Where Laos on the world map. Map of Laos with cities
Map of Laos with cities. Where Laos is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Laos - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Laoы Fact File
Official name Lao People's Democratic Republic
Form of government Communist state with single legislative body (National Assembly)
Area 236,800 sq km (91,428 sq miles)
Time zone GMT +7 hours
Projected population 2015 7,334,000
Population density 24.4 per sq km (63.2 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 59.9
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 91
Official language Lao
Other languages French, Chinese, Vietnamese Literacy rate 57%
Religions Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40%
Ethnic groups Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland) 9%,
ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese 1 % Currency Kip
Economy Agriculture 80%, services and industry 20%
GNP per capita US$ 1,630
Climate Tropical monsoonal, with wet season May to October
Highest point Phou Bia 2,81 7 m (9,242 ft) Map reference Pages 202-03
Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It also has one of the last official communist regimes, and is the poorest state in the region. Once the home of the fourteenth century kingdom of Lan Xang (the Million Elephant Kingdom), Laos became a French protectorate in 1893- Independent in 1953, it was fought over by royalists, communists, and conservatives from 1964 onward. It was used as a military supply route by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and was heavily bombed with defoliants by the USA in the late 1960s. In 1975 it fell into the hands of the communist Pathet Lao who established a one-party state. Although the leadership has for economic reasons relaxed its doctrinal grip— the 1978 collectivization of agriculture was reversed in 1990—many hill-tribe people, such as the Hmong, remain alienated from the regime. Some continue guerrilla resistance, while others live in exile in Thailand. A new constitution in 1991 confirmed the monopoly of the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party.
From the mountains in the northwest and the Plateau de Xiangkhoang, the country extends southeast, following the line of the Anamitique Range. A number of rivers cross the country westward from this range to the Mekong River which forms the western border, among them the Banghiang, the Noi, and the Theun. The fertile Mekong floodplains in the west provide the only generally cultivable lowland. Despite deforestation and erosion, forest still covers 55 percent of the country.
Most of the Laotian people are engaged in subsistence agriculture. In addition to the staple, rice, other crops which are grown include maize, vegetables, tobacco, coffee, and cotton. Opium poppies and cannabis are grown illegally: Laos is the world's third-largest opium producer.
The policy of privatization and decentralization that was adopted in 1986 has produced growth averaging 7.5 percent annually since 1988. Textile and garment manufacture was established, as well as motorcycle assembly. The country's primitive infrastructure is a major handicap to continued growth. Laos has no railroads, its roads are inadequate, and its telecommunications severely limited. For the foreseeable future the economy will depend heavily on overseas aid.
A fisherman casting his net from a basket boat in Vietnam (left page top). Women at a market in Hanoi (left page above). Vietnamese farmers working in the rice fields (left page below). View of the Mekong plain (above right).
The term Indochina indicates that cultural influences from India and China are intermingled throughout this region. Also once known as French Indochina, it consists of the three states of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, all of which were formerly associated with France in a political group known as the French Union. Despite the fact that the French exercised political control over their countries from the late nineteenth century, the Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian royal houses continued to exercise wide authority. The Japanese occupied Indochina during the Second World War, but interfered little in the existing colonial arrangements; only after 1945 did the military turmoil begin which was to convulse the region.
In 1945, following the withdrawal of the Japanese, the Vietnamese communist nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The returning French attempted to hold their colonial possession together, but soon the protracted guerrilla struggle that became known as the First Indochina War broke out. The forces in the North received support from the Chinese. In 1954 after the siege of Dien Bien Phu, both France and China agreed to a ceasefire. North Vietnam and South Vietnam were divided along the 17th parallel, and France had to withdraw from the region and recognize the independence of its former colonies Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
During the 1960s North Vietnamese attempts to infiltrate and subvert the southern area led to
the Second Indochina War, also know as the Vietnam War. This period saw increasing United States military involvement in the defense of South Vietnam. The US gave strong support to the South Vietnamese government and in 1961 the US commenced sending military advisers. The US actively entered the Vietnam War in 1964. Fighting continued until the Paris ceasefire of 1973, and Saigon was ultimately captured by the North Vietnmese in 1975.
Between 1954 and 1975 about 1,000,000 North Vietnamese soliders, 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 500,000 civilians were killed. Between 1961 and 1975 about 56,500 US soldiers were killed. In 1976 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established.This period also saw the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, and was followed by a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978. Before withdrawing from Cambodia Vietnam installed in power the Communist Khmer People's Revolutionary Party (now the Cambodian People's Party) whose domination of the political system, reinforced by a violent coup in 1997, is a source of international concern.
Today several boundary disputes exist between the three countries of Indochina. In addition to Vietnam's claims to various islands in the South China Sea, sections of the boundary between Cambodia and Vietnam are in dispute, and the maritime boundary between these countries is not defined. Similar boundary disputes also exist between Laos and Thailand.