Photos of Laos

Introduction

Background

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

In the 2010s, the country benefited from direct foreign investment, particularly in the natural resource and industry sectors. Construction of a number of large hydropower dams and expanding mining activities have also boosted the economy. Laos has retained its official commitment to communism and maintains close ties with its two communist neighbors, Vietnam and China, both of which continue to exert substantial political and economic influence on the country. China, for example, provided 70% of the funding for a $5.9 billion, 400-km railway line between the Chinese border and the capital Vientiane, which opened for operations in December 2021. Laos financed the remaining 30% with loans from China. At the same time, Laos has expanded its economic reliance on the West and other Asian countries, such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. In 2023, Lao households faced the highest inflation in almost a quarter century, with year-on-year inflation reaching 40% early in the year.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates

18 00 N, 105 00 E

Map references

Southeast Asia

Area

total: 236,800 sq km

land: 230,800 sq km

water: 6,000 sq km

comparison ranking: total 84

Area - comparative

about twice the size of Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Utah

Area comparison map:
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 5,274 km

border countries (5): Burma 238 km; Cambodia 555 km; China 475 km; Thailand 1,845 km; Vietnam 2,161 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

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

Terrain

mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

Elevation

highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m

lowest point: Mekong River 70 m

mean elevation: 710 m

Natural resources

timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Land use

agricultural land: 10.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 6.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 67.9% (2018 est.)

other: 21.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

4,409 sq km (2020)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Mènam Khong (Mekong) (shared with China [s], Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam [m]) - 4,350 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Pacific Ocean drainage: Mekong (805,604 sq km)

Population distribution

most densely populated area is in and around the capital city of Vientiane; large communities are primarily found along the Mekong River along the southwestern border; overall density is considered one of the lowest in Southeast Asia

Natural hazards

floods, droughts

Geography - note

landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand

People and Society

Population

7,852,377 (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 103

Nationality

noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)

adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups

Lao 53.2%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 9.2%, Phouthay 3.4%, Tai 3.1%, Makong 2.5%, Katong 2.2%, Lue 2%, Akha 1.8%, other 11.6% (2015 est.)

note: the Laos Government officially recognizes 49 ethnic groups, but the total number of ethnic groups is estimated to be well over 200

Languages

Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

major-language sample(s):
ແຫລ່ງທີ່ຂາດບໍ່ໄດ້ສຳລັບຂໍ້ມູນຕົ້ນຕໍ່” (Lao)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Lao audio sample:

Religions

Buddhist 64.7%, Christian 1.7%, none 31.4%, other/not stated 2.1% (2015 est.)

Demographic profile

Laos is a predominantly rural country with a youthful population – almost 55% of the population is under the age of 25.  Its progress on health and development issues has been uneven geographically, among ethnic groups, and socioeconomically.  Laos has made headway in poverty reduction, with the poverty rate almost halving from 46% in 1992/93 to 22% in 2012/13.  Nevertheless, pronounced rural-urban disparities persist, and income inequality is rising.  Poverty most affects populations in rural and highland areas, particularly ethnic minority groups. 

The total fertility rate (TFR) has decreased markedly from around 6 births per woman on average in 1990 to approximately 2.8 in 2016, but it is still one of the highest in Southeast Asia.  TFR is higher in rural and remote areas, among ethnic minority groups, the less-educated, and the poor; it is lower in urban areas and among the more educated and those with higher incomes.  Although Laos’ mortality rates have improved substantially over the last few decades, the maternal mortality rate and childhood malnutrition remain at high levels.  As fertility and mortality rates continue to decline, the proportion of Laos’ working-age population will increase, and its share of dependents will shrink.  The age structure shift will provide Laos with the potential to realize a demographic dividend during the next few decades, if it can improve educational access and quality and gainfully employ its growing working-age population in productive sectors.  Currently, Laos primary school enrollment is nearly universal, but the drop-out rate remains problematic.  Secondary school enrollment has also increased but remains low, especially for girls. 

Laos has historically been a country of emigration and internal displacement due to conflict and a weak economy. The Laos civil war (1953 – 1975) mainly caused internal displacement (numbering in the hundreds of thousands).  Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, indigenous people in remote, war-struck areas were resettled and more than 300,000 people fled to Thailand to escape the communist regime that took power.  The majority of those who sought refuge in Thailand ultimately were resettled in the US (mainly Hmong who fought with US forces), and lesser numbers went to France, Canada, and Australia. 

The Laos Government carried out resettlement programs between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s to relocate ethnic minority groups from the rural northern highlands to development areas in the lowlands ostensibly to alleviate poverty, make basic services more accessible, eliminate slash-and-burn agriculture and opium production, integrate ethnic minorities, and control rebel groups (including Hmong insurgents).  For many, however, resettlement has exacerbated poverty, led to the loss of livelihoods, and increased food insecurity and mortality rates.  As the resettlement programs started to wane in the second half of the 1990s, migration from the northern highlands to urban centers – chiefly the capital Vientiane – to pursue better jobs in the growing manufacturing and service sectors became the main type of relocation.  Migration of villagers from the south seeking work in neighboring Thailand also increased.  Thailand is the main international migration destination for Laotians because of the greater availability of jobs and higher pay than at home; nearly a million Laotian migrants were estimated to live in Thailand as of 2015.

Age structure

0-14 years: 30.63% (male 1,218,731/female 1,186,156)

15-64 years: 64.73% (male 2,527,643/female 2,555,029)

65 years and over: 4.65% (2023 est.) (male 169,142/female 195,676)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.7

youth dependency ratio: 48

elderly dependency ratio: 6.7

potential support ratio: 14.8 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 25 years (2023 est.)

male: 24.6 years

female: 25.3 years

comparison ranking: total 168

Population growth rate

1.3% (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 74

Birth rate

20.4 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 69

Death rate

6.3 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 145

Net migration rate

-1.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 150

Population distribution

most densely populated area is in and around the capital city of Vientiane; large communities are primarily found along the Mekong River along the southwestern border; overall density is considered one of the lowest in Southeast Asia

Urbanization

urban population: 38.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.99% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

721,000 VIENTIANE (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

126 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 60

Infant mortality rate

total: 36.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 40.4 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 32.6 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 36

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.6 years (2023 est.)

male: 67 years

female: 70.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 185

Total fertility rate

2.3 children born/woman (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 79

Gross reproduction rate

1.13 (2023 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 97.1% of population

rural: 84.1% of population

total: 88.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.9% of population

rural: 15.9% of population

total: 11.2% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

2.7% of GDP (2020)

Physicians density

0.35 physicians/1,000 population (2020)

Hospital bed density

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 72% of population

total: 82.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 28% of population

total: 17.8% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2023)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and sexually transmitted diseases: hepatitis B (2024)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

5.3% (2016)

comparison ranking: 179

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 8.15 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 3.62 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.07 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 4.46 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 42

Tobacco use

total: 31.8% (2020 est.)

male: 53.3% (2020 est.)

female: 10.3% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 21

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

21.1% (2017)

comparison ranking: 13

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 7.1%

women married by age 18: 32.7%

men married by age 18: 10.8% (2017 est.)

Education expenditures

2.3% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 179

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 87.1%

male: 91.4%

female: 81.4% (2021)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 10 years

male: 10 years

female: 10 years (2020)

Environment

Environment - current issues

unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; loss of biodiversity; water pollution, most of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Climate

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

Land use

agricultural land: 10.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 6.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 3.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 67.9% (2018 est.)

other: 21.5% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 38.2% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.99% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

1.48% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 44

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 21.15 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 17.76 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 9 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 351,900 tons (2015 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 35,190 tons (2015 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 10% (2015 est.)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Mènam Khong (Mekong) (shared with China [s], Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam [m]) - 4,350 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Pacific Ocean drainage: Mekong (805,604 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 130 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 170 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 7.05 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

333.5 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic

conventional short form: Laos 

local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao

local short form: Mueang Lao (unofficial)

abbreviation: Lao PDR

etymology: name means "Land of the Lao [people]"

Government type

communist state

Capital

name: Vientiane (Viangchan)

geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E

time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the meaning in Pali, a Buddhist liturgical language, is "city of sandalwood"

Administrative divisions

17 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 prefecture* (kampheng nakhon); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxay, Champasak, Houaphanh, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang (Luang Prabang), Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhouang

Independence

19 July 1949 (from France by the Franco-Lao General Convention); 22 October 1953 (Franco-Lao Treaty recognizes full independence)

National holiday

Republic Day (National Day), 2 December (1975)

Constitution

history: previous 1947 (preindependence); latest promulgated 13-15 August 1991

amendments: proposed by the National Assembly; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly membership and promulgation by the president of the republic; amended 2003, 2015

Legal system

civil law system similar in form to the French system

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Laos

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President THONGLOUN Sisoulith (since 22 March 2021); Vice Presidents PANY Yathotou and BOUNTHONG Chitmany (since 22 March 2021)

head of government: Prime Minister SONEXAY Siphandon (since 30 December 2022)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president and approved by the National Assembly

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 22 March 2021 (next to be held in March 2026); prime minister nominated by the president, elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term

election results:
2021:
THONGLOUN Sisoulith elected president; National Assembly vote - THONGLOUN Sisoulith (LPRP) 161-1; PANY Yathotou and BOUNTHONG Chitmany (LPRP) elected vice presidents; National Assembly vote - NA; PHANKHAM Viphavanh (LPRP) elected prime minister; National Assembly vote - 158-3

2016: BOUNNHANG Vorachit (LPRP) elected president; PHANKHAM Viphavanh (LPRP) elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA; THONGLOUN Sisoulith (LPRP) elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - NA

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Sapha Heng Xat (164 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 21 February 2021 (next to be held in 2026)

election results:
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 158, independent 6; composition as of February 2024 - men 128, women 36, percentage women 22%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): People's Supreme Court (consists of the court president and organized into criminal, civil, administrative, commercial, family, and juvenile chambers, each with a vice president and several judges)

judge selection and term of office: president of People's Supreme Court appointed by the National Assembly upon the recommendation of the president of the republic for a 5-year term; vice presidents of the People's Supreme Court appointed by the president of the republic upon the recommendation of the National Assembly; appointment of chamber judges NA; tenure of court vice presidents and chamber judges NA

subordinate courts: appellate courts; provincial, municipal, district, and military courts

Political parties and leaders

Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [THONGLOUN Sisoulith]

note: other parties proscribed

International organization participation

ADB, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sisavath INPHACHANH (since 7 June 2022)

chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416

FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923

email address and website:
embasslao@gmail.com

https://laoembassy.com/

consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Chargé d’Affaires Michelle OUTLAW (since August 2023)

embassy: Ban Somvang Tai, Thadeua Road, Km 9, Hatsayfong District, Vientiane

mailing address: 4350 Vientiane Place, Washington DC  20521-4350

telephone: [856] 21-48-7000

FAX: [856] 21-48-7040

email address and website:
CONSLAO@state.gov

https://la.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

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

National symbol(s)

elephant; national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

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

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 3 (all cultural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Town of Luangphrabang; Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements; Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhuang - Plain of Jars

Economy

Economic overview

lower middle-income, socialist Southeast Asian economy; one of the fastest growing economies; declining but still high poverty; natural resource rich; new anticorruption efforts; already high and growing public debt; service sector hit hard by COVID-19

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$59.842 billion (2022 est.)
$58.264 billion (2021 est.)
$56.827 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 109

Real GDP growth rate

2.71% (2022 est.)
2.53% (2021 est.)
0.5% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 146

Real GDP per capita

$7,900 (2022 est.)
$7,800 (2021 est.)
$7,800 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 154

GDP (official exchange rate)

$15.469 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

22.96% (2022 est.)
3.76% (2021 est.)
5.1% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 202

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: CCC (2020)

Moody's rating: Caa2 (2020)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 20.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 33.2% (2017 est.)

services: 45.9% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 195; industry 56; agriculture 44

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 63.7% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 14.1% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 30.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 3.1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 34.6% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -43.2% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

rice, roots/tubers nes, cassava, sugar cane, vegetables, bananas, maize, watermelons, coffee, taro

Industries

mining (copper, tin, gold, gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism

Industrial production growth rate

3.34% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 106

Labor force

3.106 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 106

Unemployment rate

3.82% (2022 est.)
4.15% (2021 est.)
3.86% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 74

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 3.3% (2021 est.)

male: 3.4%

female: 3.2%

comparison ranking: total 196

Population below poverty line

18.3% (2018 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

38.8 (2018 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 61

Average household expenditures

on food: 50% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

on alcohol and tobacco: 10.5% of household expenditures (2018 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3%

highest 10%: 31.2% (2018 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population

Remittances

1.28% of GDP (2022 est.)
1.17% of GDP (2021 est.)
1.22% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $2.896 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $3.839 billion (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-5.5% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 173

Public debt

63.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
58.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 68

Taxes and other revenues

18.3% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 100

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Current account balance

-$10.954 million (2022 est.)
$446.505 million (2021 est.)
-$230.973 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 71

Exports

$8.604 billion (2022 est.)
$7.82 billion (2021 est.)
$6.461 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 120

Exports - partners

Thailand 33%, China 27%, Vietnam 13%, Australia 8%, Switzerland 3% (2021)

Exports - commodities

electricity, gold, paper, copper, rubber, flavored water (2021)

Imports

$7.772 billion (2022 est.)
$6.527 billion (2021 est.)
$5.816 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 130

Imports - partners

Thailand 53%, China 26%, Vietnam 10% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, cattle, iron structures, steel products (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$1.216 billion (2022 est.)
$1.476 billion (2021 est.)
$1.393 billion (2020 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 136

Debt - external

$14.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$12.9 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 103

Exchange rates

kips (LAK) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
14,035.227 (2022 est.)
9,697.916 (2021 est.)
9,045.788 (2020 est.)
8,679.409 (2019 est.)
8,401.335 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 9.346 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 5,108,640,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 24.114 billion kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 1.345 billion kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 2.262 billion kWh (2019 est.)

comparison rankings: installed generating capacity 68; transmission/distribution losses 133; imports 67; exports 8; consumption 124

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 35.6% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 64.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 16.04 million metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 15.823 million metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 235,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 18,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 503 million metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 19,300 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 111

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 166

Refined petroleum products - imports

17,460 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 131

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

40.726 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 37.871 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 2.855 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 63

Energy consumption per capita

73.187 million Btu/person (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 81

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 1,300,195 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 18 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 62

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,822,973 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 65 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 124

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Laos joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013; one of the conditions of admittance was to establish an independent regulator for its telecom sector within two years; the government had committed to do so by February 2015 as part of the accession agreement; there still has been no sign of any firm plans being made to create an independent regulatory body; the Ministry of Technology and Communications retains the primary role in regulating the country’s telecom market; with the government also having a financial stake (in part or in whole) in every one of the major fixed-line and mobile operators, the MPT’s position and decision-making is far from what could be considered independent; sufficient returns on investment cannot be guaranteed with such strict pricing controls as well as the potential for political interference; fixed-line and mobile penetration levels have, as a result, remained much lower than what’s seen in neighboring South East Asian markets; there are signs of growth in the mobile broadband segment as LTE network coverage slowly widens and, more recently, the country’s first 5G services start to come on stream; residents in the capital will at least be able to enjoy high-speed services in the near future, while the rest of the country waits patiently to catch up with the rest of the world. (2022)

domestic: fixed-line nearly 18 per 100 and 65 per 100 for mobile-cellular subscriptions (2021)

international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) and a second to be developed by China

Broadcast media

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

Internet users

total: 4.588 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 62% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 103

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 128,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 126

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 12

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,251,961 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1.53 million (2018) mt-km

Airports

18 (2024)

comparison ranking: 142

Pipelines

540 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 422 km (2023)

standard gauge: 422 km (2023) 1.435-m gauge (422 km overhead electrification)

comparison ranking: total 120

Roadways

total: 59,647 km

paved: 13,718 km

unpaved: 45,929 km (2024)

comparison ranking: total 80

Waterways

4,600 km (2012) (primarily on the Mekong River and its tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m)

comparison ranking: 26

Merchant marine

total: 1 (2023)

by type: general cargo 1

comparison ranking: total 184

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA, includes Riverine Force), Lao People's Air Force (LPAF), Self-Defense Militia Forces (2024)

note: the Ministry of Public Security maintains internal security and is responsible for law enforcement; it oversees local, traffic, immigration, and security police, village police auxiliaries, and other armed police units

Military expenditures

0.2% of GDP (2019 est.)
0.2% of GDP (2018 est.)
0.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
0.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
0.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 166

Military and security service personnel strengths

limited and varied information; estimated 30,000 active-duty troops (26,000 Army; 4,000 Air Force) (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the LPAF is armed largely with Soviet-era weapons; in recent years, China and Russia have been the leading suppliers of military equipment to Laos (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; minimum 18-month service obligation (2023)

Military - note

the LPAF’s primary missions are border and internal security, including counterinsurgency and counterterrorism; the Army is organized into a few small divisions and independent regiments deployed around the country in four military regions; the Army is supported by a self-defense militia, which is estimated to be 100,000 strong; the small Air Force does not have any combat aircraft

Vietnam is the military's primary security partner, although in recent years, Laos has expanded defense ties with China and Russia (2023)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Laos-Burma: none identified

Laos-Cambodia: in 2021, the two countries agreed to increase efforts to combat drug trafficking and other transnational crimes and to complete the last 14% of their border demarcation

Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam: Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned about Laos' extensive plans for upstream dam construction and the potential harm it poses to fisheries and farming downstream

Laos-China: concern among Mekong River Commission members that China's construction of eight dams on the Upper Mekong River and construction of more dams on its tributaries will affect water levels, sediment flows, and fisheries

Laos-Thailand: talks continue as of 2018 on completion of demarcation with Thailand but disputes remain over islands in the Mekong River

Laos-Vietnam: Laos and Vietnam completed border demarcation in 2016

 

 

Illicit drugs

Laos remains a key transit route for drug trafficking and the movement of precursor chemicals; opium produced is typically smuggled out of the country and refined elsewhere and not trafficked in significant quantities to the United States