The World Factbook (1982)/Laos

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The World Factbook (1982)
by the Central Intelligence Agency


World Factbook (1982) Laos.jpg
(See reference map IX)


236,804 km2; 8% agricultural, 60% forests, 32% urban, waste, and other; except in very limited areas, soil is very poor; most of forested area is not exploitable

Land boundaries: 5,053 km


Population: 3,577,000 (July 1982), average annual growth rate 1.7%

Nationality: noun—Lao or Laotian (sing.); Laotians (pl.); adjective—Lao or Laotian

Ethnic divisions: 48% Lao; 25% Phoutheung (Kha); 14% Tribal Tai; 13% Meo, Yao, and other

Religion: 50% Buddhist, 50% animist and other

Language: Lao official, French predominant foreign language

Literacy: about 15%

Labor force: about 1-1.5 million; 80%-90% agriculture

Organized labor: only labor organization is subordinate to the Communist Party


Official name: Lao People's Democratic Republic

Type: Communist state

Capital: Vientiane

Political subdivisions: 13 provinces subdivided into districts, cantons, and villages

Legal system: based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: 2 December

Branches: President; 40-member Supreme People's Council; Cabinet; Cabinet is totally Communist but Council contains a few nominal neutralists and non-Communists; National Congress of People's Representatives established the current government structure in December 1975


Suffrage: universal over age 18

Elections: elections for National Assembly, originally scheduled for 1 April 1976, have not yet been held

Political parties and leaders: Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Communist), party chairman Kayson Phomvihan, includes Lao Patriotic Front and Alliance Committee of Patriotic Neutralist Forces; third congress of Lao People's Revolutionary Party scheduled for first half of 1982; other parties are moribund

Other political or pressure groups: non-Communist political groups are moribund; most leaders have fled the country

Member of: ADB, Colombo Plan, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFAD, ILO, IMF, IPU, ITU, Mekong Committee, NAM, SEAMES, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WTO


GNP: $290 million, $90 per capita (1977 est.)

Agriculture: main crops—rice (overwhelmingly dominant), corn, vegetables, tobacco, coffee, cotton; formerly self-sufficient; food shortages (due in part to distribution deficiencies), including rice

Major industries: tin mining, timber, tobacco, textiles, electric power

Shortages: capital equipment, petroleum, transportation system, trained personnel

Electric power: 141,000 kW capacity (1980); 887 million kWh produced (1980), 253 kWh per capita

Exports: $15 million (f.o.b., 1979 est.); electric power, forest products, tin concentrates; coffee, undeclared exports of opium and tobacco

Imports: $80 million (c.i.f., 1979 est.); rice and other foodstuffs, petroleum products, machinery, transportation equipment

Major trade partners: imports from Thailand, USSR, Japan, France, China, Vietnam; exports to Thailand and Malaysia; trade with Communist countries insignificant; Laos was once a major transit point in world gold trade, value of 1973 gold reexports $55 million

Aid: economic commitments—Western (non-US) countries ODA and OOF (1970-79), $235 million; US (FY70-80), $276 million; military— US assistance $1,119.5 million (1970-75)

Budget: (1979 est.) receipts, $54.7 million; expenditures, $174.2 million; deficit $119.5 million

Monetary conversion rate: US$1=400 kip (since June 1978)

Fiscal year: 1 July-30 June


Highways: about 21,300 km total; 1,300 km bituminous or bituminous treated; 5,900 km gravel, crushed stone, or improved earth; 14,100 km unimproved earth and often impassable during rainy season mid-May to mid-September

Inland waterways: about 4,587 km, primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,897 additional kilometers are sectionally navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m

Ports (river): 5 major, 4 minor

Airfields: 88 total, 76 usable; 12 with permanent-surface runways; 2 with runways 2,440-3,659 m, 13 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: service to general public considered poor; radio network provides generally erratic service to government users; approx. 10 AM stations; over 2,000 est. telephones; 1 ground satellite station


Military manpower: males 15-49, 845,000; 453,000 fit for military service; 40,000 reach military age (18) annually; no conscription age specified

Lao People's Liberation Army (LPLA): the LPLA consists of an army with naval, aviation, and militia elements