Landlocked Laos is one of the world’s few remaining communist states and one of East Asia’s poorest.
A French colony until the 1953, the power struggle which ensued between royalists and the communist group Pathet Lao also saw the country caught up in the Vietnam War. Communist forces overthrew the monarchy in 1975, heralding years of isolation.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Laos began opening up to the world. But despite economic reforms, the country remains poor and heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Most Laotians live in rural areas, with around 80% working in agriculture mostly growing rice. The state has made no secret of its huge hydropower ambitions and its desire to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia.
The government anticipates that by 2025 hydropower will become the country’s biggest source of revenue. But neighbours Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have raised concerns about the environmental impact of its dam building projects along the Mekong River
- Lao People’s Democratic Republic
- Capital: Vientiane
- Population 6.4 million
- Area 236,800 sq km (91,400 sq miles)
- Major languages Lao, French
- Major religion Buddhism
- Life expectancy 66 years (men), 69 years (women)
- Currency kip