
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0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 147
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3,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
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0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 173
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3,080 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169
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0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
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0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 78
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
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0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 161
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$-52 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
$107.3 million (2007 est.)
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$1.163 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
$922.7 million (2007 est.)
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wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold
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Thailand 34.7%, Vietnam 13.2%, China 8.6%, South Korea 4.5% (2008)
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$1.384 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163
$1.065 billion (2007 est.)
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machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
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Thailand 68.7%, China 11.3%, Vietnam 4.7% (2008)
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$803 million (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131
$540 million (31 December 2007 est.)
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$3.179 billion (2006)
country comparison to the world: 119
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kips (LAK) per US dollar - 8,760.69 (2008 est.), 9,658 (2007), 10,235 (2006), 10,820 (2005), 10,585.5 (2004)
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Communications ::Laos
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97,600 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 145
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1.822 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 123
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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 rapidly; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership approaching 30 per 100 persons
international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) (2008)
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AM 7, FM 14, shortwave 2 (2006)
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7 (includes 1 station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi) (2006)
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.la
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1,661 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 152
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130,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 145
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Transportation ::Laos
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41 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 103
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total: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2009)
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total: 32
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 21 (2009)
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refined products 540 km (2008)
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total: 29,811 km
country comparison to the world: 97
paved: 4,010 km
unpaved: 25,801 km (2006)
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4,600 km
country comparison to the world: 24
note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2008)
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total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT
country comparison to the world: 159
by type: cargo 1 (2008)
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Military ::Laos
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Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2009)
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15 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum 18-month conscript service obligation (2006)
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males age 16-49: 1,549,774
females age 16-49: 1,570,702 (2008 est.)
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males age 16-49: 1,023,205
females age 16-49: 1,085,197 (2009 est.)
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male: 75,310
female: 74,498 (2009 est.)
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0.5% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 162
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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 ::Laos
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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
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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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