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Laos, See : Flags, Maps

Laos Folk-Lore of Farther India, Katherine Neville Fleeson

Laos Stamps 1951 - 1975

Laos (East & Southeast Asia)

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. In late 2009, Thailand returned to Laos about 3,000 Hmong residing in refugee camps.

Geography ::Laos


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 country comparison to the world: 83 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


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

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Mekong River 70 m

highest point: Phu 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)

Total renewable water resources:

333.6 cu km (2003)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)

per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)

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


6,368,162 (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 104

Age structure:

0-14 years: 40.8% (male 1,399,674/female 1,386,526)

15-64 years: 56.2% (male 1,900,638/female 1,938,165)

65 years and over: 3.1% (male 90,144/female 119,198) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 20.7 years

male: 20.4 years

female: 21 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.712% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 72

Birth rate:

26.57 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 55

Death rate:

8.28 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 95

Net migration rate:

-1.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population country comparison to the world: 160


urban population: 31% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 5.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 61.19 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 35 male: 67.36 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 54.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 62 years country comparison to the world: 181 male: 60.14 years

female: 63.94 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

3.22 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 56

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.2% (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 100

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

5,500 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 122

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

fewer than 100 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 140

Major infectious diseases:

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 (2008) (2009)


noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)

adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups:

Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26% (2005 census)


Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5% (2005 census)


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 73%

male: 83%

female: 63% (2005 Census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 9 years

male: 10 years

female: 9 years (2008)

Education expenditures:

2.3% of GDP (2008) country comparison to the world: 164

Government ::Laos

Country name:

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)

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)

Administrative divisions:

16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xekong, Xiangkhoang


19 July 1949 (from France)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 2 December (1975)


promulgated 14 August 1991; amended in 2003

Legal system:

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


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 THONGSING Thammavong (since 24
December 2010); Deputy Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since
May 2002), Lt. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit (since 8 June 2006), SOMSAVAT
Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27
March 2001)

cabinet: Ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held on 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); 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 - 100%; BOUASONE Bouphavanh elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 97%

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly (115 seats; members elected by popular vote from a list of candidates selected by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party to serve five-year terms)

elections: last held 30 on 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:

International organization participation:

IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU,
WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador SENG Soukhathivong

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 Karen B. STEWART

embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam, Vientiane

mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, APO AP 96546

telephone: [856] 21-26-7000
FAX: [856] 21-26-7190

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 Pathet Lao, as well as the country's bright future

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

Economy ::Laos

Economy - overview:

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. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. It has a rudimentary, but improving, road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications. Electricity is available in urban areas and in many rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 30% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The government in FY08/09 received $560 million from international donors. Economic growth has reduced official poverty rates from 46% in 1992 to 26% in 2009. The economy has benefited from high foreign investment in hydropower, mining, and construction. Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004, and is taking steps required to join the World Trade Organization, such as reforming import licensing. Related trade policy reforms will improve the business environment. On the fiscal side, Laos launched an effort to ensure the collection of taxes in 2009 as the global economic slowdown reduced revenues from mining projects. Simplified investment procedures and expanded bank credits for small farmers and small entrepreneurs will improve Lao's economic prospects. The government appears committed to raising the country's profile among investors. The World Bank has declared that Laos's goal of graduating from the UN Development Program's list of least-developed countries by 2020 is achievable. According Laotian officials, the 7th Socio-Economic Development Plan for 2011-15 will outline efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$15.42 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 135 $14.41 billion (2009 est.)

$13.53 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$6.341 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

7% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 24 6.5% (2009 est.)

7.2% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$2,400 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 180 $2,300 (2009 est.)

$2,200 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 29.8%

industry: 31.7%

services: 38.5% (2010 est.)

Labor force:

3.65 million (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 94

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 80%

industry and services: 20% (2009 est.)

Unemployment rate:

2.5% (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 21 2.4% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

26% (2009 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) country comparison to the world: 88 37 (1997)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

6.2% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 165 0% (2009 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

4.3% (31 December 2010) country comparison to the world: 108 4% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

26% (31 December 2010) country comparison to the world: 83 11% (30 November 2009)

Stock of narrow money:

$630 million (31 December 2010 est) country comparison to the world: 150 $691.1 million (31 December 2009)

Stock of broad money:

$1.818 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 144 $1.549 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$1.562 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 134 $1.095 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Industrial production growth rate:

12% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 9

Electricity - production:

1.656 billion kWh (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 137

Electricity - consumption:

1.798 billion kWh (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 137

Electricity - exports:

230 million kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - imports:

819.5 million kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 157

Oil - consumption:

3,000 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 179

Oil - exports:

0 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 187

Oil - imports:

3,080 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 168

Oil - proved reserves:

NA bbl (1 January 2010 est.)

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 168

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 122

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 165

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 154

Natural gas - proved reserves:

0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 156

Current account balance:

-$23 million (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 64 -$356 million (2009 est.)


$1.215 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 146 $1.104 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - commodities:

wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold

Exports - partners:

Thailand 29.18%, China 15.04%, Vietnam 14.96%, UK 4.29% (2009)


$1.504 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 161 $1.308 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods

Imports - partners:

Thailand 66.2%, China 11.45%, Vietnam 5.3% (2009)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$756 million (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 114 $712.4 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - external:

$3.085 billion (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 126 $3.179 billion (2006 est.)

Exchange rates:

kips (LAK) per US dollar - 8,320.27 (2010), 8,516.04 (2009), 8,760.69 (2008), 9,658 (2007), 10,235 (2006)

Communications ::Laos

Telephones - main lines in use:

132,200 (2009) country comparison to the world: 137

Telephones - mobile cellular:

3.235 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 111

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: multiple service providers; 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 (2008)

Broadcast media:

2 television stations operating out of Vientiane - 1 government-operated and the other jointly-owned by the government and a Thai company; roughly 15 provincial stations operating with nearly all programming relayed via satellite from the government-operated station in Vientiane; relays from Hanoi provide access to a Vietnamese television station; 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, 2 SW, and 2 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 (2008)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,468 (2010) country comparison to the world: 161

Internet users:

300,000 (2009) country comparison to the world: 130

Transportation ::Laos


41 (2010) country comparison to the world: 102

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 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 32

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 9

under 914 m: 21 (2010)


refined products 540 km (2009)


total: 36,831 km country comparison to the world: 93 paved: 4,811 km

unpaved: 32,020 km (2007)


4,600 km country comparison to the world: 24 note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2010)

Merchant marine:

total: 1 country comparison to the world: 157 by type: cargo 1 (2008)

Military ::Laos

Military branches:

Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes
Riverine Force), Air Force (2010)

Military service age and obligation:

18 years of age for compulsory military service; minimum 18-month conscript service obligation (2010)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 1,633,725

females age 16-49: 1,654,235 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 1,056,050

females age 16-49: 1,121,640 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 77,910

female: 77,761 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

0.5% of GDP (2006) country comparison to the world: 164

Military - note:

serving one of the world's least developed countries, the Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF) is small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; its mission focus is border and internal security, primarily in countering ethnic Hmong insurgent groups; together with the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the government, the Lao People's Army (LPA) is the third pillar of state machinery, and as such is expected to suppress political and civil unrest and similar national emergencies, but the LPA also has upgraded skills to respond to avian influenza outbreaks; there is no perceived external threat to the state and the LPA maintains strong ties with the neighboring Vietnamese military (2008)

Transnational Issues ::Laos

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 2008 was 1,900 hectares, about a 73% increase from 2007; estimated potential opium production in 2008 more than tripled to 17 metric tons; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem (2007)


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