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.



Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

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: 5,274 km
border countries (5): Burma 238 km, Cambodia 555 km, China 475 km, Thailand 1,845 km, Vietnam 2,161 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


mean elevation: 710 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m

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

Environment - current issues

unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - international 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

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

People and Society


7,019,073 (July 2016 est.)


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.)


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


Buddhist 66.8%, Christian 1.5%, other 31%, unspecified 0.7% (2005 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.)

Population growth rate

1.53% (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 22.7 years
male: 22.4 years
female: 23 years (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.)

Major urban areas - population

VIENTIANE (capital) 997,000 (2015)


urban population: 38.6% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 4.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

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.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 175,138
percentage: 11% (2006 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

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

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)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2016)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

26.5% (2012)

Education expenditures

3.3% of GDP (2014)


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)


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


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


19 July 1949 (from France)

National holiday

Republic Day, 2 December (1975)


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

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Laos
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years


18 years of age; universal

National symbol(s)

elephant; national colors: red, white, blue

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

International organization participation


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


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

Flag description

three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band; the red bands recall the blood shed for liberation; the blue band represents the Mekong River and prosperity; the white disk symbolizes the full moon against the Mekong River, but also signifies the unity of the people under the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, as well as the country's bright future

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


Economy - overview

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 Asia

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 pop

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

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

GDP (official exchange rate)

$13.76 billion (2015 est.)

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 - real growth rate

7.5% (2016 est.)
7.6% (2015 est.)
7.5% (2014 est.)

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

agriculture: 21.3%
industry: 32.5%
services: 39.4% (2016 est.)

Industrial production growth rate

8% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; cassava (manioc, tapioca), water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry


mining (copper, tin, gold, gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism

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)


revenues: $2.882 billion
expenditures: $3.822 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

20.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-6.8% 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)

0.7% (2016 est.)
1.3% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

4.3% (31 December 2010)
4% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

16.5% (31 December 2016 est.)
18.2% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$1.161 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.132 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$7.782 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$7.196 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$8.135 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$7.231 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$1.012 billion (2012 est.)
$576.8 million (2011 est.)

Current account balance

-$2.471 billion (2016 est.)
-$2.904 billion (2015 est.)


$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)


$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.)

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.)


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 900,000
electrification - total population: 87%
electrification - urban areas: 97%
electrification - rural areas: 82% (2013)

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.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 962,497
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

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


Internet users

total: 1.258 million
percent of population: 18.2% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 11
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,181,187
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 1,356,497 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

RDPL (2016)


41 (2013)

Airports - with 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 - with unpaved runways

total: 33
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 22 (2013)


refined products 540 km (2013)


total: 39,586 km
paved: 5,415 km
unpaved: 34,171 km (2009)


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)


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)

Military - note

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)

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

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Laos is a source and, to a lesser extent, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Lao economic migrants may encounter conditions of forced labor or sexual exploitation in destination countries, most often Thailand; Lao women and girls are exploited in Thailand’s commercial sex trade, domestic service, factories, and agriculture; a small, possibly growing, number of Lao women and girls are sold as brides in China and South Korea and subsequently sex trafficked; Lao men and boys are victims of forced labor in the Thai fishing, construction, and agriculture industries; some Lao children, as well as Vietnamese and Chinese women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in Laos; other Vietnamese and Chinese, and possibly Burmese, adults and girls transit Laos for sexual and labor exploitation in neighboring countries, particularly Thailand
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; authorities sustained moderate efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders; the government failed to make progress in proactively identifying victims exploited within the country or among those deported from abroad; the government continues to rely almost entirely on local and international organizations to provide and fund services to trafficking victims; although Lao men and boys are trafficked, most protective services are only available to women and girls, and long-term support is lacking; modest prevention efforts include the promotion of anti-trafficking awareness on state-controlled media (2015)

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)