Laos

ASIA

COUNTRY

Laos is a landlocked country located in Asia.

It is approximately the size of Victoria with its landscape dominated by rivers and mountains.

The Mekong river runs the entire length of Laos and is the national border between Laos and Thailand.

Laos also borders with China and Burma to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.


Laos' first recorded history traces back to the emergence of the Kingdom of Lan Xang in the fourteenth century. The kingdom became powerful and wealthy -and covered much of what is known today as Thailand and Laos- under the rule of King Fa Ngum.

His successors -especially King Setthathirat in the sixteenth century- helped establish Buddhism as the predominant religion.

  • The capitol of Laos is Vientiane.
  • Laos' National Anthem is Pheng Xat Lao.

*Audio link below*

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THE PEOPLE OF LAOS

  • Laos has a population of about 6.646 Million (2012) and eighty percent of the nation lives in rural areas.
  • The official language is Lao. Though French, English and other languages are spoken.
  • Laos' predominant religion is Theravada Buddhism. Christianity, Protestants, Animism, Islam, Bahá'í Faith Mahayana Buddhism, and Confucianism are the minority religious groups. The country is made up of 130 different ethnics groups.

Theravada Buddhists believe in four noble truths that Lord Buddha has realised in order to become enlightened. This form of Buddhism teaches in the cooling of human passions (‘cool heart’) and strong emotions, with the followers strongly believing in karma.


Laos has a distinct culture that has influences from India and China through Theravada Buddhism which is reflected through Laos' language and also their art, literature and the performing arts. The influence of Buddhism can be by the way the Lao people live as they are taught to be patient and accept others. In the past, Buddhism was the only that kept the people of Laos together when there was no law enforcement in place.

  • Boun Pha Vet is an important festival in Laos that is held once a year and lasts two days. It is traditionally held in January or February according to the moon cycle and during the ceremony, the monks give an outlining (sermon) of all the chapters of Maha Wetsandon Chadok , which is otherwise known as the Great Birth Sermon.


HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS

The origins of Laos come from the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, and for 300 years covered parts of present-day Cambodia, Thailand and all of Laos.

In the late eighteenth century, Laos came under the rule of Thailand (then Siam) before coming under the control of France in the late nineteenth century.


Communist forces ended the monarchy of Laos in 1975. The Communist party had close ties with Vietnam and the Soviet Union up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, they remain a Communist country.

Laos relaxed it's policies but still struggled economically and remained poor and dependent on international assistance.

In 1997 they become a member of ASEAN (The Association of South East Asian Nations) as part of their efforts to improve their standing in the international community and economic ties with other countries.

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CLIMATE

Laos is located in the tropical areas of the Earth with high humidity levels and temperature. The rainy season (monsoon season) is from May to November and the dry period from December to April.

Annual monsoon cycles affect most of mainland Southeast Asia.

ECONOMY

Laos' economy is undeveloped and has poor infrastructure and communication systems. Agriculture is largely subsistence with few commercial based farms that are common in first world countries like Australia. The government began encouraging private businesses in the 1980's and to help the economy grow. Laos' recent focus has been on building better infrastructure and damming for hydro-electricity. These effects have been helped by overseas aid and foreign investment but Laos is still one of the poorest countries in southeast Asia.

  • Laos' main export partners are Thailand, Vietnam and France.

EDUCATION

Primary schooling has been compulsory since 1985 and the majority of children in Laos now attend school. Though lack of schools and trained teachers is a problem, especially in remote rural areas, meaning that education in those places is limited.

An intensive adult literacy program has also increased the reading and writing ability of men and women but the women's literacy rate is still lower than the men's.

HEALTH

The average life expectancy for the people of Laos is 66-69 years though roughly 72 out of one 1000 children die from diseases or other causes before the age of five.

Malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS are major health issues.

The considerable health issues in Laos are the result of poor living conditions as detailed below.



LIVING CONDITIONS

A Laotion's staple diet is rice with spices, fresh vegetables and freshwater fish, and poultry and pork are important sources of protein and are flavoured with lime juice, lemongrass, chillies, garlic, mint and coconut milk. Though poor families are unable to afford the nutritious food and therefore suffer.


Rural areas suffer the worst with struggling to grow crops on small plots of land and -some- living in one-room homes made of wood or bamboo with a tin or thatched roof, built on stilts to avoid flooding and keep cool. But many are still unaware that they are using out-dated farming techniques.

Health services are still poor, especially in rural areas and lack of clean water and sanitation continues to cause contagious diseases like malaria and diarrhoea to be major causes of death and illness, especially in younger children.



NATURAL RESOURCES

Laos has natural resources of timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold and gemstones. These resources are of commercial importance.


*Photos in order of having been listed*

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Some of Laos' environmental are as listed:

  • Deforestation; Deforestation is caused by excessive logging and clearance for agriculture without adequate controls to reduce environmental risk.
  • Soil erosion; Soil erosion is impacted by deforestation and poor farming practice.
  • Limited sources of drinking water; Limited drinking water is caused by pollution, lack of hygiene and poor infrastructure.
  • Unexploded ordnance; Unexploded ordnance is mainly live landmines and artillery shells left behind by earlier wars.

Jane Rhodes