Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia bordered by China, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
The people of Laos are usually considered by their location as this relates to ethnicity. The lowland people (Lao Loum) account for about 60% of the country's population and are ethnic Lao. This group is descended from migrants who came south from China during the first millennium. 10% belong to other lowland groups.
The Mon-Khmer tribes, known as Lao Theung, inhabit the central and southern mountain areas. These are the indigenous inhabitants of northern Laos, although there are some Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai minorities. Lao Theung account for 30% of the population.
The Lao Soung, or highland people, include minority cultures such as the Hmong, Yao, Dao, Shan and other peoples who have lived in this isolated region for some time. The mountain tribes of mixed heritage include the Lua and Khmu people, who are indigenous to the region, The Lua people are endangered. The Lao Soung account for 10% of the population.
Laos also has the youngest population of any Asian country with a median age of 21.6 years.
Laos Religion, Economy and Politics
Laos is a very religious nation, but the practices happening within its borders aren't very diverse. Nearly all of the indigenous or 'lowland' people practice Theravada Buddhism. Native people making up roughly half of the population. An additional 16% of non-native people give Buddhism a majority of 66% of the Laos population. The second most practiced religion is Laotian folk religion, a religion whose specifics vary significantly depending on who is practicing it and in what region of the country. Only 3% of the population are Christian or follow another religion.
The economy of Laos is one of the world's fastest-growing in the world, which is largely attributed to their decentralized government and encouragement of private enterprise. Although the economy is doing well as a whole, Laos is still one of the poorest countries in the region, largely because of its disproportionately large and uneducated workforce. One of the country's top priorities is to decrease poverty through an increase in education funding to bring education to every child in the country. A large portion of their economy is maintained by foreign investment.
The government of Laos is a one-party socialist republic, meaning that the only legal political party is the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, which is led by the president who doesn't have too much power politically. The prime minister who is the real leader of the government is picked by the president and decides on any laws with the powerful 9-member Politburo, and the 49-member Central Committee. There are also 4 Deputy Prime Ministers that have slightly less influence.
Laos Population History
The country of Laos was a protectorate of France between the years 1893- 1945, after which the Japanese briefly occupied the area post World War II. Laos gained full independence in 1954, and civil war broke out near instantly between royalists and a communist group called Pathet Lao.
The United States dropped more bombs on Laos during the 1960s than were dropped in all of World War II in an attempt to eliminate sanctuaries the North Vietnamese had set up and to destroy the supply lines of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Communists took over the country in 1975, which led to extreme food shortages and the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Thailand. Under President Obama, the US committed 90 million USD to clear the unexploded bombs the United States dropped decades earlier.