Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of LanXang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years LanXang 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 return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.


Location: South-eastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Population: 6,586,266 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 36.7% (male 1,197,579/female 1,181,523)

15-64 years: 59.6% (male 1,908,176/female 1,950,544)

65 years and over: 3.7% (male 107,876/female 131,513) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Lao People’s Democratic Republic

conventional short form: Laos

local long form: SathalanalatPaxathipataiPaxaxon 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)

Telephones – main lines in use: 103,100 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 4.003 million (2009)
Airports: 42 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 9

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (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 military service; minimum 18-month service obligation (2010)


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 in 1988-2007 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 an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. 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 support from Japan and China. Electricity is available in urban areas and in most rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about 40% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment.

Transnational Issues:

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.