The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is situated in Southeast Asia, with a population of about 6.5 million people, and the total area of 236,800 square kilometers of which two-thirds is mountainous. The Lao PDR is a landlocked country, which shares borders with 5 countries, namely the People’s Republic of China in the North, the Kingdom of Cambodia in the South, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the East, the Kingdom of Thailand in the West, and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in the North West.
The population of the Lao PDR consists of 49 ethnic groups, living scattered all over the Country, and is classified into 4 ethno-linguistic groups, namely Lao-Tai, Mon-Khmer, Hmong-Imien, Sino-Tibetan. The multi-ethnic Lao people live in peace and harmony and enjoy solidarity and equal rights before the law.
The Lao PDR is criss-crossed with a myriad of rivers and streams. The largest is the Mekong River which is the main geographical feature in the West. In the Southern part, the Mekong River reaches a breadth of 20 kilometers, creating an area with thousands of small islands. It is estimated that 60% of the water entering the Mekong River system originates in Lao PDR. These rivers and streams provide great potential for hydropower development with 51% of the power potential in the lower Mekong basin contained within Lao PDR.
Lao PDR generally enjoys a wild tropical climate with two distinct seasons, the rainy season (May-October) and the dry season (November-April). The yearly average temperature is about 28 degrees Celsius, rising to a maximum of 38 degrees Celsius during April and May. Rainfall with the highest amount of 3,700 millimeters annually occurs in the Southern part of Laos. In Vientiane rainfall is about 1,500-2,000 millimeters, and in the Northern provinces only 1,000-1,500 millimeters.
During a period of the 4th and 8th century, communities along the Mekong River began to form into townships, called Mueang. In the 14th century, this development culminated in the formation of the Lane Xang (a million elephants) Kingdom by King Fa Ngum and established Xieng Thong (currently Luang Prabang) as the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom.
After King Fa Ngum, one of the most notable kings was King Setthathirath who had ruled the Kingdom from 1578-1571. He moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and built the That Luang Stupa, a venerated religious shrine, and a temple to house the Pra Keo, the Emerald Buddha.
In the 17th century, under the reign of King Souliyavongsa, the Lane Xang Kingdom entered its most prosperous era which had the first contact with the Western part such as a Dutch merchant of the East India company and the Italian missionary Leria de Marini.
In the late 18th century, due to in-fighting for the throne, the Lane Xang Kingdom was broken-up into three kingdoms (Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champasak). All of these civil wars weakened the kingdom, thus creating opportunities for new foreign aggressors to invade.
To recover its full rights and sovereignty, Lao people started fighting against the colonial regime under the leadership of the Communist Party of Indochina (founded in 1930). The long period of political upheaval and military operation culminated with the international Conference and the Geneva Agreement on Indochina in 1954 which the independence of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were recognized.
The situation worsened again during the Indochina War, even though the Geneva Accord of 1962 had recognized the neutrality of Laos and forbade the presence of all foreign military personnel. By bombing the portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail across Laos, the country had been heavily bombed and became the most heavily bombed nation in history. This bombardment took place particularly in Houaphanh and Xieng Khouang Provinces, in which international teams are still working on the clearance of unexploded ordnances (UXOs), and people in the areas continue to suffer from the legacy of that war.
In 1975, under the leadership of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Laos achieved complete independence and established the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on 2nd December 1975. At the present, Lao people of all ethnic groups are making all efforts to develop the country in line with the new policy of the Party and Government in order to lift the country out of the least developed country status by 2020.