Photos of Laos

Nagas (serpent deities) adorn the staircase on the west side of Phou Si in the center of Louangphrabang, the former royal capital of 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.

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, is providing 70% of the funding for a $5.9 billion, 400-km railway line between the Chinese border and the capital Vientiane, which is set for completion in 2021. Laos is financing 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.

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



Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates

18 00 N, 105 00 E

Map references

Southeast Asia


total: 236,800 sq km

land: 230,800 sq km

water: 6,000 sq km

country comparison to the world: 84

Area - comparative

about twice the size of Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Utah

<p>about twice the size of Pennsylvania; slightly larger than Utah</p>

Land boundaries

total: 5,274 km

border countries (5): Burma 238 km, Cambodia 555 km, China 475 km, Thailand 1845 km, Vietnam 2161 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)


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


mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus


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

3,100 sq km (2012)

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


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


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:


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: 31.25% (male 1,177,297/female 1,149,727)

15-24 years: 20.6% (male 763,757/female 770,497)

25-54 years: 38.29% (male 1,407,823/female 1,443,774)

55-64 years: 5.73% (male 206,977/female 219,833)

65 years and over: 4.13% (male 139,665/female 168,046) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Laos. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 56.8

youth dependency ratio: 50.1

elderly dependency ratio: 6.7

potential support ratio: 15 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 24 years

male: 23.7 years

female: 24.4 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Birth rate

22.74 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 57

Death rate

7.12 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 115

Net migration rate

-0.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 144

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


urban population: 36.9% of total population (2021)

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

Major urban areas - population

694,000 VIENTIANE (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

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: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

185 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Infant mortality rate

total: 49.48 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 55.75 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 42.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 66 years

male: 63.83 years

female: 68.26 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 195

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 94.4% of population

rural: 76.8% of population

total: 82.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 5.6% of population

rural: 23.2% of population

total: 17.9% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.37 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 98% of population

rural: 66.3% of population

total: 77.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 2% of population

rural: 33.7% of population

total: 22.8% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<500 (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

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

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 84.7%

male: 90%

female: 79.4% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 10 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 18.2%

male: 20.8%

female: 15.5% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 80


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

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 24.49 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 17.76 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 9 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 130 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 170 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 7.02 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

333.5 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


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.)


urban population: 36.9% of total population (2021)

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

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

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

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria

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.)


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)

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

Government type

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)

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, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhouang


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)


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 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


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 22 March 2021); Vice President PANI Yathotou; Vice President BOUNTHONG Chitmani (since 22 March 2021)

head of government: Prime Minister PHANKHAM Viphavan (since 22 March 2021); Deputy Prime Ministers CHANSAMON Chan-gnalat, SONXAI Siphandon, KIKEO Khaikhamphithoun (since 22 March 2021)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president, 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; prime minister nominated by the president, elected by the National Assembly for 5-year term

election results: THONGLOUN Sisoulit (LPRP) elected president; National Assembly vote: 161-1; PANI Yathotou and BOUNTHONG Chitmani (LPRP) elected vice presidents; National Assembly vote NA; PHANKHAM Viphavan (LPRP) elected prime minister; National Assembly vote: 158-3

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 - men 128, women 36, percent of women 21.9%

Judicial branch

highest courts: 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 [BOUNNYANG Vorachit]; Prime Minister THONGLOUN Sisoulit elected general secretary in mid-January 2021

note: other parties proscribed

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador KHAMPHAN Anlavan (since 21 July 2019)

chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 328-9148; [1] (202) 332-6416

FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923

email address and website:;

consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Peter HAYMOND (since 7 February 2020)

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:

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


Economic overview

The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. Economic growth averaged more than 6% per year in the period 1988-2008, and Laos' growth has more recently been amongst the fastest in Asia, averaging more than 7% per year for most of the last decade.

Nevertheless, 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. Agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 20% of GDP and 73% of total employment. Recently, the country has faced a persistent current account deficit, falling foreign currency reserves, and growing public debt.

Laos' economy is heavily dependent on capital-intensive natural resource exports. The economy has benefited from high-profile foreign direct investment in hydropower dams along the Mekong River, copper and gold mining, logging, and construction, although some projects in these industries have drawn criticism for their environmental impacts.

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 held the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2016. Laos is in the process of implementing a value-added tax system. 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 limited labor pool, a small domestic market, and corruption remain impediments to investment. Laos also has ongoing problems with the business environment, including onerous registration requirements, a gap between legislation and implementation, and unclear or conflicting regulations.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$56.11 billion (2019 est.)

$53.616 billion (2018 est.)

$50.463 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 110

Real GDP growth rate

6.9% (2017 est.)

7% (2016 est.)

7.3% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 19

Real GDP per capita

$7,826 (2019 est.)

$7,593 (2018 est.)

$7,258 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 153

GDP (official exchange rate)

$16.97 billion (2017 est.)

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: CCC (2020)

Moody's rating: Caa2 (2020)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 20.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 33.2% (2017 est.)

services: 45.9% (2017 est.)

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


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

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 73.1%

industry: 6.1%

services: 20.6% (2012 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.3%

highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)


revenues: 3.099 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 4.038 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

63.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

58.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 65

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Current account balance

-$2.057 billion (2017 est.)

-$2.07 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167


$3.654 billion (2017 est.)

$2.705 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Exports - partners

Thailand 36%, China 28%, Vietnam 16% (2019)

Exports - commodities

electricity, copper, rubber, gold, flavored water (2019)


$4.976 billion (2017 est.)

$4.739 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 140

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

$1.27 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$940.1 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Debt - external

$14.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$12.9 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 103

Exchange rates

kips (LAK) per US dollar -

8,231.1 (2017 est.)

8,129.1 (2016 est.)

8,129.1 (2015 est.)

8,147.9 (2014 est.)

8,049 (2013 est.)


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 95% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 98% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 93% (2019)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 1,490,831

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 20.28 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 64

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,362,183

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 59.33 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 127

Telecommunication systems

general assessment:

reliance on radio network to communicate with remote areas; regulatory reform is below industry standards; government aims to strengthen infrastructure and attract foreign investment; low fixed-broadband penetration; dominance in mobile broadband with 4G and LTE, but low compared to other Asian markets; ASEAN Digital Hub investment provides international capacity; state owns almost all media, except for some entertainment outlets, and has suppressed some news; importer of broadcasting equipment and computers from China; providers examining m-payment platforms and 5G tests (2021)


domestic: fixed-line 21 per 100 and 61 per 100 for mobile-cellular subscriptions (2019)

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

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

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: 1,845,437

percent of population: 25.51% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 124

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 45,379

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 140


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 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 8

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 33

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 9

under 914 m: 22 (2013)


540 km refined products (2013)


total: 39,586 km (2009)

paved: 5,415 km (2009)

unpaved: 34,171 km (2009)

country comparison to the world: 90


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: 23

Merchant marine

total: 1

by type: general cargo 1 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 179

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA, includes Riverine Force), Air Force, Self-Defense Militia Forces (2021)

Military expenditures

0.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

0.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

0.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

0.2% of GDP (2014 est.)

0.2% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 165

Military and security service personnel strengths

information is limited and estimates for the size of the Lao People’s Armed Forces (LPAF) vary; approximately 30,000 active duty troops (26,000 Army; 4000 Air Force) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the LPAF is armed largely with weapons from the former Soviet Union; since 2010, China and Russia are the leading suppliers of military equipment to Laos (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; conscript service obligation - minimum 18 months (2019)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; talks continue on completion of demarcation with Thailand but disputes remain over islands in the Mekong River; Cambodia and Laos have a longstanding border demarcation dispute; 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; Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned about Laos' extensive plans for upstream dam construction for the same reasons

Illicit drugs

estimated opium poppy cultivation in 2015 was estimated to be 5,700 hectares, compared with 6,200 hectares in 2014; estimated potential production of between 84 and 176 mt of raw opium; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem