Flag of Laos

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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.


Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates:

18 00 N, 105 00 E


total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km

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: 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

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


6,368,481 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 41.4% (male 1,324,207/female 1,313,454)
15-64 years: 55.4% (male 1,744,206/female 1,786,139)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 89,451/female 111,024) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 18.9 years
male: 18.6 years
female: 19.2 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.39% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

35.49 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

11.55 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 83.31 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 92.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 73.26 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 55.49 years
male: 53.45 years
female: 57.61 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

4.68 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

1,700 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 200 (2003 est.)


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%


Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40% (including various Christian denominations 1.5%)


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 66.4%
male: 77.4%
female: 55.5% (2002)

Country name:

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

Government type:

Communist state



Administrative divisions:

16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural), 1 municipality* (kampheng nakhon, singular and plural), and 1 special zone** (khetphiset, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun**, Xekong, Xiangkhoang


19 July 1949 (from France)

National holiday:

Republic Day, 2 December (1975)


promulgated 14 August 1991

Legal system:

based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice


18 years of age; universal

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)

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% in 1988-2004 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 food processing and mining. Construction will be another strong economic driver, especially as hydroelectric dam and road projects gain steam. In late 2004, Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US, allowing Laos-based producers to face lower tariffs on exports. This new status may help spur growth. In addition, the European Union has agreed to provide $1 million to the Lao Government for technical assistance in preparations for WTO membership. If the avian flu worsens and spreads in the region, however, prospects for tourism could dim.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$11.92 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$2.541 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

7.2% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,900 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 48.6%
industry: 25.9%
services: 25.5% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

2.8 million (2002 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 80%
industry and services: 20% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate:

5.7% (1997 est.)

Population below poverty line:

40% (2002 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3.2%
highest 10%: 30.6% (1997)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

37 (1997)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9.4% (2005 est.)


revenues: $319.3 million
expenditures: $434.6 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Industrial production growth rate:

13% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

3.767 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

3.298 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - exports:

435 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

230 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

2,950 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$58.35 million (2005 est.)


$379 million (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

garments, wood products, coffee, electricity, tin

Exports - partners:

Thailand 19.3%, Vietnam 13.4%, France 8%, Germany 5.3%, UK 5% (2004)


$541 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods

Imports - partners:

Thailand 60.5%, China 10.3%, Vietnam 7.1%, Singapore 4% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$217 million (August 2005)

Debt - external:

$2.49 billion (2001)

Economic aid - recipient:

$243 million (2001 est.)

Currency (code):

kip (LAK)

Fiscal year:

1 October - 30 September

Telephones - main lines in use:

90,067 (2006)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

520,546 (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 13, shortwave 2 (2006)

Television broadcast stations:

7; note - including one station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi (2006)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,152 (2005)

Internet users:

20,900 (2005)


44 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 35
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 21 (2005)


refined products 540 km (2004)


total: 32,620 km
paved: 4,590 km
unpaved: 28,030 km (2002)


4,600 km
note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,897 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 1 ships (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT
by type: cargo 1 (2005)

Military branches:

Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force

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 several areas along Mekong River and Thai squatters; concern among Mekong Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River will affect water levels

Illicit drugs:

estimated cultivation in 2004 - 10,000 hectares, a 45% decrease from 2003; estimated potential production in 2004 - 49 metric tons, a significant decrease from 200 metric tons in 2003 (2005)