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  • 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

  • Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
    18 00 N, 105 00 E
    Southeast Asia
    total: 236,800 sq km
    land: 230,800 sq km
    water: 6,000 sq km
    slightly larger than Utah
    total: 5,274 km
    border countries (5): Burma 238 km, Cambodia 555 km, China 475 km, Thailand 1,845 km, Vietnam 2,161 km
    0 km (landlocked)
    none (landlocked)
    tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
    mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
    lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
    highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m
    timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
    agricultural land: 10.6%
    arable land 6.2%; permanent crops 0.7%; permanent pasture 3.7%
    forest: 67.9%
    other: 21.5% (2011 est.)
    3,100 sq km (2005)
    333.5 cu km (2011)
    total: 3.49 cu km/yr (4%/5%/91%)
    per capita: 588.9 cu m/yr (2005)
    floods, droughts
    unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
    landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
  • People and Society :: LAOS

  • noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
    adjective: Lao or Laotian
    Lao 54.6%, Khmou 10.9%, Hmong 8%, Tai 3.8%, Phuthai 3.3%, Leu 2.2%, Katang 2.1%, Makong 2.1%, Akha 1.6%, other 10.4%, unspecified 1% (2005 est.)
    Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages
    Buddhist 66.8%, Christian 1.5%, other 31%, unspecified 0.7% (2005 est.)
    6,803,699 (July 2014 est.)
    0-14 years: 34.8% (male 1,195,364/female 1,173,520)
    15-24 years: 21.3% (male 719,205/female 728,729)
    25-54 years: 35% (male 1,176,018/female 1,208,452)
    55-64 years: 5.1% (male 169,291/female 175,815)
    65 years and over: 3.8% (male 116,299/female 141,006) (2014 est.)
    population pyramid:
    total dependency ratio: 62.6%
    youth dependency ratio: 56.4%
    elderly dependency ratio: 6.2%
    potential support ratio: 16.1% (2014 est.)
    total: 22 years
    male: 21.7 years
    female: 22.3 years (2014 est.)
    1.59% (2014 est.)
    24.76 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    7.74 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    -1.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    urban population: 37.6% of total population (2014)
    rate of urbanization: 4.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    VIENTIANE (capital) 946,000 (2014)
    at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
    total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
    220 deaths/100,000 live births (2013 est.)
    total: 54.53 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 60.19 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 48.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
    total population: 63.51 years
    male: 61.54 years
    female: 65.56 years (2014 est.)
    2.9 children born/woman (2014 est.)
    49.8% (2011/12)
    2% of GDP (2013)
    0.18 physicians/1,000 population (2012)
    1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)
    urban: 83.7% of population
    rural: 64.9% of population
    total: 71.5% of population
    urban: 16.3% of population
    rural: 35.1% of population
    total: 28.5% of population (2012 est.)
    urban: 90.4% of population
    rural: 50.5% of population
    total: 64.6% of population
    urban: 9.6% of population
    rural: 49.5% of population
    total: 35.4% of population (2012 est.)
    0.15% (2013 est.)
    5,800 (2013 est.)
    100 (2013 est.)
    degree of risk: very high
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
    vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
    note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2013)
    3% (2014)
    26.5% (2012)
    2.8% of GDP (2010)
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 79.9%
    male: 87.1%
    female: 72.8% (2015 est.)
    total: 11 years
    male: 11 years
    female: 10 years (2013)
    total number: 175,138
    percentage: 11% (2006 est.)
  • 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)
    17 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, Xaimsomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhouang
    19 July 1949 (from France)
    Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
    previous 1947 (preindependence); latest promulgated 13-15 August 1991; amended 2003 (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); Deputy Prime Ministers SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), THONGLOUN Sisoulit (Since 27 March 2001), Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), BOUNPON Bouttanavong (since July 2014), and PHANKHAM Viphavan (since July 2014)
    cabinet: ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly
    elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held 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
    edescription: unicameral National Assembly or Sapha Heng Xat (132 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote from candidate lists provided by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party; members serve 5-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; judge tenure 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 (empty); Charge d'Affaires Khen SOMBANDITH (since 13 May 2015)
    chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
    FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923
    consulate(s): New York
    chief of mission: Ambassador David A. CLUNE (since 16 September 2013)
    embassy: Thadeua Road, Kilometer 9, Ban Somvang Thai, Haysatfong District, Vientiane
    mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, Unit 8165, APO AP 96546
    telephone: [856] 21-48-7000
    FAX: [856] 21-48-7190
    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
    elephant; national colors: red, white, blue
    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 has more recently been amongst the fastest in Asia and averaged nearly 8% per year for the last decade. 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 to 83% of the population. 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 25% of GDP and 73% 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 dams along the Mekong river, copper and gold mining, logging, and construction though some projects in these industries have drawn criticism for their environmental impacts. The strength of the natural resources and hydropower sectors has masked ongoing problems with the business environment that would have otherwise constrained growth. These problems include onerous registration requirements, a gap between legislation and implementation, and unclear or conflicting business regulations. Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004 and applied for Generalized System of Preferences trade benefits in 2013 after being admitted to the World Trade Organization earlier in the year. Laos is in the process of implementing a value-added tax system. 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 foreign investors and has developed special economic zones replete with generous tax incentives, but a small labor pool of both skilled and unskilled workers remains an impediment to investment. Laos broadly appears to be on target to graduate from the UN Development Program's list of least-developed countries by 2020, and the country is preparing for implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of 2015 and for the rotating ASEAN chairmanship in 2016.
    $34.48 billion (2014 est.)
    $32.12 billion (2013 est.)
    $29.73 billion (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2014 US dollars
    $11.71 billion (2014 est.)
    7.4% (2014 est.)
    8% (2013 est.)
    7.9% (2012 est.)
    $5,000 (2014 est.)
    $4,700 (2013 est.)
    $4,500 (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2013 US dollars
    country comparison to the world: 166
    32.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
    29.5% of GDP (2013 est.)
    27.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    household consumption: 69.6%
    government consumption: 13.9%
    investment in fixed capital: 39.1%
    investment in inventories: 0%
    exports of goods and services: 37.3%
    imports of goods and services: -59.9%
    (2014 est.)
    agriculture: 23.7%
    industry: 32.2%
    services: 44.1% (2014 est.)
    sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; cassava (manioc, tapioca), water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
    mining (copper, tin, gold, gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism
    9% (2014 est.)
    3.445 million (2014 est.)
    agriculture: 73.1%
    industry: 6.1%
    services: 20.6% (2012 est.)
    1.3% (2012 est.)
    1.9% (2010 est.)
    22% (2013 est.)
    lowest 10%: 3.3%
    highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)
    36.7 (2008)
    34.6 (2002)
    revenues: $2.742 billion
    expenditures: $3.297 billion (2014 est.)
    23.4% of GDP (2014 est.)
    -4.7% of GDP (2014 est.)
    46.2% of GDP (2014 est.)
    46.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
    1 October - 30 September
    4.7% (2014 est.)
    6.4% (2013 est.)
    4.3% (31 December 2010)
    4% (31 December 2009)
    24.5% (31 December 2014 est.)
    23.2% (31 December 2013 est.)
    $1.629 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $1.414 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $5.411 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $5.141 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $5.157 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $4.665 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $1.012 billion (2012 est.)
    $576.8 million (2011)
    $-811.8 million (2014 est.)
    $-593 million (2013 est.)
    $2.791 billion (2014 est.)
    $2.448 billion (2013 est.)
    wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold, cassava
    Thailand 33.3%, China 25.1%, Vietnam 11.5% (2013)
    $4.074 billion (2014 est.)
    $3.452 billion (2013 est.)
    machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
    Thailand 56%, China 26.1%, Vietnam 6.7% (2013)
    $845.8 million (31 December 2014 est.)
    $664 million (31 December 2013 est.)
    $7.52 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $6.861 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $15.14 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    $12.44 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    kips (LAK) per US dollar -
    8,052 (2014 est.)
    7,852.7 (2013 est.)
    8,007.3 (2012 est.)
    8,035.1 (2011 est.)
    8,258.8 (2010 est.)
  • Energy :: LAOS

  • 12.24 billion kWh (2011 est.)
    2.4 billion kWh (2012 est.)
    2.537 billion kWh (2013 est.)
    1 billion kWh (2011 est.)
    3.217 million kW (2013 est.)
    1.9% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    98.1% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    3,520 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    3,160 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    1.623 million Mt (2012 est.)
  • Communications :: LAOS

  • 112,000 (2012)
    6.492 million (2012)
    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)
    AM 3, FM 34, shortwave 3 (2010)
    28 (2010)
    1,532 (2012)
    300,000 (2009)
  • Transportation :: LAOS

  • 41 (2013)
    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
    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)
  • 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.)
    NA% (2012)
    0.23% of GDP (2011)
    NA% (2010)
    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; there is no perceived external threat to the state and the LPA maintains strong ties with the neighboring Vietnamese military (2012)
  • 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
    current situation: Laos is a source and, to a lesser extent, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Lao economic migrants may encounter conditions of forced labor or sexual exploitation in destination countries, most often Thailand; Lao women and girls are exploited in Thailand’s commercial sex trade, domestic service, factories, and agriculture; Lao men and boys are victims of forced labor in the Thai fishing, construction, and agriculture industries; some Vietnamese and Chinese women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Laos while others are trafficked through Laos to neighboring countries, particularly Thailand; some Lao adults and children are subject to sex and labor exploitation domestically
    tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; authorities sustained moderate efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; the government failed to identify victims exploited within the country or among those deported from abroad; the government relies almost entirely on local and international organizations to implement its anti-trafficking programs, including providing assistance to trafficking victims (2014)
    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 (2009)