Asia

Laos

Capital

The capital of Laos is Vientaine.Vientaine is the largest city in Laos, situated along the Mekong River near the border with Thailand.Vientaine became the capital of Laos in 1563 due to fears of Burmese invation.

Geography

Laos is located in southeast Asia and is approximately the same size a Victoria.It is one of the few landlocked country's in Asia.Its landscape is dominated by rivers and mountains.Its climate is tropical with high temperature and humidity levels.The rainy season is from May to November.
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People

Laos has a population of 6.4billion.The official language of Laos is Lao but Frenh, English and other languages are also spoken.Theravada Buddism is the dominate religion, although animist beliefs are also common.

History/Highlights

Laos has its origns in the acient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th century.for 300 years this kingdom included parts of modern-day Columbia and Thailand, as well as all of what is now laos.From late 18th century, Laos came under the control of Siam (now Thailand) before coming under control in the late 19th century. In 1975, communist forces ended the monarchy in Laos and ruled with a regime closley aligned to Vietnam and the Soviet Union.Isolation from the westernworld was a feature.Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991,Laos has relaxed this policy,but has struggledto find its postion within a changing political and economic landscape.Despite tentativere reforms, Laos remains poor and dependent on internatiuonal donations.Laos is one of the few remaining communist countries.

Economy

Subsistence argriculture is dominated by rice production on the fertile  floodpain on the Mekong River.Other crops include vegetables,fruit,spices and cotton.This subsistence agriculture accounts for 80% of total employment.The goverment began decentralising control and encouraging private encouraging private enterprise in 1986, and economic growth has been steady except for the Asian financial crisis in 1997.Nevertheless, Laos remains one of the poorest countries in southeast Asia. Infrastructure is inadequate, with no railroads, a basic road system and limited telecommunications.Elictricity is avalible in only a few urban areas.The economy benifits from foriegn investmant and overseas aid, and is currently focused on road projects and hydro-electricity dam construction.the dam is intended to generate electricity for export to Thailand.Other exports include  clothing, coffee,tin and timber products.Tourism is also growing. The main expot partners are Vietnam, Thailand and France.

Education

since 1985, primary school education has been compulsory and the majority of children now attend classes.However,a lack of schools and trained teachers,especially in remote rural areas, means that universal primary education is limited.an intensive adult literacy program has helped to improve the ability of many people to read and write.

Health

Health care in Laos was poor in the early990's. Although diets are not grossly inadequate, chrino moderate vitamin andprotein deficiences are common, particularly among upland ethnic groups.Poor sanitation and the prevalence of several tropical diseases further eroded the health of population.Western medical care is available in few locations, and the quality and experienceof practitioners are, for the most part,marginal, a situation that has not improved much since the 1950s.

Living Conditions

The staple diet for Laotians is rice with spices and freshvegetables. Freshwater fish, poultry and pork are importantsources of protein and are flavoured with lime juice,lemongrass, chillies, garlic, mint and coconut milk. However,many poor families are unable to afford nutritious food.Many rural families struggle to make a living on small plots ofland and are unaware they are often using outdated farmingtechniques. Deforestation is a major problem, destroyingarable land and making it difficult for farmers to producehealthy crops.Many rural families live in one-roomed homes, made ofbamboor wood with a thatched or tin roof, built on stiltsto keep cool and avoid flooding. Health services, especially inrural areas, continue to be poor. Lack of access to safe waterand adequate sanitation means that communicable diseaseslike diarrhoea and malaria are major causes of illness anddeath, especially in young children. In the absence of adequatemedical facilities, traditional spirit healers remain important.

Natural Resources

laos is richin natural resources.These resources have raised the appetite of its nieghbouring countries and direct foriegn investmentsin mining, hydrpower, and agriculture plantations are growing fast.But this economic trend puts pressure on the natural resources and might exclude vulnerable communities, especialy the 70 % of the population who rely on these resources for their lives

Environmental Issuses

Laos is increasingly suffering from environmental problems, with deforestation a partcularly significant issue, as expanding commercial exploitation ofof the forests, plans for additional hydroelectric facilities, foreign demand for wild animals and nonwood forest products for food and traditional medicines, and a growing population all create increasing pressure.