General information: General information. In 1975, the communists seized power, ending the reign of a 600-year-old monarchy. The policy of close ties with Vietnam and socialization was replaced by a gradual turn towards private enterprise, the adoption of laws facilitating foreign investment, and joining ASEAN in 1997.
Location: Southeast Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam.
Geographic coordinates: 18° 00′ N. latitude, 105° 00′ E
Reference map: Southeast Asia.
Area: total: 236,800 square kilometers; land surface area: 230,800 km2; water surface area: 6,000 km2
Comparative area: slightly larger than Utah.
Land borders: total: 5,083 km; with neighboring states: with Vietnam 2,130 km, with Cambodia 541 km, with China 423 km, with Myan Moi 235 km, with Thailand 1,754 km.
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked).
Maritime claims: none (landlocked).
Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season from May to November; dry season from December to April.
Terrain: mostly rocky mountains; small plains and plateaus.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Mekong River 70 m; highest point: Mt. Bia 2,817 m.
Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, precious stones.
Land use: arable land: 3%; cultivated land: 0%; pastures: 3%; forests and plantations: 54%; others: 40% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 1,250 km2 (est. 1993); note: irrigation during the rainy season covers 2,169 km2; irrigation in the dry season – for 750 sq. km. (1998 OTs.).
Natural hazards: floods, droughts, plant diseases.
Current environmental issues: unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; the majority of the population uses poor quality drinking water.
International environmental agreements: member: Biodiversity, Climate change, Desertification, Environmental change, Law of the sea, Nuclear test ban, Ozone layer protection; signed but not ratified: no.
Note to the section “Geography”: has no access to the sea.
Population: 5,635,967 (July 2001 est.).
Age structure: under 14: 42.75% (male 1,212,577; female 1,196,795); 15 to 64 years old: 53.94% (male 1,494,927; female 1,544,851); over 65: 3.31% (male 85,632; female 101,185) (2001 est.).
Population growth: 2.48% (2001 est.).
Birth rate: 37.84 newborns / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Mortality: 13.02 deaths / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Migration: 0 people /1000 people (2001 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male/female; under 15: 1.01 male/female; 15 to 64 years old: 0.97 male/female; over 65: 0.85 male/female; for the general population: 0.98 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 92.89 deaths/1000 births (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 53.48 years; men: 51.58 years; women: 55.44 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 5.12 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of adults infected with HIV: 0.05% (1999 est.).
Number of people infected with HIV: 1,400 (1999 est.).
AIDS deaths: 130 (1999 est.).
Nationality: noun: Lao; adjective: Lao.
Ethnic groups: Lao Lum (in the plains) 68%, Lao Teng (in the highlands) 22%, Lao Sung (in the mountains), including the Hmong (Hmong) (Meo) and Yao (Mien) 9%, ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese 1%.
Believers: Buddhists 60%, animists and others 40%.
Language(s): Lao (official), French, English and languages of various ethnic groups.
Literacy: definition: persons aged 15 and over who can read and write; for the general population: 57%; men: 70%; women: 44% (1999 est.).
conventional long form: Lao People’s Democratic Republic;
conventional short form: Laos; local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao; local short form: no.
State structure: communist state. See a2zgov.com to know more about Laos government and politics.
Administrative divisions: 16 provinces (khoueng), 1 central city* (kam-pheng nakhon) and 1 special zone** (khetphiset): Atta-py, Bokeo, Bori Khan, Vientiane, Vientiane*, Kham-muan, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Phongsali, Sa-wannakhet, Sainyabuli, Saisombun**, Sarawan, Sepon, Xianghuang, Udomkhai, Huaphan, Champa-sak.
Independence: from July 19, 1949 (until 1949 – protectorate of France).
National Day: National Day, December 2 (1975) (proclamation of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic).
Constitution: promulgated on August 14, 1991.
Legal system: based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practices.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal.
chief of state: President General KHAMTAI Siphandon (since 26 February 1998); Vice President Lieutenant General 40-UMMALI Saignason (February 26, 1999);
head of the government: Prime Minister BOUNNHANG Volachit (since March 2001); Deputy Prime Ministers THONGLOUN Sisolit (since March 2001), SOMSAVAT Leng-savad (since February 26, 1998);
Government: council of ministers appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly; elections: the president is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; elections last held 21 December 1997 (next to be held in 2002); the prime minister is appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly for a term of 5 years; election results: Khamtai Siphandon elected president; percentage of votes in the National Assembly – no data.
Legislature: unicameral National Assembly (99 seats; members of the chamber are directly elected for a term of 5 years; note – by presidential decree of October 27, 1997, the number of seats was increased from 85 to 99); elections: last held 21 December 1997 (next to be held in 2002); election results: distribution of votes between parties – no data; seats – LPRP and approved by LPRP (Independent Non-Party MPs) 99.
Judiciary: People’s Supreme Court, President of the People’s Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, Vice President of the People’s Supreme Court and judges are appointed by the Standing Committee of the National assembly.
Political parties and leaders: Laos People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) (Khamtai Sip-khandon, chairman of the party); activities of other parties are prohibited.
Political influence groups and their leaders: activities of non-communist political influence groups are prohibited; most opposition leaders left the country in 1975
Participation in international organizations: ACCT, ARF, AsDB, ASEAN, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer).
Diplomatic representation in the USA: Head of mission: Ambassador VANG Rattanavong; office: 2222 S. Street NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone;  (202) 332-6416; fax:  (202) 332-4923.
US diplomatic mission: head of mission: post vacant; chargé d’affaires Karen Brevard STEWART; embassy: Rue Bartholonie, V. R. 114, Vientiane; mailing address: American Embassy, Box V, APO AP 96546; phone:  (21) 212581, 212582, 212585; fax:  (21) 212584.
Description of the flag: three horizontal stripes of red (top), blue (twice as wide as red) and red with a white disc in the center of the blue stripe.