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Map of Laos
Introduction Laos
Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang included large parts of present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the control 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.
Geography Laos
Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates:
18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references:
Southeast Asia
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
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou 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:
1,750 sq km (2003)
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
People Laos
6,368,481 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 41.4% (male 1,324,207/female 1,313,454)
15-64 years: 55.4% (male 1,744,206/female 1,786,139)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 89,451/female 111,024) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 18.9 years
male: 18.6 years
female: 19.2 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.39% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
35.49 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
11.55 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
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: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 83.31 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 92.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 73.26 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 55.49 years
male: 53.45 years
female: 57.61 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
4.68 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
1,700 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 200 (2003 est.)
noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian
Ethnic groups:
Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong and the Yao 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%
Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40% (including various Christian denominations 1.5%)
Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 66.4%
male: 77.4%
female: 55.5% (2002)
Government Laos
Country name:
conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic
conventional short form: Laos PDR or Laos
local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
local short form: none
Government type:
Communist state
name: Vientiane
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), 1 municipality* (kampheng nakhon, singular and plural), and 1 special zone** (khetphiset, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun**, Xekong, Xiangkhoang
19 July 1949 (from France)
National holiday:
Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
promulgated 14 August 1991
Legal system:
based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006) and Vice President BOUN-GNANG Volachit (since 8 June 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister BOUASONE Bouphavanh (since 8 June 2006); Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit [since 8 June 2006], Deputy Prime Minister SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and Deputy Prime Minister THONGLOUN Sisolit (since 27 March 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by the National Assembly
elections: president and vice president elected by the National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly for a 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 (115 seats; members elected by popular vote 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
Judicial branch:
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)
Political parties and leaders:
Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALY Sayasone]; other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders:
noncommunist political groups proscribed; most opposition leaders fled the country in 1975
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador PHANTHONG Phommahaxay
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 Patricia M. HASLACH
embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam Road, Vientiane
mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, Box V, APO AP 96546
telephone: [856] 21-26 7000
FAX: [856] 21-26 7074
Flag description:
three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band
Economy Laos
Economy - overview:
The government of Laos, one of the few remaining official Communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking - growth averaged 6% in 1988-2004 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with a primitive infrastructure. 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 possible support from Japan. Electricity is available in only a few urban areas. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about half of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid by the IMF and other international sources and from new foreign investment in food processing and mining. Construction will be another strong economic driver, especially as hy droelectric dam and road projects gain steam. In late 2004, Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US, allowing Laos-based producers to face lower tariffs on exports. This new status may help spur growth. In addition, the European Union has agreed to provide $1 million to the Lao Government for technical assistance in preparations for WTO membership. If the avian flu worsens and spreads in the region, however, prospects for tourism could dim.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.13 billion (2005 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$2.523 billion (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
7.2% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,900 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 45.5%
industry: 28.7%
services: 25.8% (2005 est.)
Labor force:
2.8 million (2002 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate:
2.4% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line:
34% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.2%
highest 10%: 30.6% (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
37 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
7% (2005 est.)
revenues: $319.3 million
expenditures: $434.6 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)
Agriculture - products:
sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
copper, tin, and gypsum mining; timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction, garments, tourism, cement
Industrial production growth rate:
13% (2005 est.)
Electricity - production:
3.767 billion kWh (2003)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.4%
hydro: 98.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
3.298 billion kWh (2003)
Electricity - exports:
435 million kWh (2003)
Electricity - imports:
230 million kWh (2003)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2003 est.)
Oil - consumption:
2,950 bbl/day (2003 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Current account balance:
-$134 million (2005 est.)
$379 million (2005 est.)
Exports - commodities:
garments, wood products, coffee, electricity, tin
Exports - partners:
Thailand 30%, Vietnam 12.2%, France 6.2%, Germany 4.6% (2005)
$541 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
Thailand 66.3%, China 9.1%, Vietnam 6.7% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$249 million (2005 est.)
Debt - external:
$2.49 billion (2001)
Economic aid - recipient:
$243 million (2001 est.)
Currency (code):
kip (LAK)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
kips per US dollar - 10,820 (2005), 10,585.5 (2004), 10,569 (2003), 10,056.3 (2002), 8,954.6 (2001)
Fiscal year:
1 October - 30 September
Communications Laos
Telephones - main lines in use:
90,067 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
520,546 (2006)
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: radiotelephone communications
international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 13, shortwave 2 (2006)
730,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
7; note - including one station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi (2006)
52,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
1,152 (2005)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
20,900 (2005)
Transportation Laos
44 (2006)
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 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 35
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 21 (2006)
refined products 540 km (2004)
total: 32,620 km
paved: 4,590 km
unpaved: 28,030 km (2002)
4,600 km
note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,897 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2005)
Merchant marine:
total: 1 ships (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT
by type: cargo 1 (2005)
Military Laos
Military branches:
Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force
Military service age and obligation:
15 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - minimum 18 months (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 15-49: 1,500,625
females age 15-49: 1,521,116 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 954,816
females age 15-49: 1,006,082 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 73,167
females age 15-49: 71,432 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$11.04 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
0.4% (2005 est.)
Military - note:
Laos is one of the world's least developed countries; the Lao People's Armed Forces are small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; there is little political will to allocate sparse funding to the military, and the armed forces' gradual degradation is likely to continue; the massive drug production and trafficking industry centered in the Golden Triangle makes Laos an important narcotics transit country, and armed Wa and Chinese smugglers are active on the Lao-Burma border (2005)
Transnational Issues Laos
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 several areas along Mekong River and Thai squatters; concern among Mekong Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River will affect water levels
Illicit drugs:
estimated cultivation in 2004 - 10,000 hectares, a 45% decrease from 2003; estimated potential production in 2004 - 49 metric tons, a significant decrease from 200 metric tons in 2003 (2005)

This page was last updated on 19 September, 2006