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Laos at a Glance

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Official name: Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR)

Term for citizens: Laotian(s)

Capital: Vientiane

Geography: landlocked in Southeast Asia bordering Thailand, Burma, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia

Climate: tropical monsoon; three seasons - rainy season; May-October, cool dry season, November-February; hot dry season, March-April 

Population: about 5 million, 85% rural

Ethnic Groups: over 40 groups, many small, classified into three families - lowland Lao (66%), the ethnic Lao; midland Lao (24%), various ethnic groups, the largest being the Kammu; and the upland Lao (10%), which includes the Hmong, Mien .

Language: Lao is the official language, though many highland languages are spoken; also some French and English

Religion: Theravada Buddhism among Lao and some midland groups; animism among upland groups and to some degree among all Laotians. Marxist government denigrates religion but officially permits religious freedom.

Education: universal, compulsory education established in 1975, but is still more a goal than reality. Literacy estimated around 45%.

Life expectancy: males 50, females 53. Chronic malnutrition, poor sanitation, limited health care

Economy: 85-90% workforce involved in agriculture, collectivization policy ended. Main crop is rice; some corn, tobacco, coffee. Exports: timber and wood products, textiles, assembled goods to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Europe, U.S.; electricity (Thailand)

Imports: oil, food, machinery, vehicles, consumer goods. Primarily from Thailand, Vietnam, China.

Foreign Aid: finances development and trade deficits. From World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Australia, Japan, Sweden

Per capita income: $325.

Per capita purchasing power: $2,071.