Introduction ::Laos

    Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997 and the WTO in 2013.

Geography ::Laos

People and Society ::Laos

Government ::Laos

    conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic
    conventional short form: Laos
    local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
    local short form: Pathet Lao (unofficial)
    Communist state
    name: Vientiane (Viangchan)
    geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E
    time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xekong, Xiangkhouang
    19 July 1949 (from France)
    Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
    promulgated 14 August 1991; amended in 2003
    civil law system similar in form to the French system
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006); Vice President BOUN-GNANG Volachit (since 8 June 2006)
    head of government: Prime Minister THONGSING Thammavong (since 24 December 2010); First Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), Deputy Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit (since 8 June 2006), SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27 March 2001)
    cabinet: Ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly for five-year term
    election results: CHOUMMALI Saignason elected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA; THONGSING Thammavong elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - NA
    unicameral National Assembly (132 seats; members elected by popular vote from a list of candidates selected by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party to serve five-year terms)
    elections: last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 128, independents 4
    highest court(s): People's Supreme Court (consists of NA judges)
    judge selection and term of office: president of People's Supreme Court elected by National Assembly on recommendation of National Assembly Standing Committee; vice president of People's Supreme Court and judges appointed by National Assembly Standing Committee; term of office NA
    subordinate courts: provincial, municipal, district, and military courts
    Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed
    chief of mission: Ambassador SENG Soukhathivong
    chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
    FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923
    chief of mission: Ambassador Karen B. STEWART
    embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam, Vientiane
    mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, APO AP 96546
    telephone: [856] 21-26-7000
    FAX: [856] 21-26-7190
    three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band; the red bands recall the blood shed for liberation; the blue band represents the Mekong River and prosperity; the white disk symbolizes the full moon against the Mekong River, but also signifies the unity of the people under the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, as well as the country's bright future
    name: "Pheng Xat Lao" (Hymn of the Lao People)

    lyrics/music: SISANA Sisane/THONGDY Sounthonevichit
    note: music adopted 1945, lyrics adopted 1975; the anthem's lyrics were changed following the 1975 Communist revolution that overthrew the monarchy

Economy ::Laos

    The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking - growth averaged 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997. Laos' growth exceeded 7% per year during 2008-12. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. It has a basic, but improving, road system, and limited external and internal land-line telecommunications. Electricity is available 75% of the country. Laos' economy is heavily dependent on capital-intensive natural resource exports. The labor force, however, still relies on agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, which accounts for about 30% of GDP and 75% of total employment. Economic growth has reduced official poverty rates from 46% in 1992 to 26% in 2010. The economy also has benefited from high-profile foreign direct investment in hydropower, copper and gold mining, logging, and construction though some projects in these industries have drawn criticism for their environmental impacts. Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004. On the fiscal side, Laos initiated a VAT tax system in 2010. Simplified investment procedures and expanded bank credits for small farmers and small entrepreneurs will improve Laos'' economic prospects. The government appears committed to raising the country''s profile among investors, opening the country''s first stock exchange in 2011 and participating in regional economic cooperation initiatives. Laos was admitted to the WTO in 2012. The World Bank has declared that Laos'' goal of graduating from the UN Development Program''s list of least-developed countries by 2020 is achievable.
    $19.52 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    $18.02 billion (2011 est.)
    $16.68 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $9.217 billion (2012 est.)
    8.3% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 17
    8% (2011 est.)
    8.1% (2010 est.)
    $3,100 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 176
    $2,900 (2011 est.)
    $2,700 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    25.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    25% of GDP (2011 est.)
    24.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 68%
    government consumption: 9.8%
    investment in fixed capital: 29.2%
    investment in inventories: 0%
    exports of goods and services: 39.1%
    imports of goods and services: -46.1%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 26%
    industry: 34%
    services: 40% (2012 est.)
    sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; cassava (manioc), water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
    mining (copper, tin, gold, and gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism
    14% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    3.69 million (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 95
    agriculture: 75.1%
    industry and services: NA (2010 est.)
    2.5% (2009 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    2.4% (2005 est.)
    26% (2010 est.)
    lowest 10%: 3.3%
    highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)
    36.7 (2008)
    country comparison to the world: 81
    34.6 (2002)
    revenues: $2.028 billion
    expenditures: $2.211 billion (2012 est.)
    22% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 150
    -2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 85
    48.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    49.1% of GDP (2011 est.)
    1 October - 30 September
    4.3% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 132
    7.6% (2011 est.)
    4.3% (31 December 2010)
    country comparison to the world: 92
    4% (31 December 2009)
    22.3% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 14
    21.9% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.169 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 144
    $979.5 million (31 December 2011 est.)
    $3.556 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 137
    $3.155 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $4.07 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 124
    $2.672 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $30.5 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 55
    $90.2 million (2011 est.)
    $1.984 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 143
    $1.854 billion (2011 est.)
    wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold, cassava
    Thailand 32.8%, China 20.7%, Vietnam 14% (2012)
    $2.744 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 151
    $2.423 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
    Thailand 63.2%, China 16.5%, Vietnam 5.6% (2012)
    $796.9 million (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    $757.2 million (31 December 2011 est.)
    $6.288 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 112
    $6.158 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    kips (LAK) per US dollar -
    8,013.3 (2012 est.)
    8,030.1 (2011 est.)
    8,258.8 (2010 est.)
    8,516.04 (2009)
    8,760.69 (2008)

Energy ::Laos

Communications ::Laos

    107,600 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 143
    5.481 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    general assessment: service to general public is improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas
    domestic: 4 service providers with mobile cellular usage growing very rapidly
    international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) and a second to be developed by China (2012)
    6 TV stations operating out of Vientiane - 3 government-operated and the others commercial; 17 provincial stations operating with nearly all programming relayed via satellite from the government-operated stations in Vientiane; Chinese and Vietnamese programming relayed via satellite from Lao National TV; broadcasts available from stations in Thailand and Vietnam in border areas; multi-channel satellite and cable TV systems provide access to a wide range of foreign stations; state-controlled radio with state-operated Lao National Radio (LNR) broadcasting on 5 frequencies - 1 AM, 1 SW, and 3 FM; LNR's AM and FM programs are relayed via satellite constituting a large part of the programming schedules of the provincial radio stations; Thai radio broadcasts available in border areas and transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are also accessible (2012)
    1,532 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 166
    300,000 (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 130

Transportation ::Laos

    41 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 103
    total: 8
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
    914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)
    total: 33
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
    914 to 1,523 m: 9
    under 914 m:
    22 (2013)
    refined products 540 km (2013)
    total: 39,568 km
    country comparison to the world: 91
    paved: 530 km
    unpaved: 39,038 km (2007)
    4,600 km (primarily on the Mekong River and its tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m) (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 24

Military ::Laos

    Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2011)
    18 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; conscript service obligation - minimum 18-months (2012)
    males age 16-49: 1,574,362
    females age 16-49: 1,607,856 (2010 est.)
    males age 16-49: 1,111,629
    females age 16-49: 1,190,035 (2010 est.)
    male: 71,400
    female: 73,038 (2010 est.)
    0.2% of GDP (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 168
    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)

Transnational Issues ::Laos

    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 River Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River and its tributaries will affect water levels; Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned about Laos' extensive upstream dam construction
    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)