Laos is located in Southeast Asia. The official name of the
country is the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). This is a
presidential-parliamentary one-party authoritarian republic, where
the Marxist-Leninist and communist People's Revolutionary Party of
Laos (PRPL) is in power. One of the poorest countries in Southeast
Asia, but with a stable political situation and a mixed planned
market economy. Neighboring Vietnam and China (politically and
economically), as well as Thailand (socially and economically) have
a strong influence on the country.
Laos, along with Myanmar, is the least visited country in Southeast Asia by tourists, losing in the struggle for tourists to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and even Cambodia, although there are many interesting places of their own. Laos is also the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia.
The country is located on the Indochina peninsula, has no access to the sea. It borders Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west, Myanmar and China to the north.
In religious terms, at least 65% of the inhabitants are Buddhists, about 30% are adherents of various traditional beliefs, 1.5% are Christians (Catholics and Protestants), the remaining 2% are atheists and adherents of other religions and beliefs.
The official language of the country is Lao. Also, all the locals, thanks to television, understand and speak Thai well.
The country's currency is the New Lao Kip (LAK).
In terms of crime, Laos is generally safe, as there are harsh laws for ordinary citizens, but pickpockets are common, so be on the lookout in crowded places and on public transport, otherwise you will be left without a wallet, phone or camera.
Laos is one of the most corrupt countries in Southeast Asia. Local police officers are not afraid to extort bribes from foreigners for fictitious "violations". Many travel
Since the XII century, the territory of modern Laos from South China,
due to the Mongol expansion, began to be invaded by the Tai and Lao
tribes, who fought with the local states of the Mon and Khmer tribes.
Numerous Thai principalities (muongs) were formed, inhabited by the Tai
and Lao tribes, nominally subordinate to the Khmer Empire or Sukhothai.
In the XIV century, the Khmer king supported his court pupil Fa Ngum, a native of the Northern Lao principality, and gave him an army to capture all the other principalities. As a result, the state of Lan Xang or Lan Sang Hom Khao (“Land of a million elephants and a white umbrella”) was formed, from which it is customary to count the history of Laos. Since that time, there has been a separation of the Tai and Lao tribes; there are disputes between Thai and Lao historians about the identification of the Lao tribes.
In the 18th century, after the decline of the Lan Xang state, Laos became dependent on Siam, and in 1893, according to an agreement between France and Siam, it went to France, becoming part of the colonial territory of French Indochina.
During the Second World War, Laos was occupied by the Japanese, and in 1949 gained independence in the form of a kingdom led by King Sisawang Wong.
Internal conflicts in the late 1950s led to the start of a civil war in the country, in which North Vietnam and the United States then intervened. During this period, the Lao People's Liberation Army (Pathet Lao), supported by North Vietnam, controlled a large area in the east of the country.
The fighting in Laos was directly related to the Vietnam War, since a significant part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail passed through the country, along which North Vietnam transferred its troops to the south. During the war, 250-260 million bombs were dropped on Laos. The New York Times wrote: "At least two million tons of bombs were dropped from 1964 to 1973, almost a ton for every Laotian." The bombings caused great damage to the civilian population, nature and economy of the country. According to statistics from international organizations, 80 million bombs failed to explode and so far they have caused injury or death to thousands of people.
After the end of the Vietnam War, the United States ceased military activities in Indochina. The fighting in Laos ended in February 1973 with the signing of the Vientiane Agreement. Violating the agreement, the Pathet Lao forces launched an offensive in the spring of 1975 and occupied Vientiane in August. Within a few months, the structure of the coalition government was preserved, Pathet Lao pursued a moderate policy, but in December 1975, she took full power in the country into her own hands. On December 2, 1975, King Savang Wathana was forced to abdicate. The government was headed by the General Secretary of the People's Revolutionary Party of Laos, Kayson Phomvihan, who became the de facto ruler of the country. With the support of the USSR and Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic was formed. Already in 1975, the Lao authorities proclaimed the transition to the socialist path of development. Central planning was introduced in the country, collectivization and nationalization were launched. The theoretical basis for the transformations was the thesis of Kason Fomvikhan, put forward in 1972, about the transition to socialism "bypassing the capitalist stage." The civil war actually continued in the country: the guerrilla struggle against the government was carried out by the anti-communist Neo Hom rebels, the Hmong Chao Fa and ELOL movements led by Wang Pao and Pa Cao He.
Already in the late 1970s, the Lao PDR authorities began to change their policy. In 1986, the transition to a “new economic mechanism” (“chin taakan mai”) was announced, and in 1988 the Investment Promotion Act and the Foreign Investment Law were adopted. The content of the "chin taakan mai" policy was determined by three points: privatization and restructuring of the public sector, encouragement of foreign investment and transition to a market under state control. Further transformations in Laos were similar to Doi Moi's policy in Vietnam and Deng Xiaoping's reforms in China. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the collective farms were actually dissolved: the peasant individual farm received the right to long-term (sometimes lifelong) use of cultivated land, the right to inherit and pledge it. Active stimulation of small and medium-sized businesses began. A feature of Laos was the ban on the construction of large industrial facilities introduced during this period (except for those built with foreign investment). A number of enterprises have been privatized. In the early 1990s, it was allowed to create private banks and businesses. In 1990, free economic zones were created in the country. In the future, the policy of "chin taakan mai" was continued - in 2003, the law guaranteed that foreign investment would not be nationalized.
After a short border conflict, friendly relations were established with Thailand, and in the 1990s relations with the United States were normalized and relations were established with a number of other countries and international organizations.
Laos has a one-party system, the government of the country is carried out by the People's Revolutionary Party of Laos (PRPL) of the communist type. The President of Laos is elected by Parliament for a five-year term. The government is headed by the Prime Minister of Laos, who is appointed by the President upon approval by the National Assembly. Government policy is determined by the Party through the nine-member Politburo and the 49-member Central Committee.
The new constitution of Laos, which establishes the procedure for elections to the parliament (National Assembly), was adopted in 1991. Despite the one-party system, elections to the Lao parliament are formally held partially on an alternative basis - in the 2016 vote, 211 candidates competed for 149 mandates.
After the death of Kason Phomvihan, who headed the PRPL for 36 years, and the country for 16 years, that is, until his death, a state regime close to the Chinese was established in Laos, in which the leader of the party and state remains in office for a limited amount of time (maximum for currently 10 years), after which he resigns and is replaced by another member of the leadership of the NRPL.