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Mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus


Tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)


Nationality: Lao(s) or Laotian(s) 
Population: 6,695,166 (July 2013 est.), 
Languages: Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages


Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5% (2005 census)


The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking—growth averaged 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997. Laos' growth exceeded 7% per year during 2008-12. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure.

Living Conditions

Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated income in the late 1990s of about $2,000 per year. The population is mainly rural with 85 percent depending on agriculture, mostly subsistence rice cultivation. Rural homes are built on stilts to avoid flooding. They are made of wood or bamboo, often with walls of bamboo matting and roofs of thatch or corrugated tin. Lao houses usually have little or no furniture. People sit, eat, and sleep on mats on the floor.


Communist state

US Military Presence/Support






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