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Introduction
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Transnational
Issues
  Introduction Back To Top

Background:
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.

  Geography Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
333.6 cu km (2003)

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

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

Climate:
tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)

Map references:
Southeast Asia

Geographic coordinates:
18 00 N, 105 00 E

Natural resources:
timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m

Terrain:
mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

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

Area:
total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km

Location:
Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Coastline:
0 km (landlocked)

Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Utah

Irrigated land:
1,750 sq km (2003)

Environment - current issues:
unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)

Natural hazards:
floods, droughts

Land use:
arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
4.5 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
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: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.1% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
1,700 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 56.29 years
male: 54.19 years
female: 58.47 years (2008 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, Japanese encephalitis, 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)

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 68.7%
male: 77%
female: 60.9% (2001 est.)

Net migration rate:
NA (2008 est.)

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

Median age:
total: 19.2 years
male: 18.9 years
female: 19.5 years (2008 est.)

Population:
6,677,534 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
3% of GDP (2006)

Population growth rate:
2.344% (2008 est.)

Languages:
Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages

Death rate:
11.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 79.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 88.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 9 years
male: 10 years
female: 8 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 41% (male 1,374,966/female 1,362,945)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 1,846,375/female 1,885,029)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 91,028/female 117,191) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
34.46 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

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

Nationality:
noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
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

National holiday:
Republic Day, 2 December (1975)

Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal

Government type:
Communist state

Political pressure groups and leaders:
NA

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador PHIANE Philakone
chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923

International organization participation:
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)

Legislative branch:
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

Legal system:
based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Flag description:
three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band

Independence:
19 July 1949 (from France)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic
conventional short form: Laos
local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
local short form: none

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

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)

Constitution:
promulgated 14 August 1991

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 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%

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

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)

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
Thailand 32.7%, Vietnam 14.3%, China 5.9%, South Korea 4.8% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
1.344 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
12.67% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
367 million kWh (2006 est.)

Current account balance:
-$37 million (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$3.179 billion (2006)

Unemployment rate:
2.4% (2005 est.)

Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$2,100 (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$285.8 million (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$14.22 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$5.187 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
34.6 (2002)

Exchange rates:
kips (LAK) per US dollar - 8,760.69 (2008 est.), 9,658 (2007), 10,235 (2006), 10,820 (2005), 10,585.5 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
6.5% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$327.9 million (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
2.1 million (2006 est.)

Imports - partners:
Thailand 68.5%, China 9.3%, Vietnam 5.5% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
8.5% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 39.2%
industry: 34.3%
services: 26.6% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
3,036 bbl/day (2005)

Exports:
$1.033 billion (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
kip (LAK)

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 beginning 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 most rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about 40% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid from international donors and from foreign investment in hydropower and mining. Construction will be another strong economic driver, especially as hydroelectric dam and road projects gain steam. 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, begun in late 2008, should help streamline the government's inefficient tax system. Meanwhile, 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. An investment boom is occurring in mining and construction. 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.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods

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

Electricity - exports:
547 million kWh (2006 est.)

Population below poverty line:
30.7% (2005 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
28.5% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$717.9 million (31 December 2007)

Electricity - production:
1.639 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Imports:
$1.278 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (2005 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$765 million (31 December 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
2,996 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Currency code:
LAK

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.5% (2002)

Exports - commodities:
wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold

Economic aid - recipient:
$379 million (2006 est.)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.4%
hydro: 98.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Budget:
revenues: $809.6 million
expenditures: $954 million (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
1 October - 30 September

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
100,000 (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
94,800 (2007)

Televisions:
52,000 (1997)

Internet country code:
.la

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 7, FM 14, shortwave 2 (2006)

Radios:
730,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.478 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
7 (includes 1 station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi) (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: multiple service providers; mobile cellular usage growing rapidly; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership about 25 per 100 persons
international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) (2007)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)

Internet hosts:
1,015 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

Waterways:
4,600 km
note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2008)

Pipelines:
refined products 540 km (2007)

Merchant marine:
total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT
by type: cargo 1 (2008)

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 (2007)

Roadways:
total: 29,811 km
paved: 4,010 km
unpaved: 25,801 km (2006)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 33
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 23 (2007)

Airports:
42 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
15 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum 18-month conscript service obligation (2006)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,549,774
females age 16-49: 1,570,702 (2008 est.)

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)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 993,162
females age 16-49: 1,052,053 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 73,973
female: 72,758 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
0.5% of GDP (2006)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

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

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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