Geographic and Governmental Profile of Laos

Background
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.
Location
Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates
18 00 N, 105 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Southeast Asia
Area
total:
236,800 sq km
rank:
84
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:
Phu Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources
timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use
arable land:
4.01%
permanent crops:
0.34%
other:
95.65% (2005)
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Irrigated land
3,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
333.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
total:
3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita:
507 cu m/yr (2000)
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
Country name
conventional long form:
Lao People's Democratic Republic
conventional short form:
Laos
local long form:
Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
local short form:
Pathet Lao (unofficial)
Government type
Communist state
Capital
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
16 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, Xekong, Xiangkhouang
Independence
19 July 1949 (from France)
Constitution
promulgated 14 August 1991; amended in 2003
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
Suffrage
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006); Vice President BOUN-GNANG Volachit (since 8 June 2006)
head of government:
Prime Minister THONGSING Thammavong (since 24 December 2010); First Deputy Prime Minister Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit (since 8 June 2006), SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27 March 2001)
cabinet:
Ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly
elections:
president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly for five-year term
election results:
CHOUMMALI Saignason elected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA; THONGSING Thammavong elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - NA%
Legislative branch
unicameral National Assembly (132 seats; members elected by popular vote from a list of candidates selected by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party to serve five-year terms)
elections:
last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016)
election results:
percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 128, independents 4
Judicial branch
People's Supreme Court, People's Provincial and Municipal Courts, People's District Courts, and Military Courts
the president of the People's Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the National Assembly Standing Committee; the vice president of the People's Supreme Court and the judges are appointed by the National Assembly Standing Committee
Political parties and leaders
Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders
NA
International organization participation
ADB, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador SENG Soukhathivong
chancery:
2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:
[1] (202) 332-6416
FAX:
[1] (202) 332-4923
Diplomatic representation from the US
chief of mission:
Ambassador Karen B. STEWART
embassy:
19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam, Vientiane
mailing address:
American Embassy Vientiane, APO AP 96546
telephone:
[856] 21-26-7000
FAX:
[856] 21-26-7190
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 Pathet Lao, as well as the country's bright future
National symbol(s)
elephant
National anthem
name:
"Pheng Xat Lao" (Hymn of the Lao People)
lyrics/music:
SISANA Sisane/THONGDY Sounthonevichit
music adopted 1945, lyrics adopted 1975; the anthem's lyrics were changed following the 1975 Communist revolution that overthrew the monarchy
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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