Laos Population: 7,019,073


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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 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.

Landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Area: total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km

Size comparison: slightly larger than Utah
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 extremes:
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use: agricultural land: 10.6% arable land 6.2%; permanent crops 0.7%; permanent pasture 3.7% forest: 67.9%
other: 21.5% (2011 est.)
Irrigated land: 3,100 sq km (2012)
Natural hazards: floods, droughts
Current Environment Issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
International Environment 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
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Nationality: noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian
Ethnic groups: Lao 54.6%, Khmou 10.9%, Hmong 8%, Tai 3.8%, Phuthai 3.3%, Lue 2.2%, Katang 2.1%, Makong 2.1%, Akha 1.6%, other 10.4%, unspecified 1% (2005 est.)
Languages: Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages
Religions: Buddhist 66.8%, Christian 1.5%, other 31%, unspecified 0.7% (2005 est.)
Population: 7,019,073 (July 2016 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33.4% (male 1,184,344/female 1,159,731)
15-24 years: 21.29% (male 742,073/female 751,983)
25-54 years: 36.1% (male 1,250,108/female 1,283,834)
55-64 years: 5.36% (male 184,183/female 192,298)
65 years and over: 3.85% (male 122,485/female 148,034) (2016 est.)
Dependency ratios: total dependency ratio: 62.8%
youth dependency ratio: 56.6%
elderly dependency ratio: 6.2%
potential support ratio: 16.1% (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 22.7 years
male: 22.4 years
female: 23 years (2016 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.53% (2016 est.)
Birth rate: 23.9 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate: 7.5 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Urbanization: urban population: 38.6% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 4.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas - population: VIENTIANE (capital) 997,000 (2015)
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: 0.97 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
Maternal mortality rate: 197 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 51.4 deaths/1,000 live births male: 56.8 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 45.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 64.3 years male: 62.2 years
female: 66.4 years (2016 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.76 children born/woman (2016 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate: 49.8% (2011/12)
Health expenditures: 1.9% of GDP (2014)
Physicians density: 0.18 physicians/1,000 population (2012)
Hospital bed density: 1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)
Drinking water source: improved:
urban: 85.6% of population
rural: 69.4% of population
total: 75.7% of population

urban: 14.4% of population
rural: 30.6% of population
total: 24.3% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility access: improved:
urban: 94.5% of population
rural: 56% of population
total: 70.9% of population

urban: 5.5% of population
rural: 44% of population
total: 29.1% of population (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.26% (2014 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 11,100 (2014 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 500 (2014 est.)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate: 3% (2014)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight: 26.5% (2012)
Education expenditures: 3.3% of GDP (2014)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.9%
male: 87.1%
female: 72.8% (2015 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 11 years male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2014)
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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
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)
Administrative divisions: 17 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhouang
Independence: 19 July 1949 (from France)
National holiday: Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
Constitution: previous 1947 (preindependence); latest promulgated 13-15 August 1991; amended 2003, 2015 (2016)
Legal system: civil law system similar in form to the French system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President BOUNNYANG Vorachit (since 20 April 2016); Vice President PHANKHAM Viphavan (since 20 April 2016)

head of government: Prime Minister THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 20 April 2016); Deputy Prime Ministers BOUNTHONG Chitmani, SONXAI Siphandon, SOMDI Douangdi (since 20 April 2016)

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 20 April 2016 (next to be held in 2021); prime minister nominated by the president, elected by the National Assembly for 5-year term

election results: BOUNNYANG Vorachit (LPRP) elected president; PHANKHAM Viphavan (LPRP) elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA; THONGLOUN Sisoulit (LPRP) elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - NA
Legislative branch: description: unicameral National Assembly or Sapha Heng Xat (132 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 20 April 2016 (next to be held in 2021)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 128, independent 4
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 National Assembly on recommendation of the president of the republic for a 5-year term; vice presidents of People's Supreme Court appointed by the president of the republic on 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] note: other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
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
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
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador MAI Xaignavong (since 3 August 2015)
chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416
FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923 consulate(s): New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Rena BITTER (since 2 November 2016)
embassy: Thadeua Road, Kilometer 9, Ban Somvang Tai, Hatsayfong District, Vientiane
mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, Unit 8165, APO AP 96546
telephone: [856] 21-48-7000
FAX: [856] 21-48-7190
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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 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997. Laos' growth has more recently been amongst the fastest in Asia and averaged nearly 8% per year for 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 25% of GDP and 73% of total employment. 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 began a one-year chairmanship of ASEAN in January 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 small labor pool remains an impediment 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.
GDP (purchasing power parity): GDP (purchasing power parity): $40.96 billion (2016 est.) $38.11 billion (2015 est.) $35.43 billion (2014 est.)

note: data are in 2016 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate): GDP (official exchange rate): $13.76 billion (2015 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7.5% (2016 est.) 7.6% (2015 est.) 7.5% (2014 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): GDP - per capita (PPP): $5,700 (2016 est.) $5,400 (2015 est.) $5,100 (2014 est.)

note: data are in 2016 dollars
Gross national saving: 25% of GDP (2016 est.) 20% of GDP (2015 est.) 25.8% of GDP (2014 est.)
GDP - composition, by end use: household consumption: 62.6%
government consumption: 14.1%
investment in fixed capital: 33.1%
investment in inventories: 1%
exports of goods and services: 47.2%
imports of goods and services: -58% (2016 est.)
GDP - composition, by sector of origin: household consumption: 62.6%
government consumption: 14.1%
investment in fixed capital: 33.1%
investment in inventories: 1%
exports of goods and services: 47.2%
imports of goods and services: -58% (2016 est.)
Agriculture - products: sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; cassava (manioc, tapioca), water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
Industries: mining (copper, tin, gold, gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 8% (2016 est.)
Labor force: 3.5 million (2016 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 73.1%
industry: 6.1%
services: 20.6% (2012 est.)
Unemployment rate: 1.3% (2012 est.) 1.4% (2014 est.)
Population below poverty line: 22% (2013 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.3%
highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 36.7 (2008) 34.6 (2002)
Budget: revenues: $2.882 billion
expenditures: $3.822 billion (2016 est.)
Taxes and other revenues: 20.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
Public debt: 61.6% of GDP (2016 est.) 61.7% of GDP (2015 est.)
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September
Inflation rate (consumer prices): Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.7% (2016 est.) 1.3% (2015 est.)
Current account balance: -$2.471 billion (2016 est.) -$2.904 billion (2015 est.)
Exports: $3.075 billion (2016 est.) $2.928 billion (2015 est.)
Exports - commodities: wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold, cassava
Exports - partners: Thailand 30.4%, China 27%, Vietnam 17.6% (2015)
Imports: $3.936 billion (2016 est.) $4.058 billion (2015 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
Imports - partners: Thailand 60.9%, China 18.6%, Vietnam 7.3% (2015)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.024 billion (31 December 2016 est.) $1.058 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Debt - external: $11.98 billion (31 December 2016 est.) $10.77 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $15.14 billion (31 December 2012 est.) $12.44 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $1.012 billion (2012 est.) $576.8 million (2011 est.)
Exchange rates: kips (LAK) per US dollar - 8,190.2 (2016 est.) 8,147.9 (2015 est.) 8,147.9 (2014 est.) 8,049 (2013 est.) 8,007.3 (2012 est.)
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Electricity - production: 16 billion kWh (2014 est.)
Electricity - consumption: 3.9 billion kWh (2014 est.)
Electricity - exports: 13 billion kWh (2014 est.)
Electricity - imports: 1.3 billion kWh (2014 est.)
Electricity - installed generating capacity: 3.4 million kW (2014 est.)
Electricity - from fossil fuels: 1.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
Electricity - from nuclear fuels: 0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants: 98.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
Electricity - from other renewable sources: 0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)
Crude oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
Crude oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
Crude oil - imports: 0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
Crude oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)
Refined petroleum products - production: 0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
Refined petroleum products - consumption: 3,500 bbl/day (2014 est.)
Refined petroleum products - exports: 0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
Refined petroleum products - imports: 3,480 bbl/day (2013 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2013 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy: 500,000 Mt (2013 est.)
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Cellular Phones in use: total: 3.727 million subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 54 (July 2015 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: service to public is generally improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas

domestic: mobile cellular usage has slowed as the regulator imposed a strict policy on pricing and competition is effectively discouraged; network performance has suffered because of insufficient maintenance and upgrades

international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) and a second to be developed by China (2015)
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 progr (2012)
Internet country code: .la
Internet users: total: 1.258 million percent of population: 18.2% (July 2015 est.)
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Airports: 41 (2013)
Airports (paved runways): total 8

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)
Airports (unpaved runways): total 33

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 22 (2013)
Pipelines: refined products 540 km (2013)
Roadways: total 39,586 km
paved: 5,415 km
unpaved: 34,171 km (2009)
Waterways: 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)
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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; there is no perceived external threat to the state and the LPA maintains strong ties with the neighboring Vietnamese military (2012)
Military branches: Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; conscript service obligation - minimum 18-months (2012)
Military expenditures: NA% (2012) 0.23% of GDP (2011)
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 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; concern among Mekong River Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River and its tributaries will affect water levels; Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned about Laos' extensive upstream dam construction
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 (2009)
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