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Laos    Introduction Top of Page
Background: In 1975 the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government, ending a six-century-old monarchy. Initial closer ties to Vietnam and socialization were replaced with a gradual return to private enterprise, an easing of foreign investment laws, and the admission into ASEAN in 1997.
Laos    Geography Top of Page
Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: 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:  3%

permanent crops:  0%

permanent pastures:  3%

forests and woodland:  54%

other:  40% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,250 sq km (1993 est.)

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: unexploded ordnance; 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, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, 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 forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Laos    People Top of Page
Population: 5,635,967 (July 2001 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years:  42.75% (male 1,212,577; female 1,196,795)

15-64 years:  53.94% (male 1,494,927; female 1,544,851)

65 years and over:  3.31% (male 85,632; female 101,185) (2001 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.48% (2001 est.)
Birth rate: 37.84 births/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Death rate: 13.02 deaths/1,000 population (2001 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2001 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:  0.85 male(s)/female

total population:  0.98 male(s)/female (2001 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 92.89 deaths/1,000 live births (2001 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population:  53.48 years

male:  51.58 years

female:  55.44 years (2001 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.12 children born/woman (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.05% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,400 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 130 (1999 est.)
Nationality: 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
Literacy: definition:  age 15 and over can read and write

total population:  57%

male:  70%

female:  44% (1999 est.)
Laos    Government Top of Page
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
Government type: Communist state
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: Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
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 NA March 2001)

head of government:  Prime Minister BOUNGNANG Volachit (since NA March 2001); Deputy Prime Ministers THONGLOUN Sisolit (since NA March 2001), SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998)

cabinet:  Council of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by the National Assembly

elections:  president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 21 December 1997 (next to be held NA 2002); 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 (99 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms; note - by presidential decree, on 27 October 1997, the number of seats increased from 85 to 99)

elections:  last held 21 December 1997 (next to be held NA 2002)

election results:  percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - LPRP or LPRP-approved (independent, non-party members) 99
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 Assembl