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Capital: Vientiane
Population: 5,200,000
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Laos Map


Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand

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

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%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 3%
forests and woodland: 54%
other : 40% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land: 1,640 sq km
note: rainy season irrigation - 2,169 sq km; dry season irrigation - 750 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards: floods, droughts, and blight

Environment - current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; a majority of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Environmental Modification, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note: landlocked


Population: 5,777,180 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 42.5% (male 1,233,659; female 1,219,872)
15-64 years: 54.2% (male 1,543,246; female 1,591,419)
65 years and over:3.3% (male 86,375; female 102,609) (2002 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.47% (2002 est.)

Birth rate: 37.39 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate: 12.71 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate:0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years:0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over : 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2002 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 90.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population : 53.88 years
male: 51.95 years
female: 55.87 years (2002 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.03 children born/woman (2002 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 ("Meo") and the Yao (Mien) 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%

Religions: Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40%

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

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57%
male: 70%
female : 44% (1999 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: none

Data code: LA

Government type: Communist state

National capital: Vientiane

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, Louangphabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun**, Xekong, Xiangkhoang

Independence: 19 July 1949 (from France)

National holiday: National Day, 2 December (1975) (proclamation of the Lao People's Democratic Republic)

Constitution: promulgated 14 August 1991

Legal system: based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and Socialist practice

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state : President Gen. KHAMTAI Siphandon (since 26 February 1998) and Vice President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 27 March 2001)
head of government :Prime Minister BOUNGNANG Volachit (since 27 March 2001); First Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since NA May 2002), Deputy Prime Minister THONGLOUN Sisolit (since 27 March 2001), and Deputy Prime Minister SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by the National Assembly
elections : ppresident elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 24 February 2002 (next to be held NA 2007); prime minister appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly for a five-year term
election results: KHAMTAI Siphandon elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA%

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (85 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections:last held 24 February 2002 (next to be held NA 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - LPRP or LPRP-approved (independent, non-party members) 109

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 (LPRP), KHAMTAI Siphandon, party president; other parties proscribed

Political pressure groups and leaders: noncommunist political groups proscribed; most opposition leaders fled the country in 1975

International organization participation: ACCT, AsDB, ASEAN (observer), CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, Mekong Group, NAM, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador VANG Rattanavong
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 Douglas A. HARTWICK
embassy: Rue Bartholonie, B.P. 114, Vientiane
mailing address: American Embassy, Box V, APO AP 96546
telephone: [856] (21) 212581, 212582, 212585
FAX: [856] (21) 212584

Flag description: three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band


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 7% in 1988-2001 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. Electricity is available in only a few urban areas. Subsistence agriculture accounts for half of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid from the IMF and other international sources and from new foreign investment in food-processing and mining.

GDP: purchasing power parity -$9.2 billion (2001 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 5% (2001 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,630 (2001 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
industry: 22%
services:25% (2000 est.)

Inflation rate - consumer price index: 10% (2001 est.)

Labor force: 2.4 million (1999)
by occupation: agriculture 80% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate: 5.7% (1997 est.)

revenues : $211 million
expenditures: $462 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY98/99 est.)

Industries: tin and gypsum mining, timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction

Industrial production growth rate: 7.5% (1999 est.)

Electricity - capacity: 261,000 kW (1995)

Electricity - production: 1.02 billion kWh (2000)

Electricity - consumption per capita: 690.6 million kWh (2000)

Agriculture - products: sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, cotton; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry

total value: $325 million (2001 est.)
commodities: electricity, wood products, coffee, tin, garments
partners :Thailand 20%, France 7.5%, Germany 5.9%, UK 4.1%, Belgium 4% (2000)

total value: $540 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
commodities: food, fuel oil, consumer goods, manufactures
partners: Thailand 52%, Singapore 3.9%, Japan 1.6%, Hong Kong 1.5%, China 0.8% (2000)

Debt - external: $2.53 billion (1999)

Economic aid:
recipient: $345 million (1999 est.)

Currency: 1 new kip (LAK) = 100 at

Exchange rates: kips per US dollar - 9,467.00 (December 2001), 8,954.58 (2001), 7,887.64 (2000), 7,102.03 (1999), 3,298.33 (1998), 1,259.98 (1997)

Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September


Telephones: 25,000 (1997)

Telephone system: service to general public is poor but improving, with over 20,000 telephones currently in service and an additional 48,000 expected by 2001; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas
domestic: radiotelephone communications
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean Region)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 10, FM 0, shortwave 0

Radios: 730,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations:4 (1999)

Televisions: 52,000 (1997)


Railways: 0 km (2001)

total: 14,000 km
paved:3,360 km
unpaved: 10,640 km (1991)

Waterways: about 4,587 km, primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,897 additional kilometers are sectionally navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m

Pipelines: petroleum products 136 km

Ports and harbors: none

Merchant marine:
total: 1 cargo ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,370 GRT/3,000 DWT (2002 est.)

Airports: 51 (2001)

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 (2001)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total : 42
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m:26 (2001)


Military branches: Lao People's Army (LPA; includes riverine naval and militia elements), Air Force, National Police Department

Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,365,027 (2002 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males: 734,945 (2002 est.)

Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males : 64,437 (2002 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $55 million (FY98)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 4.2% (FY96/97)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international: demarcation of boundaries with Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam is nearing completion, but with Thailand, several areas including Mekong River islets, remain in dispute; ongoing disputes with Thailand and Vietnam over squatters

Illicit drugs: world's third largest opium producer (200 metric tons from some 25,250 hectares in 1996); heroin producer; increasingly used as transshipment point for heroin produced in Burma; illicit producer of cannabis