The country’s economy has performed well in the last two years, with growth estimated at 8.3% in 2011. This has been buoyed by ongoing projects in the mining and hydroelectric sectors, as well as expansion of garment exports, international tourism and FDI. Lao PDR is situated between Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Its thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia at 2,818 metres, with a number of plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Chain form most of the eastern border with Vietnam.
Dong Hua Sao, at the southern end of the country prevents access to the sea but cargo boats travel along the entire length of the Mekong in Lao PDR during most of the year. Smaller power boats and pirogues provide an important means of transportation on many of the tributaries of the Mekong. The capital city Vientiane, located on the curve of the Mekong River, has French inspired architecture, it’s a vibrant city and popular tourist destination. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse.
Buddhism is the religion of 67% of the population. The people are influenced largely by Buddhist teachings and this is reflected in the culture. Lao PDR is so far, untouched by the modern demands and pace of life. Collectivism is also a strong part of its culture. There are 65 ethnic minorities, each with their own language, making individualism also possible. Lao PDR joined ASEAN on 23 July 1997, along with Myanmar.
Joined ASEAN: 23 July 1997
Head of State: President Choummaly Sayasone
Area: 236,800 square kilometres
Border countries: Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China
Capital city: Vientiane
Total population: 6,586,266
Population of capital: 799,000
Climate: Tropical. Monsoon season May to November. Dry season December to April
Languages: Lao PDR, French, English, various ethnic languages
Religions: Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other 31.5%