Laos

Laos

Overview
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 to the northwest, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 to the east, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 to the south and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 to the west. Its population was estimated to be 6.8 million in 2009.

Laos traces its history to the Kingdom which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

, with the three kingdoms, Kingdom of Luang Phrabang
Kingdom of Luang Phrabang
The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. The monarchy was so weak that it was forced to pay tribute at various times to the Burmese and the Siamese...

, Kingdom of Vientiane
Kingdom of Vientiane
Kingdom of Vientiane was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. The kingdom was a Burmese vassal . It then became a Siamese vassal until 1828 when it was annexed by Siam.-Kings:*Setthathirath II...

 and Kingdom of Champasak
Kingdom of Champasak
The Kingdom of Champasak , in southern Laos, broke away from the Lan Xang kingdom in 1713. The Kingdom of Champasak prospered at the beginning the 18th century, but it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. Under French rule the kingdom became an administrative block...

, uniting to form what is now known as Laos.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Laos'
Start a new discussion about 'Laos'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Timeline

1953   Laos gains independence from France.

1955   Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Laos, Libya, Nepal, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sri Lanka join the United Nations.

1968   Vietnam War: Operation Commando Hunt initiated. The goal is to interdict men and supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, through Laos into South Vietnam.

1971   South Vietnamese ground troops launches an incursion into Laos to try and cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail and stop communist infiltration.

1971   Vietnam War: Backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos.

1971   The Army of the Republic of Vietnam abandon an attempt to cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos.

1975   Successful Communist coup in Laos.

2009   Typhoon Ketsana (2009) hit the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, causing 700 fatalities.

 
Encyclopedia
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 to the northwest, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 to the east, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 to the south and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 to the west. Its population was estimated to be 6.8 million in 2009.

Laos traces its history to the Kingdom which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

, with the three kingdoms, Kingdom of Luang Phrabang
Kingdom of Luang Phrabang
The Kingdom of Luang Phrabang was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. The monarchy was so weak that it was forced to pay tribute at various times to the Burmese and the Siamese...

, Kingdom of Vientiane
Kingdom of Vientiane
Kingdom of Vientiane was formed in 1707 as a result of the split of the Kingdom of Lan Xang. The kingdom was a Burmese vassal . It then became a Siamese vassal until 1828 when it was annexed by Siam.-Kings:*Setthathirath II...

 and Kingdom of Champasak
Kingdom of Champasak
The Kingdom of Champasak , in southern Laos, broke away from the Lan Xang kingdom in 1713. The Kingdom of Champasak prospered at the beginning the 18th century, but it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. Under French rule the kingdom became an administrative block...

, uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1954, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong
Sisavang Vong
Sisavang Phoulivong , was king of Kingdom of Luang Phrabang and later Kingdom of Laos from 28 April 1904 until his death on 20 October 1959.-Early life:...

. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao
Pathet Lao
The Pathet Lao was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists...

 movement came to power in 1975.

Laos is a single-party
Single-party state
A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election...

 socialist republic. The capital city is Vientiane
Vientiane
-Geography:Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point.-Climate:Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the...

. Other large cities include Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang , is a city located in north central Laos, where the Nam Khan river meets the Mekong River about north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province...

, Savannakhet
Savannakhet
Savannakhet or Kaysone Phomvihane is a city in western Laos and the capital of the Savannakhet Province, previously known as Khanthabouli . This is the second-largest city in Laos, after Vientiane. The city is birthtown of Kaysone Phomvihane, former president of Laos, and was named after him in...

 and Pakse. The official language is Lao
Lao language
Lao or Laotian is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family. It is the official language of Laos, and also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is usually referred to as the Isan language. Being the primary language of the Lao people, Lao is also an important second language for...

. Most people are Lao
Lao
Lao or Laotian may refer to:* Something of, from, or related to Laos, a country in Southeast Asia* Lao people * The Lao language* Lao script, the writing system used to write the Lao language* Lao cuisine...

 with a significant proportion of indigenous religion as well. It is a rising power in providing electricity to neighboring countries such as Thailand, China and Vietnam and the economy is accelerating rapidly with the demands for its metals. It is a member of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit
East Asia Summit
The East Asia Summit is a forum held annually by leaders of, initially, 16 countries in the East Asian region. Membership will expand to 18 countries including the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011. EAS meetings are held after annual ASEAN leaders’ meetings...

 and La Francophonie
La Francophonie
Francophonie is an international organization of politics and governments with French as the mother or customary language, where a significant proportion of people are francophones , or where there is a notable affiliation with the French language or culture.Formally known as the Organisation...

. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 (WTO) in 1997.

Etymology


In the Lao language
Lao language
Lao or Laotian is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family. It is the official language of Laos, and also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is usually referred to as the Isan language. Being the primary language of the Lao people, Lao is also an important second language for...

, the country's name is "Muang Lao" (ເມືອງລາວ) or "Pathet Lao"(ປະເທດລາວ), both of which literally mean "Lao Country". The French, who united the three separate Lao kingdoms in French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 in 1893, named the country as the plural of the ethnic group (in French, the final "s" at the end of a word is usually silent, thus it would be also be pronounced "Lao").

Lan Xang 1353–1893



Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants), founded in the 14th century, by a Lao warlord, Fa Ngum, who took over Vientiane
Vientiane
-Geography:Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point.-Climate:Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the...

 with 10,000 Khmer
Khmer people
Khmer people are the predominant ethnic group in Cambodia, accounting for approximately 90% of the 14.8 million people in the country. They speak the Khmer language, which is part of the larger Mon–Khmer language family found throughout Southeast Asia...

 troops. Ngum had been a descendent from a long line of Lao kings, tracking back to Khoun Boulom. He made Theravada Buddhism the state religion and Lan-Xang prospered. Within 20 years of its formation, the kingdom expanded eastward to Champa and along the Annamite mountains in Vietnam. His ministers, unable to tolerate his ruthlessness, forced him into exile to present day Thai province of Nan in 1373, where he later died. Fa Ngum's eldest son, Oun Heuan, (took the title Samsenthai) came to the throne and reigned for 43 years. During his reign, Lan Xang became an important trade centre. After his death in 1421, Lan Xang collapsed into warring factions for the next 100 years.

In 1520, Photisarath
Photisarath
Photisarath son of King Visunarat of Lanxang, is considered to be the most devout of the Lao kings, he banned spirit worship and built temples upon the sites of spirit shrines. His elephant fell and crushed him while he sought to display his prowess to the diplomatic corps...

 came to the throne and moved the capital from Luang Phrabang to Vientiane to avoid Burmese invasion. Setthathirat became king in 1548, after his father was killed, and ordered the construction that would become the symbol of Laos, That Luang. Setthathirat disappeared in the mountains on his way back from a military expedition into Cambodia and Lan Xang began to rapidly decline. It was not until 1637, when Sourigna Vongsa
Sourigna Vongsa
Sourigna Vongsa was the last king of Lan Xang and during his period, it considered the golden age of Laos. He ascended to the throne in 1637.-King of Lan Xang:...

 ascended the throne that Lan Xang would further expand its frontiers. His reign is often regarded as Laos's golden age. When he died, leaving Lan Xang without an heir, the kingdom divided into three principalities. Between 1763 and 1769, Burmese armies overran northern Laos and annexed Luang Phrabang, while Champasak
Kingdom of Champasak
The Kingdom of Champasak , in southern Laos, broke away from the Lan Xang kingdom in 1713. The Kingdom of Champasak prospered at the beginning the 18th century, but it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. Under French rule the kingdom became an administrative block...

 eventually came under Siamese
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 suzerainty
Suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

.

Chao Anouvong was installed as a vassal king of Vientiane by the Siamese. He encouraged a renaissance of Lao fine arts and literature and improved relations with Luang Phrabang. Although he was pressured to pay tribute to the Vietnamese, he rebelled against the Siamese. The rebellion failed and Vientiane was ransacked. Anouvong was taken to Bangkok
Bangkok
Bangkok is the capital and largest urban area city in Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep , meaning "city of angels." The full name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom...

 as a prisoner, where he later died.

French rule 1893–1954


In the late 19th century, Luang Prabang was ransacked by the Chinese Black Flag Army
Black Flag Army
The Black Flag Army was a splinter remnant of a bandit group recruited largely from soldiers of ethnic Zhuang background, who crossed the border from Guangxi province of China into Upper Tonkin, in the Empire of Annam in 1865. They became known mainly for their fights against French forces in...

. France rescued King Oun Kham
Oun Kham
Oun Kham was King of Luang Prabang during 1872-1887 and a second time between 1889 and 1895. On 7 June 1887 the Lao royal capital was seized and sacked; the elderly ruler barely escaped with his life. Between his two ruling period he was exiled in Bangkok where he gave assistance to Auguste Pavie...

 and added Luang Phrabang to the 'Protectorate' of French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

. Shortly after, the Kingdom of Champasak
Kingdom of Champasak
The Kingdom of Champasak , in southern Laos, broke away from the Lan Xang kingdom in 1713. The Kingdom of Champasak prospered at the beginning the 18th century, but it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. Under French rule the kingdom became an administrative block...

 and the territory of Vientiane
Vientiane
-Geography:Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point.-Climate:Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the...

 were also added to the protectorate. King Sisavang Vong
Sisavang Vong
Sisavang Phoulivong , was king of Kingdom of Luang Phrabang and later Kingdom of Laos from 28 April 1904 until his death on 20 October 1959.-Early life:...

 of Luang Phrabang, became ruler of a unified Laos and Vientiane once again became the capital. Laos was never important to France, except as a buffer state between British-influenced Thailand and the more economically important Annam and Tonkin
Tonkin
Tonkin , also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is the northernmost part of Vietnam, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin. Locally, it is known as Bắc Kỳ, meaning "Northern Region"...

.
During their rule, the French introduced the corvee
Corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

, a system that forced every male Lao to contribute 10 days of manual labour per year to the colonial government. Laos produced tin, rubber and coffee, but never accounted for more than 1% of French Indochina's exports. By 1940, only 600 French citizens lived in Laos.

Following a brief Japanese occupation during World War II, the country declared its independence in 1945, but the French under Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 re-asserted control. In 1950 Laos was granted semi-autonomy as an "associated state" within the French Union
French Union
The French Union was a political entity created by the French Fourth Republic to replace the old French colonial system, the "French Empire" and to abolish its "indigenous" status.-History:...

. France remained in de facto control until 1954, when Laos gained full independence as a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

.

Kingdom of Laos and war 1954–75




Under a special exemption to the Geneva Convention, a French military training mission continued to support the Royal Lao Army
Royal Lao Army
The Royal Lao Army was the armed forces of the Kingdom of Laos. Its predecessor was the National Laotian Army - NLA of the French Union, created in 1947 from 'maquis', or guerrilla units gathered by French commandos. It was created in 1954 after the French granted Laos complete autonomy...

. In 1955, the U.S. Department of Defense created a special Programs Evaluation Office
Programs Evaluation Office
The Programs Evaluation Office was a military mission to Laos, established in 1955 by the United States Department of Defense.-Motive:With the end of World War II, Laos was no longer under the French Union but entirely sovereign and was governed by the Royal Lao Government. The Royal Lao Army was...

 to replace French support of the Royal Lao Army against the communist Pathet Lao
Pathet Lao
The Pathet Lao was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists...

 as part of the U.S. containment
Containment
Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to stall the spread of communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad, and prevent a "domino effect". A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet...

 policy.

Laos was dragged into the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. The eastern parts of the country followed North Vietnam and adopted North Vietnam as a fraternal country. Laos allowed North Vietnam to use its land as a supply route for its war against the South. In response, the United States initiated a bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese, supported regular and irregular anticommunist forces in Laos and supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The result of these actions were a series of coups d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 and, ultimately, the Laotian Civil War between the Royal Laotian government and the Pathet Lao.

In the Civil War, the heavily-armed and battle-hardened North Vietnamese Army was the real power behind the Pathet Lao insurgency. In 1968, the North Vietnamese Army launched a multi-division attack to help the Pathet Lao to fight the Royal Lao Army. The attack resulted in the army largely demobilizing, leaving the conflict to irregular forces raised by the United States and Thailand. The attack resulted in many lost lives.

Massive aerial bombardment was carried out by the United States. The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

reported that Laos was hit by an average of one B-52 bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. US bombers dropped more ordnance
Aircraft ordnance
Aircraft ordnance or ordnance is weapons used by aircraft. The term is often used when describing the weight of air-to-ground weaponry that can be carried by an aircraft or the weight that has been dropped...

 on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 million bombs that rained down, particularly on Xiangkhouang Province on the Plain of Jars
Plain of Jars
The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. Scattered in the landscape of the Xieng Khouang plateau Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR, are thousands of megalithic jars...

, some 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. Laos is the most heavily-bombed country, per capita, in the world. Because it was particularly heavily affected by cluster bombs during this war, Laos was a strong advocate of the Convention on Cluster Munitions
Convention on Cluster Munitions
The Convention on Cluster Munitions is an international treaty that prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon which scatters submunitions over an area. The convention was adopted on 2008 in Dublin, and was opened for signature on 2008 in Oslo...

 to ban the weapons and assist victims, and hosted the First Meeting of States Parties to the convention in November 2010.

In 1975, the Pathet Lao
Pathet Lao
The Pathet Lao was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists...

, along with Vietnam People's Army
Vietnam People's Army
The Vietnam People's Army is the armed forces of Vietnam. The VPA includes: the Vietnamese People's Ground Forces , the Vietnam People's Navy , the Vietnam People's Air Force, and the Vietnam Marine Police.During the French Indochina War , the VPA was often referred to as the Việt...

 and backed by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, overthrew the royalist Lao government
Kingdom of Laos
The Kingdom of Laos was a sovereign state from 1953 until December 1975, when Pathet Lao overthrew the government and created the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Given self-rule in 1949 as part of a federation with the rest of French Indochina, the 1953 Franco-Lao Treaty finally established a...

, forcing King Savang Vatthana
Savang Vatthana
Savang or Sisavang Vatthana was the last king of the Kingdom of Laos. He ruled from 1959 after his father's death, until his forced abdication in 1975...

 to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died in captivity.

Lao People's Democratic Republic (1975–present)


On 2 December 1975, after taking control of the country, the Pathet Lao government under Kaysone Phomvihane
Kaysone Phomvihane
Kaysone Phomvihane was the leader of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party from 1955, though Souphanouvong served in a figurehead role...

 renamed the country as the Lao People's Democratic Republic and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station armed forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was requested in 1979 by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to end relations with the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, leading to isolation in trade by China, the United States, and other countries.

Geography


Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, lying mostly between latitudes 14°
14th parallel north
The 14th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 14 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 23°N
23rd parallel north
The 23rd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 23 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, North America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

 (a small area is south of 14°), and longitudes 100°
100th meridian east
The meridian 100° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 108°E
108th meridian east
The meridian 108° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. Its thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia
Phou Bia
Phou Bia is the highest mountain in Laos and is located in the Annamese Cordillera, in the Phou Ane Plateau in Xiangkhouang Province.It is in a restricted military area near the abandoned Long Chen air base, and for this reason sees extremely few outside visitors. Unexploded ordnance further...

 at 2818 metres (9,245 ft), with some plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Chain form most of the eastern border with Vietnam. The climate is tropical and monsoon.

There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane and other major cities include Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang , is a city located in north central Laos, where the Nam Khan river meets the Mekong River about north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province...

, Savannakhet and Pakse.

In 1993, the Laos government set aside 21% of the nation's land area for habitat conservation preservation. The country is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the "Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia)
The Golden Triangle is one of Asia's two main illicit opium-producing areas. It is an area of around that overlaps the mountains of four countries of Southeast Asia: Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Along with Afghanistan in the Golden Crescent and Pakistan, it has been one of the most...

". According to the October 2007 UNODC fact book "Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia," the poppy cultivation area was 15 square kilometres (5.8 sq mi), down from 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mi) in 2006.

Laos can be considered to consist of three geographical areas: north, central, and south.

Administrative divisions



Laos is divided into 16 provinces
Provinces of Laos
Laos is divided into provinces and 1 prefecture plus the Vientiane Capital city municipality...

 (qwang) and one prefecture (Nakhonluang ViengChan) which includes Vientiane Capital (Na Kone Luang Vientiane).
Provinces are further divided into district
Districts of Laos
Laos is divided into 16 provinces and 1 prefecture plus capital city municipality . Furthermore, 1 so-called special administrative zone existed between 1994 and 2006, when it was re-merged into its surrounding provinces...

s (muang) and then villages (baan). An 'urban' village is essentially a town.
EWLINE
Number State
Provinces of Laos
Laos is divided into provinces and 1 prefecture plus the Vientiane Capital city municipality...

 
Capital Area (km²) Population
1 Attapeu  Attapeu  10,320 114,300
2 Bokeo  Ban Houayxay
Ban Houayxay
Ban Houayxay is the capital of the Lao province of Bokèo, on the border with Thailand....

 
6,196 149,700
3 Bolikhamsai  Paksan  14,863 214,900
4 Champasak  Pakse  15,415 575,600
5 Hua Phan  Xam Neua  16,500 322,200
6 Khammouane  Thakhek
Thakhek
Thakhek is a town in south-central Laos on the Mekong River and facing Nakhon Phanom across the river in northeastern Thailand. It is the capital of Khammouane province....

 
16,315 358,800
7 Luang Namtha  Luang Namtha  9,325 150,100
8 Luang Phrabang  Luang Phrabang  16,875 408,800
9 Oudomxay  Muang Xay
Muang Xay
Muang Xay is a capital city of Oudomxai Province, Laos. It is located at around . The town is served by the Oudomsay Airport.-Naming:...

 
15,370 275,300
10 Phongsali  Phongsali
Phongsali
Phongsali or Phongsaly is the capital of Phongsali Province, Laos. It is the northernmost among provincial capitals in Laos opposite Attapeu in the south. The town has about 6,000 inhabitants and is located at approximately 1430 meters on the slopes of Mount Phu Fa . Phongsali has pleasant summer...

 
16,270 199,900
11 Sayabouly  Sayabouly  16,389 382,200
12 Salavan  Salavan
Salavan (city)
The city of Salavan is the capital of the Salavan Province in southern Laos. Located 125km away, from Pakse on a partially paved road, it is located in one of the most isolated parts of Laos.-Geography:...

 
10,691 336,600
13 Savannakhet  Savannakhet
Savannakhet
Savannakhet or Kaysone Phomvihane is a city in western Laos and the capital of the Savannakhet Province, previously known as Khanthabouli . This is the second-largest city in Laos, after Vientiane. The city is birthtown of Kaysone Phomvihane, former president of Laos, and was named after him in...

 
21,774 721,500
14 Sekong
Sekong Province
Sekong is a province of Laos, located in the south-east of the country.-Geography:Sekong was created in 1984, when it was split off from Salavan Province. It is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Attapeu Province to the south, Salavanh Province to the north, and Champasak Province to the west...

 
Sekong  7,665 83,600
15 Vientiane  Vientiane
Vientiane
-Geography:Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point.-Climate:Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the...

 
3,920 726,000
16 Vientiane  Muang Phon-Hong  15,927 373,700
17 Xieng Khouang  Phonsavan
Phonsavan
Phonsavan is the new capital of Xieng Khouang Province, Laos. The name stands for "hills of paradise".Phonsavan is the provincial capital of Xieng Khouang province. The countryside is soon dominated by green hills and pine forests. Villages consist of colourful wooden houses...

 
15,880 37,507

Government and politics


Laos is a communist single-party
Single-party state
A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election...

 socialist republic. The only legal political party is the Lao People's Revolutionary Party
Lao People's Revolutionary Party
The Lao People's Revolutionary Party is a communist political party that has governed Laos since 1975. The policy-making organs are the politburo and the central committee. A party congress, which elects members to the politburo and central committee, is held every five years...

 (LPRP). The head of state is President Choummaly Sayasone
Choummaly Sayasone
Lieutenant General Choummaly Sayasone is General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic...

, who is also the General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party
General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party is the office of the highest-ranking member of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party- and the de facto leader of Laos. From 1991-2006, the office was titled Chairman of the Central Committee of the Lao People's...

. The head of government is Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong
Thongsing Thammavong
Thongsing Thammavong is a Laotian politician. He is a member of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and has been a member of the LPRP Politburo since 1991. He currently serves in the National Assembly of Laos, representing Luang Prabang Province , and was the President of the National Assembly...

. Government policies are determined by the party through the all-powerful eleven-member Political Bureau and the 61-member Central Committee. Important government decisions are vetted by the Council of Ministers.

Laos' first, French-written and monarchical constitution was promulgated on 11 May 1947 and declared Laos to be an independent state within the French Union
French Union
The French Union was a political entity created by the French Fourth Republic to replace the old French colonial system, the "French Empire" and to abolish its "indigenous" status.-History:...

. The revised constitution of 11 May 1957 omitted reference to the French Union, though close educational, health and technical ties with the former colonial power persisted. The 1957 document was abrogated on 3 December 1975, when a communist People's Republic was proclaimed. A new constitution was adopted in 1991 and enshrined a "leading role" for the LPRP. In 1990, deputy minister for science & technology Thongsouk Saysangkhi
Thongsouk Saysangkhi
Thongsouk Saysangkhi was a political prisoner and a former deputy minister of science and technology in the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, a communist political party that has governed Laos since 1975....

 resigned from the government and party, calling for political reform. He died in captivity in 1998.

In 1992, elections were held for a new 85-seat National Assembly
National Assembly of Laos
The unicameral National Assembly of Laos is the parliament of Laos. It was established in its current form by the Lao Constitution of 1991 , replacing the Supreme People's Assembly. After the December 1997 elections, the number of seats were increased to 99, a new structure was announced and...

 with members elected by secret ballot to five-year terms. This National Assembly, which essentially acts as a rubber stamp
Rubber stamp (politics)
A rubber stamp, as a political metaphor, refers to a person or institution with considerable de jure power but little de facto power; one that rarely disagrees with more powerful organs....

 for the LPRP, approves all new laws, although the executive branch retains authority to issue binding decrees. The most recent elections took place in April 2011. The assembly was expanded to 99 members in 1997, to 115 members in 2006 and finally to 132 members during the 2011 elections.

Hmong conflict


The government of Laos has been accused of committing genocide against that country’s Hmong ethnic minority.

Some Hmong groups fought as CIA-backed units on the Royalist side in the Laos civil war. After the Pathet Lao took over the country in 1975, the conflict continued in isolated pockets. In 1977 a communist newspaper promised the party would hunt down the “American collaborators” and their families “to the last root”.

As many as 200,000 Hmong went into exile in Thailand, with many ending up in the USA. A number of Hmong fighters hid out in mountains in Xiangkhouang Province for many years, with a remnant emerging from the jungle in 2003.

Human rights


The Constitution that was promulgated in 1991 and amended in 2003 contains most key safeguards for human rights. For example, in Article 8 it makes it clear that Laos is a multiethnic state and is committed to equality between ethnic groups. The Constitution also has provisions for gender equality
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

 and freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

, for freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, press and assembly. On 25 September 2009, Laos ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nine years after signing the treaty. The policy objectives of both the Lao government and international donors remain focused toward achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.

However, Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 has raised concerns about the ratification record of the Laos Government on human rights standards and its lack of cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms and legislative measures which impact negatively on human rights. It has also raised concerns in relation to freedom of expression, poor prison conditions, restrictions on freedom of religions, protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and the death penalty.

In October 1999, 30 young people were arrested for attempting to display posters calling for peaceful economic, political and social change in Laos. Five of them were arrested and subsequently sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment on charges of treason. One has since died due to his treatment by prison guards, while one has been released. The surviving three men should have been released by October 2009, but their whereabouts remains unknown.

Laos and Vietnamese troops were reported to have raped and killed four Christian Hmong women in Xieng Khouang province in 2011, according to US campaign group The Centre for Public Policy Analysis
The Centre for Public Policy Analysis
The Centre for Public Policy Analysis was established in Washington D.C. in 1988 and describes itself as a non-profit research organization focused on foreign policy, national security, refugee and international humanitarian issues...

. CPPA also said other Christian and independent Buddhist and animist believers were being persecuted.

Economy


The Lao economy depends heavily on investment and trade with its neighbours, Thailand, Vietnam, and, especially in the north, China. Pakxe
Pakxe
Pakxe or Pakse is a city of 70,000 in southern Laos, situated at the confluence of the Xedone and Mekong Rivers. It is the largest city in Champasak province and its capital. It is served by Pakse International Airport and is the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau...

 has also experienced growth based on cross-border trade with Thailand and Vietnam. In 2011, the Lao Securities Exchange
Lao Securities Exchange
The Lao Securities Exchange is the primary stock exchange in Laos, located in the capital, Vientiane.-History:In 2010, the Lao government sought technical and financial support from South Korea , as well as advice from neighbouring Thailand, to help build the exchange. The glass-building cost $10...

 began trading.

Subsistence agriculture
Subsistence agriculture
Subsistence agriculture is self-sufficiency farming in which the farmers focus on growing enough food to feed their families. The typical subsistence farm has a range of crops and animals needed by the family to eat and clothe themselves during the year. Planting decisions are made with an eye...

 still accounts for half of the GDP and provides 80 percent of employment. Only 4.01 percent of the country is arable land, and 0.34 percent used as permanent crop land, the lowest percentage in the Greater Mekong Subregion
Greater Mekong Subregion
The Greater Mekong Subregion is not a geological region, but rather, a development project mooted by the Asian Development Bank in 1992 that brought together the riparian states of the Mekong River basin, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan Province of China...

. Rice dominates agriculture, with about 80 percent of the arable land area used for growing rice. Approximately 77 percent of Lao farm households are self-sufficient in rice.

Through the development, release and widespread adoption of improved rice varieties, and through economic reforms, production has increased by an annual rate of 5 percent between 1990 and 2005, and Lao PDR achieved a net balance of rice imports and exports for the first time in 1999.
Lao PDR may have the greatest number of rice varieties in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Since 1995 the Lao government has been working with the International Rice Research Institute
International Rice Research Institute
The International Rice Research Institute is an international NGO. Its headquarters are in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines, and it has offices in sixteen countries...

 to collect seed samples of each of the thousands of rice varieties found in Laos.
The economy receives development aid
Development aid
Development aid or development cooperation is aid given by governments and other agencies to support the economic, environmental, social and political development of developing countries.It is distinguished...

 from the IMF
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

, ADB
Asian Development Bank
The Asian Development Bank is a regional development bank established on 22 August 1966 to facilitate economic development of countries in Asia...

 and other international sources, and foreign direct investment
Foreign direct investment
Foreign direct investment or foreign investment refers to the net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor.. It is the sum of equity capital,other long-term capital, and short-term capital as shown in...

 for development of the society, industry, hydropower
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

 and mining, most notably copper and gold. Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the country. Economic development in Laos has been hampered by brain drain
Brain drain
Human capital flight, more commonly referred to as "brain drain", is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. The reasons usually include two aspects which respectively come from countries and individuals...

, with a skilled emigration rate of 37.4 percent in 2000.

Laos is rich in mineral resources but imports petroleum and gas. Metallurgy is an important industry, and the government hopes to attract foreign investment to develop the substantial deposits of coal, gold, bauxite, tin, copper and other valuable metals. In addition, the country's plentiful water resources and mountainous terrain enable it to produce and export large quantities of hydroelectric energy. Of the potential capacity of approximately 18,000 megawatts, around 8,000 megawatts have been committed for exporting to Thailand and Vietnam.

The country's most widely recognised product may well be Beerlao
Beerlao
Beerlao is the name of a range of beers produced by the Lao Brewery Company of Vientiane, Laos.- Beerlao :...

 which is exported to a number of countries including neighbours Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

. It is produced by the Lao Brewery Company
Lao Brewery Company
The Lao Brewery Company Ltd. is a producer of beer and bottled drinking water in Laos headquartered in Vientiane.-History:...

.

Tourism


The tourism sector has grown rapidly, from 80,000 international visitors in 1990, to 1.876 million in 2010. Tourism is expected to contribute US$679.1 million to gross national product in 2010, rising to US$1,585.7 million by 2020. In 2010, one in every 10.9 jobs was in the tourism sector. Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate 15.5% of total exports or US$270.3 million in 2010, growing in nominal terms to US$484.2 million (12.5% of total) in 2020.

Laos has become popular with tourists for its relaxed style of living and for retaining elements of the "original Asia" lost elsewhere. The official tourism slogan is "Simply Beautiful". The main attractions for tourists include Buddhist culture and colonial architecture in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang , is a city located in north central Laos, where the Nam Khan river meets the Mekong River about north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province...

; gastronomy and ancient temples in the capital of Vientiane
Vientiane
-Geography:Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point.-Climate:Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the...

; backpacking in Muang Ngoi Neua
Muang Ngoi Neua
Muang Ngoi Neua is a Lao town along the Nam Ou in Louangphrabang Province. It is part of Ngoi district 170 kilometres North-East of Luang Prabang.The current population is about 700, and of Lao Loum ethnicity....

 and Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos, located in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the Nam Song river. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town.-History:...

; ancient and modern culture and history in The Plain of Jars region (main article: Phonsavan
Phonsavan
Phonsavan is the new capital of Xieng Khouang Province, Laos. The name stands for "hills of paradise".Phonsavan is the provincial capital of Xieng Khouang province. The countryside is soon dominated by green hills and pine forests. Villages consist of colourful wooden houses...

); trekking and visiting hill tribes in a number of areas including Phongsaly and Luang Namtha; spotting tigers and other wildlife in Nam Et-Phou Louey
Nam Et-Phou Louey
Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area is a national park in northern Laos, covering 5,959 km2 in three provinces - Houaphan, Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang....

; caves and waterfalls near Thakhek
Thakhek
Thakhek is a town in south-central Laos on the Mekong River and facing Nakhon Phanom across the river in northeastern Thailand. It is the capital of Khammouane province....

; relaxation, the Irrawaddy dolphin
Irrawaddy dolphin
The Irrawaddy dolphin is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia.-Etymology and taxonomic history:...

 and Khone Phapheng Falls at Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don
The Si Phan Don is a riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River, Champasak Province in southern Laos. Si Phan Don is characterised by numerous islands, half of which are submerged when the Mekong River is in flood...

 or as they are known in English, the Four Thousand Islands; Wat Phu, an ancient Khmer
Khmer Empire
The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asia. The empire, which grew out of the former kingdom of Chenla, at times ruled over and/or vassalized parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and Malaysia. Its greatest legacy is Angkor, the site of the capital city...

 temple complex; and the Bolaven Plateau
Bolaven Plateau
The Bolaven Plateau is an elevated region in Laos. It is located between the Annamite Mountain Range, along which runs Laos’ eastern border with Vietnam, and the Mekong River to the west, at about . The plateau's elevation ranges approximately from above sea level. The plateau is crossed by...

 for waterfalls and coffee.

Luang Prabang and Wat Phu are both UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the Plain of Jars
Plain of Jars
The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. Scattered in the landscape of the Xieng Khouang plateau Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR, are thousands of megalithic jars...

 expected to join them once more work to clear UXO has been completed. Major festivals include Laos New Year which is celebrated around 13–15 April and involves a water festival
Water festival
The Water Festival is the New Year's celebrations that take place in Southeast Asian countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand as well as Yunnan, China. It is called the 'Water Festival' by Westerners because people pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome...

 similar but more subdued than that of Thailand and other South-East Asian countries.

The Lao National Tourism Administration, related government agencies and the private sector are working together to realise the vision put forth in the country's National Ecotourism Strategy and Action Plan. This includes decreasing the environmental and cultural impact of tourism; increasing awareness in the importance of ethnic groups and biological diversity; providing a source of income to conserve, sustain and manage the Lao protected area network and cultural heritage sites; and emphasising the need for tourism zoning and management plans for sites that will be developed as ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 destinations.

Laos is known for its silk and local handicraft product, both of which are on display in Luang Prabang's night market, among other places. Another speciality is mulberry tea
Mulberry tea
- History :Mulberry tea is made from Mulberry leaves, which are light green in colour and of variable shape. The mulberry plant has long been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine and is particularly popular in Laos.- Benefits :...

.

Environmental problems


Laos is increasingly suffering from environmental problems, with deforestation a particular issue as expanding commercial exploitation of the forests, plans for additional hydroelectric facilities, foreign demand for wild animals and nonwood forest products for food and traditional medicines, and a growing population put increasing pressure on the forests.

The United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

 warns that: "Protecting the environment and sustainable use of natural resources in Lao PDR is vital for poverty reduction and economic growth."

In April 2011, The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

newspaper reported that Laos had started work on the controversial Xayaburi Dam
Xayaburi Dam
The Xayaburi Dam is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Lower Mekong River approximately east of Xayaburi town in Northern Laos.-History:On 4 May 2007, the Lao government signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand's Ch. Karnchang Public Company for the development of this hydropower project...

 on the Mekong River without getting formal approval. Environmentalists say the dam will adversely affect 60 million people and Cambodia and Vietnam—concerned about the flow of water further downstream—are officially opposed to the project. The Mekong River Commission
Mekong River Commission
The Mekong River Commission is an intergovernment body charged “to promote and co-ordinate sustainable management and development of water and related resources for the countries’ mutual benefit and the people’s well-being by implementing strategic programmes and activities and providing...

, a regional intergovernmental body designed to promote the "sustainable management" of the river, famed for its giant catfish
Mekong giant catfish
The Mekong giant catfish, Pangasianodon gigas, is a species of catfish in the shark catfish family , native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia.-Species characteristics:...

, carried out a study that warned if Xayaburi and subsequent schemes went ahead, it would "fundamentally undermine the abundance, productivity and diversity of the Mekong fish resources". Neighbouring Vietnam warned that the dam would harm the Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of . The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.The...

, which is the home to nearly 20 million people and supplies around 50 percent of Vietnams' rice output, over 70 percent of seafood and 70 percent of fruit output.

Milton Osborne
Milton Osborne
Milton Osborne is an Australian historian, author, and consultant specializing in Southeast Asia.He attended North Sydney Boys High School, graduated from the University of Sydney and received a Ph.D. from Cornell University. Osborne held academic positions in Australia, the United Kingdom, the...

, Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy
Lowy Institute for International Policy
The Lowy Institute for International Policy is an independent think tank endowed by Frank Lowy to conduct original, policy-relevant research about international political, strategic and economic issues from an Australian perspective. It is based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

 who has written widely on the Mekong, warns: "The future scenario is of the Mekong ceasing to be a bounteous source of fish and guarantor of agricultural richness, with the great river below China becoming little more than a series of unproductive lakes."

Illegal logging is also a major problem. Environmental groups estimate that 500000 cubic metres (17,657,333.1 cu ft) of logs find their way from Laos to Vietnam every year, with most of the furniture eventually exported to western countries.

A 1992 government survey indicated that forests occupied about 48% of Laos' land area. Forest coverage decreased to 41% in a 2002 survey. Lao authorities have said that, in reality, forest coverage might be no more than 35% because of various development projects such as dams, on top of the losses to illegal logging.

Infrastructure




The main international airports are Vientiane's Wattay International Airport
Wattay International Airport
-Ground transportation:Access to airport by taxi, car and tuk-tuk. A taxi rank is located outside the main arrival hall.-Accidents and incidents:*On 24 March 1976, Douglas C-47A XW-TAF and C-47Bs XW-TDF and XW-TDR or Royal Air Lao were damaged beyond economic repair in a storm.-External links:* *...

 and Luang Prabang International Airport
Luang Prabang International Airport
-Extension:In 2011 extension of the Airport runway will start. After planned completion in 2013 the airport will be capable of accommodating all large-sized aircraft except the Airbus A380.-External links:*...

 with Pakse International Airport
Pakse International Airport
Pakse International Airport is one of the few international airports in Laos. Pakse is the former southern capital city of the Champasak Kingdom.-Airlines:...

 also having a few international flights. The national airline is Lao Airlines
Lao Airlines
Lao Airlines is an airline based in Vientiane, Laos. It is the national airline of Laos, operating domestic services to ten destinations and international services to Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. Its main base is Wattay International Airport, Vientiane.- History :The airline...

. Other carriers serving the country include Bangkok Airways
Bangkok Airways
Bangkok Airways Co., Ltd. is a regional airline based in Chatuchak District, Bangkok, Thailand. It operates scheduled services to destinations in Thailand, Cambodia, China, Laos, Maldives, Burma, India and Singapore...

, Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam Airlines Company Limited, trading as Vietnam Airlines , is the national flag carrier of Vietnam. Founded in 1956 under the name Vietnam Civil Aviation, the airline was established as a state enterprise in April 1989. Vietnam Airlines is headquartered in Long Bien, Hanoi, with hubs at Noi...

, AirAsia
AirAsia
AirAsia Berhad is a Malaysian-based low-cost airline. AirAsia is Asia's largest low-fare, no-frills airline and a pioneer of low-cost travel in Asia. AirAsia group operates scheduled domestic and international flights to over 400 destinations spanning 25 countries. Its main hub is the Low-Cost...

, Thai Airways International
Thai Airways International
Thai Airways International Public Company Limited is the national flag carrier and largest airline of Thailand. Formed in 1988, the airline's headquarters are located in Chatuchak District, Bangkok, and operates out of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Thai is a founding member of the Star Alliance. Thai is a...

 and China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited is an airline headquartered on the grounds of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in Changning District, Shanghai, China. It is a major Chinese airline operating international, domestic and regional routes. Its main hubs are at Shanghai Pudong...

.

Much of the country lacks adequate infrastructure. Laos has no railways, except a short link to connect Vientiane with Thailand over the Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge
Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge
The First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge is a bridge over the Mekong, connecting Nong Khai province and the city of Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane Prefecture in Laos - the city of Vientiane is approximately 20 km from the bridge...

. A short portage railway
Portage railway
A portage railway is a short and possibly isolated section of railway used to bypass a section of unnavigable river or between two water bodies which are not directly connected...

, the Don Det–Don Khon narrow-gauge railway was built by the French in Champasak Province but has been closed since the 1940s. In the late 1920s, work began on the Thakhek–Tan Ap railway that would have run between Thakhek
Thakhek
Thakhek is a town in south-central Laos on the Mekong River and facing Nakhon Phanom across the river in northeastern Thailand. It is the capital of Khammouane province....

, Khammuan Province and Tan Ap Railway Station
Tan Ap Railway Station
Tan Ap Railway Station is a railway station on the North-South Railway line in Vietnam. It serves the town of Tân Ấp in Quang Binh Province. From 1933, the station also served as a terminus of the Tan Ap - Xom Cuc railway, the only stretch of railway opened as part of the aborted Thakhek - Tan Ap...

, Quang Binh Province
Quang Binh Province
Quảng Bình , formerly Tiên Bình under the reign of Le Trung Hung of the Lê Dynasty, this province was renamed Quảng Bình in 1604) is a province in the North Central Coast of Vietnam....

, Vietnam through the Mua Gia Pass. However, the scheme was aborted in the 1930s. The major roads connecting the major urban centres, in particular Route 13
Route 13 (Laos)
Route 13 is the most important highway in the country of Laos. It connects the city of Vientiane to Luang Prabang in the north and roughly follows the line of the Mekong River down to the border with Cambodia. The road then continues at National Highway 7 in Cambodia.Route 13 passes through the...

, have been significantly upgraded in recent years, but villages far from major roads can be reached only through unpaved roads that may not be accessible year-round.

There is limited external and internal telecommunication, but mobile phones have become widespread in urban centres. In many rural areas electricity is at least partly available. Songthaew
Songthaew
A songthaew , also known in English as a baht bus, is a passenger vehicle in Malaysia, Thailand and Laos adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck and used as a share taxi....

s (pick-up trucks with benches) are used in the country for long-distance and local public transport.

Laos has made particularly noteworthy progress increasing access to sanitation
Sanitation
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic...

 and has already met its 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. Laos' predominantly rural (68%, data 2009, source Department of Statistics, Ministry of Planning and Investment) population makes investing in sanitation difficult. In 1990 only 8% of the rural population had access to improved sanitation. Access rose rapidly from 10% in 1995 to 38% in 2008. Between 1995 and 2008 approximately 1,232,900 more people had access to improved sanitation in rural areas. Laos' progress is notable in comparison to similar developing countries. This success is in part due to small-scale independent providers emerging in a spontaneous manner or having been promoted by public authorities. Laotian authorities have recently developed an innovative regulatory framework for Public-Private partnership contracts signed with small enterprises, in parallel with more conventional regulation of State-owned water enterprises.

Demographics


The term "Laotian" does not necessarily refer to the Lao language, ethnic Lao people, language or customs, but is a political term that also includes the non-ethnic Lao groups within Laos and identifies them as "Laotian" because of their political citizenship. Laos has the youngest population of any country in Asia with a median age of 19.3 years.

Laos' population was estimated at 6.8 million in early 2009, dispersed unevenly across the country. Most people live in valleys of the Mekong River and its tributaries. Vientiane prefecture, the capital and largest city, had about 740,010 residents in 2008. The country's population density was 27/km2.

Ethnicity



The people of Laos are often considered by their altitudinal distribution (lowlands, midlands and highlands) as this approximates ethnic groups.

Lao Loum (lowland people)


60% of the country's people are ethnic Lao
Lao people
The Lao are an ethnic subgroup of Tai/Dai in Southeast Asia.-Names:The etymology of the word Lao is uncertain, although it may be related to tribes known as the Ai Lao who appear in Han Dynasty records in China and Vietnam as a people of what is now Yunan Province...

, the principal lowland inhabitants and the politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao belong to the Tai
Tai languages
The Tai or Zhuang–Tai languages are a branch of the Tai–Kadai language family. The Tai languages include the most widely spoken of the Tai–Kadai languages, including standard Thai or Siamese, the national language of Thailand; Lao or Laotian, the national language of Laos; Burma's Shan language;...

 linguistic group who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium AD. 10% belong to other "lowland" groups, which together with the Lao people make up the Lao Loum
Lao Loum
The Lao Loum is an official Laos PDR designation for lowland dwelling Tai peoples, including the majority Lao people. The Lao Loum, literally meaning "lowland Lao," are the inhabitants of the river valleys and lowlands along the Mekong River and make up over 68% of the population of Laos, of...

.

Lao Theung (midland people)


In the central and southern mountains, Mon
Mon people
The Mon are an ethnic group from Burma , living mostly in Mon State, Bago Division, the Irrawaddy Delta, and along the southern Thai–Burmese border. One of the earliest peoples to reside in Southeast Asia, the Mon were responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Burma and Thailand...

-Khmer
Khmer people
Khmer people are the predominant ethnic group in Cambodia, accounting for approximately 90% of the 14.8 million people in the country. They speak the Khmer language, which is part of the larger Mon–Khmer language family found throughout Southeast Asia...

 tribes, known as Lao Theung
Lao Theung
The Lao Theung or Lao Thoeng is one of the traditional divisions of ethnic groups living in Laos . It literally indicates the "midland Lao", and comprises a variety of different ethnic groups of mostly Austro-Asiatic origin...

 or mid-slope Laotians, predominate. Other terms are Khmu, Khamu (Kammu) or Kha as the Lao Loum refer to them as indicating their Austro-Asiatic origins. However the latter is considered pejorative, meaning 'slave'. They were the indigenous inhabitants of northern Laos. Some Vietnamese
Vietnamese people
The Vietnamese people are an ethnic group originating from present-day northern Vietnam and southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Vietnam, comprising 86% of the population as of the 1999 census, and are officially known as Kinh to distinguish them from other ethnic groups in Vietnam...

, Chinese
Overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the Greater China Area . People of partial Chinese ancestry living outside the Greater China Area may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese....

 and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 Thai
Thai people
The Thai people, or Siamese, are the main ethnic group of Thailand and are part of the larger Tai ethnolinguistic peoples found in Thailand and adjacent countries in Southeast Asia as well as southern China. Their language is the Thai language, which is classified as part of the Kradai family of...

 minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left after independence in the late 1940s, many of whom relocated either to Vietnam, Hong Kong, or to France. Lao Theung constitute about 30% of the population.

Lao Soung (highland people)


Hill people and minority cultures of Laos such as the Hmong
Hmong people
The Hmong , are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong are also one of the sub-groups of the Miao ethnicity in southern China...

 (Miao), Yao (Mien)
Yao people
The Yao nationality is a government classification for various minorities in China. They form one of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, where they reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south...

, Dao
Yao people
The Yao nationality is a government classification for various minorities in China. They form one of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, where they reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south...

, Shan, and several Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples have lived in isolated regions of Laos for many years. Mountain/hill tribes of mixed ethno/cultural-linguistic heritage are found in northern Laos which include the Lua
Lua people
The Lua People are a minority cultural group native to Laos, although some also live in Thailand.Animism, Shamanism and Theravada Buddhism are common spiritual practices for the Lua....

 (Lua) and Khmu people
Khmu people
The Khmu is one of the largest ethnic groups based in northern Laos. They can also be found in Burma, southwest China , Thailand, and Vietnam, where they are an officially recognized ethnic group...

 who are indigenous to Laos. Today, the Lua people are considered endangered. Collectively, they are known as Lao Soung or highland Laotians. Lao Soung account for only about 10% of the population.

Languages




The official and dominant language is Lao
Lao language
Lao or Laotian is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family. It is the official language of Laos, and also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is usually referred to as the Isan language. Being the primary language of the Lao people, Lao is also an important second language for...

, a tonal language of the Tai
Tai languages
The Tai or Zhuang–Tai languages are a branch of the Tai–Kadai language family. The Tai languages include the most widely spoken of the Tai–Kadai languages, including standard Thai or Siamese, the national language of Thailand; Lao or Laotian, the national language of Laos; Burma's Shan language;...

 linguistic group. However only slightly more than half of the population can speak Lao, the remainder speaking various ethnic minority languages, particularly in rural areas. The written language is based on Khmer writing script. Languages like Khmu
Khmu language
Khmu is the language of the Khmu people of the northern Laos region. It is also spoken in adjacent areas of Vietnam, Thailand and China. Khmu lends its name to the Khmuic branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family, which also includes Khmer and Vietnamese. Within Austro-Asiatic, Khmu is often...

 and Hmong
Hmong language
Hmong or Mong is the common name for a dialect continuum of the West Hmongic branch of the Hmong–Mien/Miao–Yao language family spoken by the Hmong people of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, northern Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos...

 are spoken by minorities, particularly in the midland and highland areas.

French, still common in government and commerce, is studied by many, while English, the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has become increasingly studied in recent years.

Health



Male life expectancy at birth was at 63.2 and female life expectancy was at 65.9 in 2007. Healthy life expectancy was at 54 in 2006. In 2006, two fifths of the population were not using an improved water resource. Government expenditure on health is at about 4 % of the GDP. Its amount was at US$ 18 (PPP) in 2006.

Religion


Of the people of Laos 67% are Theravada Buddhist, 1.5% are Christian, and 31.5% are other or unspecified according to the 2005 census. Buddhism has long been one of the most important social forces in Laos.

Theravada Buddhism
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 along with the common animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 practiced among the mountain tribes, coexists peacefully with spirit worship. Christians are mostly restricted to the Vientiane area, and Muslims to the Burmese-border region. Christian missionary work is regulated by the government.

Education



The adult literacy
Literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 rate exceeds two thirds. The male literacy rate exceeds the female literacy rate. In 2004 the net primary enrollment rate was at 84%. The National University of Laos
National University of Laos
National University of Laos is the leading university in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Founded in 1996, with departments brought in from other existing colleges, it is the only national university in the country. NUOL accepts top students from Laos with few international students...

 is the Laos state's public university.
The total literacy rate is 73% (2010 estimate).

Culture



Theravada
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 is a dominant influence in Lao culture. It is reflected throughout the country from language to the temple and in art, literature, performing arts, etc. Many elements of Lao culture predate Buddhism, however. For example, Laotian music is dominated by its national instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

, the khaen, a type of bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 pipe that has prehistoric origins. The khaen traditionally accompanied the singer in lam
Mor lam
Mor lam is a traditional Lao form of song in Laos and Isan.Mor lam means expert song, or expert singer, referring to the music or artist respectively. Other romanisations used include mo lam, maw lam, maw lum, moh lam and mhor lum...

, the dominant style of folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

. Among the various lam styles, the lam saravane
Lam saravane
Lam Saravane is a popular folksong originally from the southern province of Saravane Province of Laos, but popular throughout the Lao-speaking world, including the Isan region of Thailand, but it is also regarded as a traditional folksong and dance of Khmer culture...

is probably the most popular.

Sticky Rice is a characteristic staple food and has cultural and religious significance to the Lao people. Sticky rice is generally preferred over jasmine rice, and sticky rice cultivation and production is thought to have originated in Laos. There are many traditions and rituals associated with rice production in different environments, and among many ethnic groups. For example, Khammu farmers in Luang Prabang plant the rice variety Khao Kam in small quantities near the hut in memory of dead parents, or at the edge of the rice field to indicate that parents are still alive.

Marriage


Polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 is officially a crime in Laos, though the penalty is minor. The constitution and Family Code bars the legal recognition of polygamous marriages, stipulating that monogamy
Monogamy
Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction...

 is to be the principle key of contracting a marriage in the country. While rare, there have been cases of polygamy practiced within the Hmong people
Hmong people
The Hmong , are an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Hmong are also one of the sub-groups of the Miao ethnicity in southern China...

.

Media


All newspapers are published by the government, including two foreign language papers: the English-language daily Vientiane Times
Vientiane Times
The Vientiane Times is an English language newspaper, published daily in Vientiane, Laos. Established in 1994 as a weekly, it went daily in 2004...

and the French-language weekly Le Rénovateur
Le Rénovateur
Le Rénovateur is the only French-language newspaper in the Lao PDR . It is published weekly by the Lao Press in Foreign Languages, which is a specialised agency of the Ministry of Information and Culture...

. Additionally, the Khao San Pathet Lao, the country's official news agency, publishes English and French versions of its eponymous paper. Laos currently has nine daily newspapers, 90 magazines, 43 radio stations and 32 TV stations operating throughout the country. Internet cafes are now common in the major urban centres and are popular especially with the younger generation.

See also



  • Emblem of Laos
  • French colonial empire
    French colonial empire
    The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

  • Drug policy in Laos
    Drug policy in Laos
    As of 1994, Laos was the world's third largest producer of opium, primarily in the northern provinces. Narcotics trafficking in Laos is difficult to control because of the remoteness of many border areas, their attendant lack of communications, and the scarcity of resources, all of which make...

  • Lao People's Army

  • List of freedom indices
  • List of Laos-related topics
  • North Vietnamese invasion of Laos
    North Vietnamese invasion of Laos
    The North Vietnamese invaded Laos between 1958–1959.Souvanna Phouma announced that with the holding of elections the Royal Lao Government had fulfilled the political obligations it had assumed at Geneva, and the International Control Commission adjourned sine die...

  • Scouts Lao

Leaders of ethnic minorities in Laos
  • Ong Keo
    Ong Keo
    Ong Keo led the Khom to fight the French and Lao from 1901 to 1937. He was an Alak, born in Ban Paktai.His father was a village chief. Ong Keo moved rapidly up the leadership ladder because of his charisma and intelligence, and because he was fluent in Lao and Pali. He performed religious...

  • Ong Kommandam
    Ong Kommandam
    Ong Kommandam was the right hand man of Ong Keo. He quickly picked up the struggle for independence with far greater success because he was able to unite the highland minorities of Southern Laos. In 1910, he was shot by French Résident Supérieur of Salavan, Jacques Dauplay, who had supposedly...

  • Pa Chay Vue
    Pa Chay Vue
    Pa Chay Vue, , commonly referred to as Pa Chay or Batchai, led the Hmong people in the War of the Insane revolt against French rule in French Indochina from 1918 to 1921...


External links




General information
  • Laos from UCB Libraries GovPubs