|ສາ ທາ ລະ ນະ ລັດ ປະ ຊາ ທິ ປະ ໄຕ ປະ ຊາ ຊົນ ລາວ|
Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao
|People's Democratic Republic of Laos|
|Motto : Peace, independence, democracy, unity and prosperity|
|Form of government||People's Republic|
|Government system||Socialist one-party system|
|Head of state||
|Head of government||
|Population density||30 inhabitants per km²|
|Population development||+1.53% (2016)|
gross domestic product
|Human Development Index||0.601 ( 139th ) (2017)|
|independence||July 19, 1949 (by France )|
Pheng Xat Lao
|Time zone||UTC + 7|
|ISO 3166||LA , LAO, 418|
Laos ([ ˈlaːɔs ], Laotian ປະ ເທດ ລາວ , officially ສາ ທາ ລະ ນະ ລັດ ປະ ຊາ ທິ ປະ ໄຕ ປະ ຊາ ຊົນ ລາວ , transcribed Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao , German Democratic People's Republic of Laos ) is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia .
The narrow southern part of Laos is located on the Indochinese peninsula between Vietnam in the east, Cambodia in the south and Thailand in the west. The northern part of the country lies on the actual Southeast Asian mainland, where Laos also shares borders with Myanmar and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan .
Laos has a tropical climate with high temperatures, although the large differences in altitude can lead to strong regional temperature fluctuations. The climate is very much influenced by the monsoons . From May to October there is the summer or southwest monsoon, which is associated with heavy rainfall and high humidity. During this time, precipitation averages 1,778 millimeters, while between November and February the northeast monsoon creates a dry and cooler climate. The months of March and April have a hot and humid climate.
Laos can be topographically divided into two areas:
- An area characterized by mountains stretches in a north-south direction almost through the entire country and reaches heights of over 2000 meters, its highest mountain is the Phu Bia with 2,819 m. This mountainous region covers about nine tenths of the country.
- The rest of the region, in which the capital Vientiane is also located, is a small lowland on the southern and southwestern border with Thailand .
The most important river is the Mekong , which has its source in Tibet and branches off into a 39,000 km² river delta near Ho Chi Minh City ( Vietnam ) . The Mekong Delta drains into the South China Sea . The Mekong forms the border with Thailand and Myanmar over a length of about 1000 kilometers ; in total it touches Laotian territory for 1,898 kilometers. Most of the country thus drains into the South China Sea. Only 12% of the territory, entirely in the northeast, drains into the Gulf of Tonkin . At the Mekong the capital Vientiane and the town are Luang Prabang . Tributaries of the Mekong are the Nam Ou , Nam Ngum (with the Nam-Ngum Dam ) and the Nam Xebanghieng .
Extensive deforestation in recent decades has caused the water table to drop in some areas, which has led to a precarious drinking water situation in Laos. In addition, a large number of animal and plant species are threatened with extinction due to the destruction of the flora and fauna . In 1996, 68 species of mammals , birds , reptiles and fish were considered endangered. However, around 14 percent of the territory is now protected. The forest is primarily endangered by logging, clearing to obtain arable land, and fuel extraction, with around 8 percent of the country's energy needs being covered by wood . The annual loss of forest is estimated at around 3000 square kilometers.
A major environmental problem in Laos are duds from the Vietnam War . They make the country one of the states with the largest amounts of unexploded war material in the ground. Of the more than 2 million tons of bombs dropped by American air forces in more than 530,000 air raids over Laos between 1964 and 1973, around 50 percent of the territory has been affected to this day. For an agricultural country like Laos this is a big problem, as people are regularly injured or killed by duds. The UXO-LAO project, which deals with the education of the population and the removal of duds, is one of the largest employers in the country and is financed by the UNDP as well as some industrialized countries and aid organizations, but not by the USA.
Flora and fauna
The population of around 7 million is very unevenly distributed across the territory. The plains on the Mekong have the greatest population density, especially the region around the capital. The mountainous areas in the east and north are very sparsely populated.
In 2015, 38.6% of the population lived in cities. With the economic boom, urbanization is advancing rapidly and the urban population is growing by around 5% annually. The largest urban metropolitan area, Vientiane, has a population of approximately 600,000.
The population is on average very young. In 2016, the median age in Laos was 22.7 years. A woman in Laos had an average of 2.7 children.
Urbanization and cities
See also: List of cities in Laos
The largest cities in Laos are (as of March 1, 2015) Vientiane (620,157 inhabitants), Savannakhet (91,684 inhabitants), Pakse (Pakxé) (68,093 inhabitants), Luang Prabang (66,781 inhabitants) and Phonsavan (48,643 inhabitants).
The ethnic composition of the population in Laos is controversial. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French colonial power initially divided the population on the basis of phenotypic characteristics, with the " Lao ", " Kha " and " Tai " constituting the largest groups. The Laotian Kingdom initially adopted this classification, but combined “Tai” and “Lao” into one group, which led to the presumably not politically intended underestimation of the “Kha”, also because they settled in less accessible areas. In the late 1950s, the classification scheme used by the state and occasionally even by the scientific community was developed. Three main groups are distinguished: The Lao Loum ("lowland Laotians"), the Lao Theung ("mountain slope Laotians") and the Lao Soung ("highland Laotians") are pro forma ethnically and culturally defined, but correspond exactly to the old racial categories of the former colonial power France. This classification was modified again by the state when the Communists came to power in 1975.
Building on a Leninist image of nations and against the background of the Vietnamese nationality policy, the various ethnic groups, especially those in the mountainous regions of Laos, were given more importance. As a result, the Leninist regime pursued a policy by means of pseudoscientific studies that produced rigid ethnic identities, which was intended to bring about both a “ civilization of backward groups” and the integration of members of ethnic minorities into the government apparatus. The 1985 census distinguished 68 ethnicities with 820 ethnic subgroups. In 1995, after long deliberations, the census distinguished 47 ethnic groups; at the 2000 census there were 49 ethnic groups.
In 2017, 0.7% of the population was born abroad.
Language and writing
From a linguistic point of view, there are four large language families in Laos, namely the Tai-Kadai , Mon-Khmer , Tibeto-Burmese and the Hmong-Yao families. This division is the subject of discussion and changes - in the 1985 census , six language families were still distinguished.
Laos is, especially in view of its low population, a country with an extraordinary linguistic diversity, which, however, has been very little explored due to its remoteness. The exact number of distinguishable languages is unknown and is given as 70 to 120.
The languages belong to four different language groups:
- Tai languages , the south-western and northern branches of which have been spoken in what is now Laos for around 2000 years. The presence of these languages is the result of the southwest migration of Tai peoples from southwest China about 2000 years ago. The Tai languages also include the country's official language, the Laotian language .
- Lolo-Burmese languages (branch of the Tibeto-Burmese languages )
- Miao-Yao languages have only been spoken in Laos for about 200 years; they came to the country with migrants from southwest China.
- Mon Khmer languages that prevailed before the arrival of all other languages. They are most widespread geographically and have the highest internal diversity. However, many of these languages are on the verge of extinction. Other languages, especially common in the north, are an integral part of the cultural life of the local population, such as the Khmu .
The official language in Laos is Lao , which is a tonal language and is very similar to Thai . It is spoken as their mother tongue by around two million people in Laos, plus around 20 million people in northern Thailand who speak a Thai dialect that is very similar to Lao. Lao has become the language of communication between the Lao and non-Lao ethnic groups in the country. There is a separate Laotian script, the development of which can be traced back to an origin in the Indian Brahmi script , as is the case with most non-Romanized scripts in Southeast Asia. The Laotian script is also very similar to the Thai script.
Although Lao is the official language and the government is trying to enforce the use of this language across the country, not every inhabitant of the country speaks it. This is mainly due to the weak infrastructure, but also to the widespread use of other languages, especially the Hmong languages. The advance of the Lao is advancing rapidly, especially through the media and through internal migration from the mountainous region to the plains.
The two most important foreign languages in Laos are Thai and Vietnamese . Thai is very easy to learn for Laotians and is present in the country mainly through the Thai media, but also through Laotian guest workers who work temporarily in Thailand. Vietnamese is spoken along the border with Vietnam to facilitate border traffic; there are also significant groups of Vietnamese in the cities. The French language is important due to its colonial past and is still mostly learned in the Lao elite. Laos is a full member of the Francophonie , the community of French-speaking countries. It is tradition that the Laotian President and the Foreign Minister have a command of the French language. In the meantime, however, it is increasingly being replaced by English , the only official ASEAN language.
Laotian cultural practices are often religious. In earlier times the Buddhist temples formed the spiritual center of every village. The life of the Lao people was determined by religion, and most everyday activities were carried out according to the Buddhist calendar . Vientiane and Luang Prabang are known as the Cities of a Thousand Temples and boast a large number of examples of traditional art and architecture. The Royal Palace in Luang Prabang and the That Luang Stupa in Vientiane are the most famous national shrines in Laos.
The most widespread religion in Laos is Theravada Buddhism, which came to what is now Laos around 800. It is a common custom for boys or young men to spend a few days or weeks in a temple as monks. Many families also have a small altar in their home.
Ethnic religions with ancestor cult and animism are particularly widespread among the population of the mountain regions, whereby the members of the mountain peoples have partly converted to Buddhism without having completely given up their traditional beliefs.
According to human rights organizations, Christianity in particular is seen as an alien influence and the practice of religion by Christians is subject to massive restrictions, while the religious freedom of Buddhists is largely guaranteed by the government.
According to a 2010 study, 66.3% of the population were Buddhists, 30.7% were followers of ethnic religions, 1.5% were Christians, and 0.9% were non-religious.
Due to the ailing drinking water supply and sewage disposal, malaria is widespread throughout Laos , although the risk of infection in and around Vientiane is significantly lower than elsewhere. The risk of malaria is highest between May and October. Some of the malaria pathogens that occur are already resistant to certain prophylactic drugs. Other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes are dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis , as well as hepatitis A and typhoid fever , against which tourists must be vaccinated well enough before entering Laos . The average life expectancy is 67 years (as of April 2017).
There are 5393 inhabitants for every doctor. The health service operated by the Ministry of Health provides facilities for mobile health care and provides one hospital bed for every 389 inhabitants. The most important hospital in the country is the Mahasot Hospital in the capital Vientiane. There is no state-organized rescue service in Laos.
Travelers also need to be prepared for diarrhea and dehydration . HIV / AIDS is still not very widespread in Laos, even if official statistics are not reliable. However, Laos is surrounded by countries where HIV has become a common problem. Due to increased migration within Southeast Asia , such as Laotian labor migrants to neighboring countries or foreign workers to Laos, as well as tourism and the continued low social status of women, HIV is likely to continue to spread in Laos, although there are government initiatives to raise awareness about HIV.
In 2015, 17.1% of the population were malnourished. In 2000 it was 37.6% of the population.
The people of today's Laos have been familiar with opium since the 18th century, when the opium trade with China began and drug addiction spread as a result. Knowledge of the production of opium came to Laos with the immigrant Hmong in the early 19th century .
The French colonial administration had controlled opium production since 1899 and placed production under a state monopoly, under which 75 t of opium were sold through licensed dealers in 1928, as well as contraband goods from the nearby Chinese province of Yunnan . The immigrant Hmong produced 3.5 t in 1909, but after the uprisings of 1919–1922 and 1923 already 23 t. From 1930 onwards, growing controls were almost completely suppressed. The vichy-loyal administration, which continued to exist under the Japanese occupation, was forced for fiscal reasons to expand cultivation in all of Indochina, which at that time was home to up to 100,000 drug addicts. The amount delivered to the monopoly by intermediaries such as Touby Lyfoung rose from 7.5 t in 1940 to 60 t four years later.
During the first Indochina War, the GCMA unit set up by the French secret service SDECE , under the command of the notorious Roger Trinquier, used the opium grown in Laos to finance its war against the fighters of the Pathet Lao until 1954 .
Laos officially abolished the opium monopoly (Opium Régie du Laos) inherited from French times in 1961 and made the opium trade a criminal offense. Cultivation and export, which had originally been massively expanded to finance the GCMA until 1954, continued, however. Under General Phoumi Nosavan , the Air Force General Ouane Rattikone was commissioned from 1962 to manage the government's opium business. At that time, about 1 ton of opium was delivered to the cronies of Nguyen Kao Ky in South Vietnam each month , who sold it specifically to US soldiers. Exports tripled by 1964. After Ouane had expelled the Deputy Prime Minister Phoumi in 1965, he took over the opium trade himself, especially in the northwest. Initially, he switched off the Air Laos Commerciale as a transporter , which, however, resulted in logistical problems. To avoid weakening the Air Force, the American development aid organization USAID bought two Douglas DC-3 transport aircraft for him and Vang Pao, who operates in the northeast . A factory was operated producing Double-UO Globe brand heroin from 1965 .
In the early 1970s, the number of opium-dependent residents was estimated at 50,000. For 1992 it was estimated that about two percent of the population were addicted to opium. The area under cultivation was 15,000–20,000 ha, with a production of 60–140 t. 60 percent of the addicts were residents of the mountainous regions in the north of the country. For 1995 it was estimated that Laos produced 80 tons of opium for its own consumption and continued to export 40 to 60 tons. This made Laos the third most important opium-producing nation after Afghanistan and Myanmar .
It is only since 1996 that the production, distribution and consumption of opium have actually been punished. Nevertheless, the number of drug addicts in 2001 was estimated at 58,000. In addition to opium, heroin , amphetamines and adhesives are increasingly being consumed as intoxicants.
The government of Laos, in cooperation with the UNDP and non-governmental organizations, is trying to combat the problem of drug abuse. The focus is on offering opium producers an alternative source of income. At the same time, educational programs are being carried out in the affected regions. Drug abuse prevention and treatment projects that are in keeping with local culture will be launched. There are also measures to enforce the law on the opium trade. Art. 135 of the Criminal Code provides for the death penalty for drug traffickers , but this has not yet been applied. The lack of their only “cash crop” leads to impoverishment. The government's goal was to be drug-free by 2015.
Laos has a low literacy rate . Only two thirds of men and one third of women over the age of 15 can read and write. Around 40% of Laotians have never attended school; in the northern provinces such as Luang Namtha or Phongsaly it is more than 60 percent. Two thirds of Laotian children drop out of primary school prematurely in order to be able to contribute to the livelihood of the family, especially in the field.
In larger towns there are primary schools, which are mainly sponsored by private and international organizations such as UNICEF . In the very rural areas, especially in the mountain regions, there are central elementary schools that ensure the education of the residents of many localities. As a result, very long distances (20 km and more, mostly on foot) have to be covered, there is no school bus facility in rural areas, in most regions mopeds and even bicycles are considered luxury goods. Secondary schools are fee-based, which contributes to the fact that only a few people can attend such a school. The official duration of compulsory schooling in Laos is 8 years, according to UNESCO the school enrollment rate (as of 2008) is 83 percent. School uniforms are compulsory in Laos. In larger cities - e.g. B. in Phonsavan and Thakhek - there are kindergartens based on the GDR model, which are also called "kindergarten" in Lao .
The Laos school system was rebuilt by the government from 1975 onwards. It normally consists of eleven school years and is structured as follows: primary school (from the age of six) five years, lower secondary level three years, upper secondary level three years. Teaching is in the national language Lao. Some schools also teach French and English as foreign languages.
In 1996, eleven universities of the country were National University of Laos (National University of Laos, NUOL) are summarized. Most of the facilities are located in the capital Vientiane, some are also in Luang Prabang or other larger cities. The university comprises the following faculties: natural sciences , engineering , architecture , social sciences , agriculture , forestry , pedagogy / education, economics , law , politics , scripture and medicine . There is also a Center for Sustainable Development and the School of Foundation Studies. Before starting their studies, all applicants must attend the two-year School of Foundation Studies, which roughly corresponds to the upper secondary level. Around 26,600 students are currently being trained at NUOL (as of 2008).
Archaeological finds in the provinces of Houaphan and Luang Prabang show human activity in what is now Laos about 40,000 years ago. There were settlements of sedentary, farming residents around 4000 BC. While finds in tombs from around 1500 BC Suggest a complex, developed society. From around 700 BC Iron tools were used in what is now Laos, indicating close contacts with neighboring Indian and Chinese civilizations. The monumental stone jugs on the level of the clay jugs can also be assigned to the Iron Age (around the turn of the Christian era).
The oldest ethnic groups of today's Laos are the Lua and Khmu (often grouped together as Lao Theung - "highland Laotians"), who belong to the Austro-Asian language family . They were referred to as kha by the Tai / Lao who later immigrated , but this is viewed as derogatory, as it can also mean “servant” or “slave”. Their presence has been documented since about AD 500. At that time, the south of what is now Laos belonged to the state-like entity of Funan . In the southern Laotian province of Champasak , the city of Shrestapura was probably located , one of the capitals of the Chenla state union , which existed from the 6th to 8th centuries , a successor to Funan and forerunner of the later Khmer empire ( Kambuja ) . At the beginning of the 8th century, according to Chinese chronicles, Chenla split into a "Land Chenla" and a "Sea Chenla". South Laos belonged to the core area of "Land-Chenla".
Tai peoples , to which the Lao belong, probably immigrated from China to the northern parts of Southeast Asia, including northern Laos, in the course of the 1st millennium. The Tai tribes who settled in the central Mekong Valley are called Lao; another Tai people, the Phuan , settled in the "Plain of the Clay Jars". Up to the threshold from the 19th to the 20th century, 'Lao' and 'T (h) ai' could still be used synonymously, only then did separate national identities emerge. Since the Tai / Lao settled in the river valleys and cultivated wet rice, the "kha" on the other hand on the mountain slopes, where they lived from slash-and-burn agriculture, the two ethnic groups coexisted largely without competition - a differentiation that partly persists to the present day. The Lao - like other Tai peoples of Southeast Asia - formed tribal principalities called Müang , each of which consisted of several villages and was ruled by a chief (chao) . One of the oldest Müang was Müang Sua, today's Luang Prabang , which was probably founded in the 11th century. The Lao accepted Buddhism, but continued to cultivate animistic traditions of the Tai peoples, such as the worship of ancestors and local spirits (phi) . In the 12th and 13th centuries, large parts of today's Laos belonged to the sphere of influence of the Khmer Empire of Angkor .
The starting point of the actual history of Laos is usually assumed to be the year 1353, when the ruler of Müang Sua, Fa Ngum (who had previously served as commander in the army of Angkor), subordinated the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao, the "kingdom of the millions of elephants a white umbrella ”, founded. Lan Xang was not a unified empire, but a mandala , a complex state-like structure made up of several Müang , which recognized a political and spiritual center (Luang Prabang until 1563, then Vientiane) and a king as ruler, but remained autonomous in internal affairs. The development of Lan Xang was favored by the decline of Angkor. At the time of its greatest strength, Lan Xang's area of influence included all of today's Laos, today's north and northeastern Thailand, parts of the Myanmar Shan state and Sipsong Panna in today's southern Chinese province of Yunnan . Lan Xang reached its heyday in the 17th century under King Sulinyavongsa , when remarkable cultural assets were created, especially in literature and poetry. Trade and education reached a high level during this period.
After Sulinyavongsa's death, Lan Xang disintegrated in succession disputes and was divided into three separate monarchies in 1707: Luang Prabang in the north, Vientiane in the center and Champasak in the south. The smaller Phuan principality in Xiang Khouang was also quasi independent for a time. However, they have all faced repeated invasions from more powerful neighbors in Burma , Siam ( Thailand ) and Vietnam , who have claimed supremacy. Since Vietnam viewed the Mekong as its western border and Siam the Annamite Cordillera as its eastern border, Laos belonged to both overlapping spheres of power and formed a buffer between them. The various Lao rulers balanced the two powerful neighbors, sometimes leaning towards one and sometimes the other, and at times they paid tribute to both sides at the same time. In internal affairs, however, they maintained extensive autonomy, although the Lao-Müang in what is now northeastern Thailand ( Isan ) increasingly came under the direct control of Siam and Xiang Khouang under that of Vietnam.
1827 rebelled King Anouvong Vientiane against the Siamese suzerainty. However, after initial successes, his troops were repulsed. Anuvong was publicly exhibited and executed in Bangkok. Today he is revered as a Laotian national hero, although a Laos nation was not even thought of at that time. The Kingdom of Vientiane lost its autonomy and the capital was razed to the ground. A large part of the population of today's central Laos was deported to the western side of the Mekong (into today's Thailand).
From the middle of the 19th century, France gained increasing influence as a colonial power in continental Southeast Asia. In 1893 the French conquered the left bank of the Mekong and forced Siam to recognize the Mekong as a border. The Laotian populated areas west of the Mekong remained with Siam. To this day they form the Thai Isan . The Mekong became a border river from the central artery of the Laotian settlement area. Today's Laos was incorporated as the Laos Protectorate into the French colony of French Indochina . However, all plans for the country's economic development remained unrealized. In the early 20th century, resistance movements against colonial rule formed in French Indochina; the idea of a Lao nation arose. Among other things, Ho Chi Minh founded the Communist Party of Indochina in 1930, the aim of which was to drive out the colonial rulers.
During World War II , Laos was occupied by the Japanese army . After Japan surrendered unconditionally and had to withdraw from the country, Laos declared its independence on October 12, 1945. However, it again came under the rule of the French. On July 19, 1949, the Franco-Laotian Treaty was signed, which should make Laos an independent member within the Union française . Thereupon the Lao Issara ("Free / Independent Lao" - independence movement) split , as only a part of the Laotian independence fighters were satisfied with this treaty. In the years that followed, France's influence declined, elections took place, and the United States gained influence. France was finally defeated in Vietnam, officially abandoned all claims in Indochina on July 21, 1954 during the Indochina Conference (Geneva Conference) and promised to withdraw its troops and recognize Laos' independence, which finally gave Laos complete sovereignty. In 1958 active and passive general women's suffrage was introduced.
During the Vietnam War , Laos was neutral and there was no official United States declaration of war on Laos. Still, that led the CIA in the 1960s and 1970s by a secret, by itself established, made up of members of the people of the Hmong existing bolt Locking guerrilla -Armee of Long Cheng from an international public still largely unknown war against the Pathet Lao . The operation, which was successful at the beginning, ended in disaster and resulted in the death and flight of many Hmong. The Ho Chi Minh Trail , which runs largely through Laos, was only one aspect of the fight against communism; an estimated 2.5 tons of explosives per inhabitant were dropped over Laos in the American area bombing. Therefore, Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world. To date, no reparations payments have been made to the civilian population.
After the end of the Vietnam War, the communist forces of the Pathet Lao took over power in a bloodless revolution in 1975 compared to what happened in neighboring Cambodia and on December 2, 1975 proclaimed the People's Democratic Republic of Laos. The Lao People's Revolutionary Party became the ruling party in the country, and the first Prime Minister, Kaysone Phomvihane , remained in office until 1992. Political and economic repression continued to make the country insecure and unstable, and around 10% of the population left Laos, mainly for Thailand , France , the USA and Australia .
Due to serious economic problems, Laos introduced an opening and reform policy under the name of the New Economic Mechanism from 1986 with the aim of realizing the gradual transition from the plan to the market economy . As part of these reforms, economic liberalization was carried out and economic relations with foreign countries were strengthened.
Political reforms are also gradually being tackled. On August 14, 1991, the People's Assembly passed the first constitution since the Communists came to power, and Laos has been a member of ASEAN since 1997 .
There is still an unresolved conflict in the Saysomboun special zone northeast of Vientiane, where fighting between the communist government and armed resistance groups is still fought to this day. The members of these resistance groups are mainly made up of members of the Hmong minority and have withdrawn to the mountain regions where they live in great poverty. There have been repeated attacks and attacks in and around Vientiane and on important traffic routes, not least of which foreign tourists have fallen victim. On the other hand, there are reports of serious human rights violations committed by the military in the fight against the insurgents.
Since the Marxist-Leninist Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LRVP) came to power in 1975, Laos has been a one-party state and thus one of the five states in the world under the leadership of a communist unity party that survived the collapse of the communist dictatorships between 1989 and 1991. Political life in the country is dominated by the dual structure of party and state; all state officials are also functionaries of the party. This gives the LRVP unrestricted power and control over what is going on in the country. The NGO Freedom House therefore classifies the country's political system as “unfree” and gives it very poor ratings with regard to the protection of political rights and civil rights.
The head of state of Laos is the president of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and who is usually also the party chairman. The president appoints the prime minister and his deputies, ministers, provincial governors and mayors of the prefectures, and all personnel decisions must be approved by parliament.
According to the constitution, the highest organ of the Lao state and at the same time the legislative body is the National Assembly . It is a unicameral parliament with 132 seats, which are awarded every five years in general elections. Parliament meets twice a year for a few weeks. A standing committee then monitors the implementation of the resolutions, interprets the constitution and suggests candidates for important offices. This standing committee consists of the President of Parliament, his deputy and eight members. The individual parliamentary committees, internal departments and the 18 provincial offices of the National Assembly are subordinate to this committee.
It is the task of parliament to elect the President by a two-thirds majority, to elect the Prime Minister on the proposal of the President and to elect ministers, the judges of the Supreme People's Court and the Attorney General. In practice, however, only the decisions made by the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party are approved.
Mass organizations are also allowed to introduce bills under certain conditions. Parliament is also responsible for approving economic planning, budget and changes in government.
The executive power lies with the President and the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is also chairman of the Council of Ministers, but has little room for maneuver. In practice, the decisions of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party are implemented by the executive branch.
The administrations of the provinces and districts have the same structure as the central government. The community representatives, on the other hand, are elected by the population and then formally appointed by the provincial governor.
Constitution, Law and Corruption
Laos received its first provisional constitution in 1945; it was replaced by the state constitution for the Kingdom of Laos in 1947, which ensured French influence on Laotian politics. After this constitution was repealed when the LRVP seized power, Laos was governed only by decrees and party resolutions until 1991. The Laos Constitution is the result of discussions that began in 1989 and in the course of which critics calling for a multiparty system were arrested. It establishes the LRVP's claim to political leadership as a legitimate center of power and the principle of democratic centralism , but renounces the utopia of a communist society or the dictatorship of the proletariat . It also contains regulations on the capitalist economic system, recognizes the importance of Buddhism and defines the state as a promoter of the Sangha . The structures of the system of government or the relationships between the three powers are treated only superficially. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly is responsible for interpreting the Constitution.
Immediately after the LRVP seized power, the law was an instrument of enforcement of the party, revolutionary judges and tribunals decided on the basis of the party line. In 1983 a Supreme Court and People's Courts were established at the provincial level. The 1991 constitution defines the structure of the judicial system with a Supreme People's Court and people's courts at provincial and district level, as well as military courts. The President of the Supreme People's Court is proposed by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly and appointed by the National Assembly; the judges in the lower courts are appointed by the Supreme Court. Since the judicial system is dependent on the LRVP, there can be no question of judicial independence; In practice, judges often seek the opinion of high party levels before making important decisions.
As a result, Laos receives very poor ratings in the World Bank's rule of law indicator or in the corruption awareness index . Corruption permeates the entire state and party structures, which are co- opted by the patronage networks of influential entrepreneurs and family clans. Members of powerful family clans specifically strive for party and state offices in order to secure their economic interests. The passing of an anti-corruption law, the establishment of an anti-corruption commission under the president and an audit office have not changed much. There is no prosecution of corrupt high-ranking party and state officials.
Parties and mass organizations
There have been parties in Laos since the 1950s, but not as organizations to enforce the interests of certain social classes, but as patronage structures of influential families. The exception to this is the Lao People's Party, which emerged from the Communist Party of Indochina in 1955 and which was renamed the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LRVP) in 1972. It is a Leninist party modeled on the Eastern European communist parties, which functions on the principle of democratic centralism . Since they came to power in 1975, other parties have been banned.
The LRVP is represented in all Laotian districts and has built up a party structure that is parallel to the state structure. It is therefore also represented in all ministries, mass organizations, the military and in state organizations at all organizational levels, thereby ensuring that its resolutions are implemented. It is the only centralized organization in the country. At its highest level there is a Politburo, the party secretariat and the Central Committee, composed of 61 members. Its highest body is the party congress, which is held every five years with 576 delegates.
To become a member of the party, you have to go through an invitation and selection process. In 2011 around 3% of the population were members of the LRVP. Without party membership, it is not possible to hold a higher position in the state or in a state-owned company, let alone in the military. Conversely, party membership gives its functionaries in the state service authority.
A universal suffrage was introduced in Laos in the 1957th After the LRVP seized power in 1988, elections were held for the first time for community, district and provincial assemblies. The first elections to the National Assembly took place in 1989 and have been held every five years since then. In order to be able to stand for an election, one must go through a selection process of the LRVP; in village elections, candidates must be approved by the district authorities. Candidates can be proposed by state and party organizations, the National Election Committee admits candidates who are committed to the principles of the party and have sufficient knowledge of the politics of the LRVP. In practice, the majority of the candidates available for election are also members of the LRVP, although independent candidates are allowed.
The elections to the National Assembly are carried out as a relative majority vote in multi-member constituencies . One member stands for 50,000 eligible voters. As a rule, more candidates are admitted than there are seats available, and the voters delete the candidates they do not want to vote. Only the elected candidates and the number of votes cast are published as the election results.
It is unclear to what extent the elections contribute to the integration or co-optation of all social groups.
Due to its historical experience, Laos has always tried to balance the influence of its mostly much larger neighbors. Inland Laos without access to the world's oceans is becoming increasingly important as a transit country in east-west and north-south directions. At the same time, its geography makes the country dependent on its neighbors. The three big investors China, Thailand and Vietnam are particularly important for the economic development in Laos.
The influence of China, the largest investor in Laos, has risen sharply in recent years. China's economic engagement has led to a significant increase in the number of Chinese living in Laos. With large infrastructure projects (dams, planned Yunnan Railway through Laos to Thailand) and large-scale agricultural concessions as well as large real estate projects in the capital Vientiane, China is intervening in the country's economic development.
Since Laos joined ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in 1997, this organization has become the most important instrument for both regional political integration and the country's economic opening. In 2016, Laos held the ASEAN presidency for the second time.
Relations with the USA were considered tense for a long time, mainly because of the area bombing during the Vietnam War . However, the United States invested $ 9 million in 2012 clearing duds. In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Laos in the same year, and President Barack Obama in 2016.
Laos is divided into 17 provinces ( Laotian ແຂວງ Khwaeng ) and one prefecture ( Laotian ນະ ຄອນ ຫຼວງ Nakhon Luang ). This is followed by a subdivision into about 140 districts ( Laotian ເມືອງ Müang ) and over 11,000 villages ( Laotian ບ້ານ Ban ). The Laotian state gives the provinces a great deal of freedom, while the one party LRVP is the centralizing element. This will ensure the implementation of the party line and the supremacy of the party.
From 1994 to 2006 there was the special zone ( ເຂດ ພິ ເສດ - khetphiset ) Saysomboun , which had been formed from parts of the provinces of Vientiane and Xieng Khouang and was divided into these again. In 2013, Saysomboun was rebuilt as a province.
The provinces are specifically named, sorted according to the national code of the administrative units:
After the communist seizure of power, attempts were initially made from 1975 to introduce a planned economy. Market economy reforms were introduced as early as 1986 as part of the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) . So price fixing and subsidies were gradually abolished, the exchange rate of the kip was adjusted to the market rate, a banking system based on the western model was introduced and private economic activity was promoted. The establishment of institutions that regulate the market economy, such as the legal and administrative system, has begun. In the 1990s the economy then grew annually by more than 6% in real terms. The government's goal is to overcome the status of a Least Developed Country by 2020 .
The currency unit in Laos is the new kip. In addition to the kip, the US dollar and Thai baht are widely accepted, although the government is keen to curb the use of these currencies. The exchange of goods in rural areas mostly takes place in barter ; the money economy is limited to the cities.
The trade balance is negative. The main export products are wood , coffee , electrical energy and tin . Resins, green cardamom , leather and hides and, more recently, gold and copper are also exported. Chemical and petrochemical products, motor vehicles, machines, electrical systems, steel and cotton are imported . China, Thailand and Japan are the main buyers of Lao goods. Thailand, China, Japan and Singapore are the main suppliers.
The gross domestic product (GDP) was the equivalent of 13.8 billion dollars in 2016, and the per capita income in 2016 was 1,925 dollars. GDP growth has amounted to six to eight percent in each of the past 15 years, although growth temporarily slowed to four percent during the Asian crisis . Most of the growth comes from agriculture, the export of textiles, wood and wood products, electrical energy and foreign investments (development aid or FDI ).
The unemployment rate was officially given as 1.5% in 2016 and was therefore very low. Most jobs are in the informal sector and many people are long-term underemployed. In 2012, 73.1% of all workers worked in agriculture, 20.6% in the service sector and 6.1% in industry. The total number of employees is estimated at 3.6 million for 2017, 49.8% of them women.
In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Laos ranks 98th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2019, the country ranks 110th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .
Laos is an agricultural state , around 80% of the population work in agriculture . They generate around 50% of the Lao GDP. The alluvial plains of the Mekong and its tributaries and the Bolavens Plateau in southern Laos are particularly suitable for agriculture . The soils in other regions of the country are less fertile.
The entire agricultural sector is in private hands. Many of the households are subsistence farming , especially those in the remote areas where a lack of infrastructure prevents access to markets. Rice is the main product of agricultural production and accounts for about 40% of the total volume produced. Only 10% of the amount produced is sold in the markets, the rest is consumed by the farmers themselves. Laos has a very high biodiversity in rice, around 3000 to 4000 varieties are known, most of which belong to the sticky rice varieties.
Agriculture is only practiced intensively in the plains of the Mekong. There is also the 12% of the arable land that can be artificially irrigated. No pesticides or fertilizers are used, and there is no irrigation, especially in the remote areas . For these reasons, rice production is lower than in neighboring countries. Around 2.2 million tons were harvested in 2000, which means that the country can feed itself in terms of rice.
The livestock accounts for about one-fifth of GDP, even though it is only extensively operated with little effort. Farmers often suffer losses if their animals die due to a lack of veterinary care or if the meat is not suitable for sale. However, the growth potential in this area is very high. The same applies to fish production.
Laos is a potential food exporter considering its relatively low population density. At the moment, however, this is countered by the subsistence-oriented economy, the non-existent or inadequate infrastructure, the poor training of farmers and the lack of credit institutions in the country.
About half of the country is covered with forest, including tropical precious woods, which are used for the manufacture of furniture. In addition, spices such as cardamom, rattan , medicine and tree resins are extracted from the forest .
In contrast to Thailand and increasingly Cambodia or Vietnam , Laos is still largely untouched by the large numbers of tourists. In Vientiane the curfew changes constantly, usually at 11pm. With the exception of Luang Prabang, the country is unattractive for package tourists due to its low per capita income, poor health of the population and a lack of tourist infrastructure . Nevertheless, tourism is one of the up-and-coming branches of the economy and a source of foreign currency , so Laos is focusing on gentle ecological and cultural tourism.
There are four international airports: Vientiane (VTE), Luang Prabang (LPQ), Pakse (PKZ) and Savannakhet (ZVK). The national state airline is Lao Airlines , based in Vientiane. There are several flight connections from Thailand , Vietnam , Cambodia , Malaysia , Yunnan ( China ), Singapore and South Korea .
There are regular bus connections on the paved roads, whereas in the more remote regions there are mainly small vans with flatbed bodies and two benches ( songthaew ). Depending on the road conditions and the weather, the travel times can vary greatly.
On the Mekong , boats run from Huay Xay via Luang Prabang to Vientiane. This trip with overnight stays in Pakbeng and Luang Prabang takes two to three days. In addition, there are speedboats that cover this distance in just a few hours.
The industry is hardly developed. The economic development is severely impaired by the low level of education of the working population as well as hardly available domestic and foreign investment capital. The most important branch of industry is the generation of electricity from hydropower, with several smaller power plants currently in operation and several others in the planning stage. The electricity generation is exclusively in the hands of the state company Electricité du Laos .
In addition, textiles are manufactured and wood processed to a small extent. About 90% of Lao industrial and craft enterprises are micro-enterprises. The larger companies were until recently purely state-owned or controlled by state institutions such as the military.
The growth of industrial production has slowed since the Asian crisis, which is mainly due to the deterioration in export opportunities, which cannot be compensated by the very small domestic market. In addition, the financial system is underdeveloped: three state banks dominate the market, but have large sums of bad loans that make them illiquid. The banks have been recapitalized before, but a bad credit culture, and particularly lending to state-owned industries, has resulted in new bad loans building up.
Laos is promoting the expansion of the hydropower-based energy industry and wants to become the “energy cell of Southeast Asia”. 39 hydropower plants are in operation across the country, and a further 53 are under construction or to be built (as of 2018). A further 54 power transmission lines and 16 substations are to be built by 2020 . Two thirds of the energy from hydropower is exported. Energy exports represent about 30% of the value of all Laos exports. (According to the state-controlled Vientiane Times , 51 hydropower plants with a total output of 6,984 MW are in operation, another 46 with a capacity of 6,083 MW are under construction, and a further 112 projects with a Output of 8,612 MW in the planning phase.)
So far, Laos has not been able to use its natural resources for a self-sufficient supply of renewable energy , but the Ministry of Science and Technology commissioned a feasibility study in 2015 to initially install a 50 MW solar system in the south of To have Laos built, with Chinese investors wanting to support the country. The government is thus breaking away from the original idea of only wanting to use the resources of the hydropower potential after there are disputes with the neighbors over the Laotian dam projects on the Mekong. Companies like Green Energy Laos in Vientiane want to promote the use of wind and solar power in Laos. According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines , the controversial Hongsa lignite power plant with its planned output of 1,650 MW will be commissioned in 2016 .
The most important export goods are electricity from hydropower plants (20% of exports), wood and wood products (41%) and coffee. The most important import goods include food, machinery, vehicles and other industrial goods. Foreign trade, especially export, is slowed down by the lack of and poor quality of the infrastructure, the relatively long transport routes (Laos is a landlocked country) and the low qualifications of the workforce.
The Laotian economy shows an external imbalance, but the resulting current account deficit is offset by capital inflows, some of which come as development aid or as foreign investments. The largest investors in Laos are the neighboring countries Thailand, China and Vietnam.
In order to reduce its one-sided dependency on Thai export ports, Laos is increasingly cooperating with Vietnam.
All GDP values are given in US dollars ( purchasing power parity ).
(purchasing power parity)
|1.87 billion||3.48 billion||4.84 billion||7.46 billion||10.69 billion||16.36 billion||18.38 billion||20.35 billion||22.37 billion||24.20 billion||26.46 billion||29.16 billion||32.01 billion||35.14 billion||38.50 billion||41.75 billion||45.24 billion||49.21 billion|
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
(as a percentage of GDP)
The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditure of the equivalent of 3.8 billion US dollars , which was offset by income of the equivalent of 2.8 billion US dollars. This results in a budget deficit of 6.9% of GDP . The national debt was 67.3% of GDP in 2016.
In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:
The Laos telephone network still does not cover the whole country. The number of telephone connections is also very low at around 30,000. Direct telephone connections to and from Laos have not been around for very long. Laos has four GSM - mobile nets, mainly urban areas and parts of the transport routes, such as the Mekong, cover on busy routes. Roaming is possible.
Internet access is also not widespread in Laos, around 60% of Internet users are foreigners, and only 14% of users live outside the capital, Vientiane. Laotians usually go online in internet cafes. In 2016, 15.7% of the population had access to the Internet.
The Laotian post is considered inefficient, letters from abroad to Laos can take several weeks.
In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , Laos was ranked 170th out of 180 countries. According to the NGO report, the press freedom situation in the country is "difficult". A journalist is in custody in Laos.
In Laos, there is strict censorship of the media, most of which are owned and controlled by the LPRP . The daily newspaper Vientiane Times appears in English ; in French the weekly newspaper Le Rénovateur . Both are part of the Lao Press in Foreign Languages in the Ministry of Information and Culture . Important Lao-language newspapers are the government-published Vientiane Mai and Pasason gazettes . The average daily newspaper circulation is 4 copies per 1000 inhabitants.
TV has been around since 1983:
- Lao National Television (state television channel)
- Lao Star Channel (private television channel)
- Lao Television Channel 3 (state television channel)
It is broadcast in the television standard PAL . You can receive Vietnamese television in Vientiane and Thai television near the border with Thailand . With the state radio station Lao National Radio there is a government-owned radio company.
Laotian television can also be received digitally via satellite and the Internet. Reception is possible via the following satellites:
Laos has 40,000 kilometers of roads, but only about 5,400 of them are paved (as of 2009). There is right-hand traffic. The most important road connection is National Road 13 , which runs from Boten in the north to Khong in the south and crosses the important cities of Luang Prabang , Vientiane , Savannakhet and Pakse . In Sino-Thai cooperation, the Kunming-Bangkok Expressway was expanded from Boten (Laos / China border) to Ban Houayxay (Thailand / Laos border).
Mostly public buses run between the cities, the previously used trucks with wooden seats are gradually being scrapped. Otherwise, due to poor road conditions, small trucks with longitudinal benches are more likely to be found on the loading area (so-called songthaews).
In general, there are very few private automobiles in the country. Even great distances are covered on foot. Common practice is to hitchhike, usually on the back of a pick-up truck . Outside of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, four-wheel-drive cars are predominant because the roads are in poor condition and watercourses often have to be crossed by fords . In larger towns, people use mopeds or bicycles if they can afford it.
The air traffic is from the state Lao Airlines (formerly Lao Aviation dominated). It offers flights to neighboring countries as well as domestic flights. However, the line is heavily in debt as ticket prices are too low to cover costs. The service and security do not meet western standards. Lao Airlines is therefore being restructured and realigned in cooperation with European consultants. A joint venture was set up to source new aircraft. The most popular route for visitors to fly to Laos is via Bangkok, which has regular connections to Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Other connections are often canceled.
Laos has had a rail link to Thailand since March 2009 . A 3.5 kilometer long section of track connects the Thai railway network from Nong Khai via the Thai-Laotian Friendship Bridge with the newly built Thanaleng station on the Laotian side.
- See also: Rail transport in Laos
Laos has a number of navigable rivers, most notably the Mekong , which is about 1,300 km navigable. However, with rapids and a waterfall on the border with Cambodia , the Mekong has only limited importance for traffic. Other rivers important for transport are Nam Ou , Nam Khan , Nam Tha , Nam Ngum and Xedon . An above-average number of accidents occur on the Laotian waterways - mainly due to the use of speedboats.
World Heritage Sites
Three sites in Laos are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the city of Luang Prabang , the temple district of Wat Phou and the Champasak cultural landscape and the megalithic jugs in Xieng Khouang - plain of the stone jugs (see also: World Heritage in Laos ).
The musical instruments played in classical and village music in Laos are related to those in Thailand and Cambodia, with the exception of some instruments used by minorities in the mountains that are only regionally widespread. The southern area of Laos and the Isan region in northeast Thailand form a coherent cultural area in village music. Classical, ie courtly music, as it was cultivated for entertainment and at ceremonies in Luang Prabang until 1975 and taught in the national art school in Vientiane, which opened in 1958, is considered peng lao deum ("traditional Laotian compositions"). First and foremost, this includes the Laotian piphat, which is a somewhat simpler variant of the Thai piphat and the Cambodian pinpeat ensemble, whereby the degree of influence of both musical styles and the Laotian contribution to the historical development of Laotian music are disputed. The Laotian piphat includes the xylophone rang nat , circularly arranged hump gongs khong vong , the reed instrument pey , the double-headed barrel drum taphon , a pair of larger barrel drums khong thab , small hand cymbals ching and large hand cymbals chap . For the quieter courtly chamber music, as in the Thai Mahori ensemble, the two-stringed spit violin so u is also used. Since the king's abdication in 1975, classical music has only been cultivated to a very modest extent in the country and by the Laotian community in exile.
At the royal court as in Thailand there was a drama with masked actors, khon , which performed the Thai epic Ramakien from India . Around 1930 a puppet theater was opened, which also told stories from the Ramakien and from a Laotian epic.
The bamboo flute khlui , known from Thailand , the plucked krachappi and phin and spit violins (generally sor or something ) appear in isolated rural entertainment music in the south. The musical instrument characteristic of Laos and widely used in the villages is the khaen mouth organ . The khaen usually has 14 bamboo pipes, which are arranged in two rows and blown directly from a wooden wind chamber. In addition, several ethnic groups play other mouth organs with fewer pipes. The most important musical instrument for the culture of the Hmong is the oral organ qeej with six bamboo pipes, the wind chamber of which is filled with breathing air via a long blowing pipe. A vertical slit drum ( dung lung , pong long in northeast Thailand ) is rare . Double-headed drums (generally kong ) that are struck with the hands are more common . The relationship to the Thai Isan region is established by the singing style Mo lam (in Laos lam ), the other singing style is called khap . In both genres men and women compete with each other or they are courtship songs. At lam , a distinction is made between several genres depending on the region, ensemble cast and topic. In any case, a khaen is part of the instrumentation. The khaen sets the tone sequence of Laotian music. Their pipes are tuned heptatonic like in Thailand , that is, the octave is divided into seven tones. Two different pentatonic scales are derived from this scale , a major sound (example G – A – C – D – E) and a minor sounding scale (example A – C – D – E – G).
|January 1st||New Year|
|6th January||Pathet Lao Day|
|January 20th||Army Day|
|March 22||Party day|
|14.-16. April||Lao New Year||Water resistant|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|June 1st||Children's day|
|13 August||Lao Issara|
|2. December||Independence day|
Official holidays in Laos include the New Year (January 1st); Pi Mai , the Lao New Year, which is calculated according to the lunar calendar , usually takes place in April. The Labor Day (1 May) and the National Day (December 2) will be spent with lavish celebrations. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it will be moved to the preceding or following working day.
Religious holidays are Boun Bang Fai , which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha , Khao Phansa , which heralds the beginning of Buddhist Lent (July), and Ork Phansa, which marks the end of Lent (end of October). On these occasions there is usually a celebration that the Laotians call basi or sukhwan . At these celebrations, offerings (food and rice wine) are made. At the so-called cord tying ceremony , friends wish themselves health and prosperity by wrapping cords around their wrists.
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