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  Laos  
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This page was last updated on 15 November, 2007


Map of Laos



Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    Laos Top of Page
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 three hundred years Lan Xang included large parts of present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the control 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 return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.

 

  
   Geography    Laos Top of Page
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
Area - comparative:

slightly larger than Utah
Land boundaries:

total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 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 extremes:

lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources:

timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use:

arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
Irrigated land:

1,750 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:

floods, droughts
Environment - current issues:

unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment - international agreements:

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
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    Laos Top of Page
Population:

6,521,998 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure:

0-14 years: 41.2% (male 1,349,352/female 1,338,252)
15-64 years: 55.7% (male 1,795,029/female 1,835,168)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 90,188/female 114,009) (2007 est.)
Median age:

total: 19 years
male: 18.7 years
female: 19.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate:

2.37% (2007 est.)
Birth rate:

34.98 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate:

11.28 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.008 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.978 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.791 male(s)/female
total population: 0.984 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate:

total: 81.44 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 90.91 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 71.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 55.89 years
male: 53.82 years
female: 58.04 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate:

4.59 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

1,700 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality:

noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian
Ethnic groups:

Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong and the Yao 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%
Religions:

Buddhist 65%, animist 32.9%, Christian 1.3%, other and unspecified 0.8% (1995 census)
Languages:

Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
Literacy:

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 68.7%
male: 77%
female: 60.9% (2001 est.)
   Government    Laos Top of Page
Country name:

conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic
conventional short form: Laos
local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
local short form: none
Government type:

Communist state
Capital:

name: Vientiane
geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:

15 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural), 1 municipality* (kampheng nakhon, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xekong, Xiangkhoang
Independence:

19 July 1949 (from France)
National holiday:

Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
Constitution:

promulgated 14 August 1991
Legal system:

based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:

18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:

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 BOUASONE Bouphavanh (since 8 June 2006); Deputy Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), 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
elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister nominated by president and elected by National Assembly for five-year term
election results: CHOUMMALI Saignason elected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100%; BOUASONE Bouphavanh elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 97%
Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly (115 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 30 April 2006 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 113, independents 2
Judicial branch:

People's Supreme Court (the president of the People's Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the National Assembly Standing Committee; the vice president of the People's Supreme Court and the judges are appointed by the National Assembly Standing Committee)
Political parties and leaders:

Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders:

noncommunist political groups proscribed; most opposition leaders fled the country in 1975
International organization participation:

ACCT, APT, ARF, AsDB, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador PHIANE Philakone
chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923
Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Ravic R. HUSO
embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam Road, Vientiane
mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, Box V, APO AP 96546
telephone: [856] 21-26 7000
FAX: [856] 21-26 7074
Flag description:

three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band
   Economy    Laos Top of Page
Economy - overview:

The government of Laos, one of the few remaining official 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 in 1988-2006 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with a primitive infrastructure. It has no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications, though the government is sponsoring major improvements in the road system with possible support from Japan. Electricity is available in only a few urban areas. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about half of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid by the IMF and other international sources and from new foreign investment in hydropower and mining. Construction will be another strong economic driver, especially as hydroelectric dam and road projects gain steam. Several policy changes since 2004 may help spur growth. In late 2004, Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US, allowing Laos-based producers to benefit from lower tariffs on exports. Laos is taking steps to join the World Trade Organization in the next few years; the resulting trade policy reforms will improve the business environment. On the fiscal side, a value-added tax (VAT) regime, slated to begin in 2008, will streamline the government's inefficient tax system.
GDP (purchasing power parity):

$13.74 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):

$2.795 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:

8.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):

$2,200 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 42.7%
industry: 31%
services: 26.2% (2006 est.)
Labor force:

2.1 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate:

2.4% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line:

30.7% (2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 28.5% (2002)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:

34.6 (2002)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):

6.8% (2006 est.)
Budget:

revenues: $392.3 million
expenditures: $541.3 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:

sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
Industries:

copper, tin, and gypsum mining; timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction, garments, tourism, cement
Industrial production growth rate:

15.7% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:

1.715 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - consumption:

1.193 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports:

728 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:

326 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - consumption:

3,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:

NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:

NA bbl/day
Oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl
Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2005 est.)
Current account balance:

-$149 million (2006 est.)
Exports:

$655 million (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:

garments, wood products, coffee, electricity, tin
Exports - partners:

Thailand 41%, Vietnam 9.7%, China 4.1%, Malaysia 4% (2006)
Imports:

$922 million f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
Imports - partners:

Thailand 68.8%, China 11.3%, Vietnam 5.5% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient:

$379 million (2006 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$334.3 million (2006 est.)
Debt - external:

$3.179 billion (2006)
Currency (code):

kip (LAK)
Exchange rates:

kips per US dollar - 10,235 (2006), 10,820 (2005), 10,585.5 (2004), 10,569 (2003), 10,056.3 (2002)
Fiscal year:

1 October - 30 September
   Communications    Laos Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:

90,067 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular:

638,200 (2006)
Telephone system:

general assessment: service to general public is poor but improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas
domestic: radiotelephone communications
international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)
Radio broadcast stations:

AM 7, FM 14, shortwave 2 (2006)
Television broadcast stations:

7 (includes 1 station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi) (2006)
Internet country code:

.la
Internet hosts:

935 (2007)
Internet users:

25,000 (2005)
   Transportation    Laos Top of Page
Airports:

42 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways:

total: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 33
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 23 (2007)
Pipelines:

refined products 540 km (2006)
Roadways:

total: 31,210 km
paved: 4,494 km
unpaved: 26,716 km (2003)
Waterways:

4,600 km
note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2007)
Merchant marine:

total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT
by type: cargo 1 (2007)
   Military    Laos Top of Page
Military branches:

Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force
Military service age and obligation:

15 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum 18-month conscript service obligation (2006)
Manpower available for military service:

males age 15-49: 1,500,625
females age 15-49: 1,521,116 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:

males age 15-49: 954,816
females age 15-49: 1,006,082 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:

males age 18-49: 73,167
females age 15-49: 71,432 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:

0.5% (2006)
Military - note:

Laos is one of the world's least developed countries; the Lao People's Armed Forces are small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; there is little political will to allocate sparse funding to the military, and the armed forces' gradual degradation is likely to continue; the massive drug production and trafficking industry centered in the Golden Triangle makes Laos an important narcotics transit country, and armed Wa and Chinese smugglers are active on the Lao-Burma border (2005)
   Transnational Issues    Laos Top of Page
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; concern among Mekong Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River will affect water levels
Illicit drugs:

estimated opium poppy cultivation in 2005 was 5,600 hectares, about a 45% decrease from 2004; estimated potential opium production in 2005 was 28 metric tons, a significant decrease from 200 metric tons in 2003; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem

This page was last updated on 15 November, 2007


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