Portal:Laos/Intro

Location of Laos in Indochina

Laos (/ˈlɑːs/ , /ˈls/, /ˈlɑːɒs/, or /ˈlɒs/; Lao: ລາວ, Lao pronunciation: [láːw], Lāo), or commonly referred to its colloquial name of Muang Lao (Lao: ເມືອງລາວ, Muang Lao), is a landlocked country in the heart of the Indochinese peninsula of Mainland Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest.

It traces its historic and cultural identity to the kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao (Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol), which existed for four centuries as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Due to Lan Xang's central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom was able to become a popular hub for overland trade, becoming wealthy economically as well as culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke off into three separate kingdoms — Luang Phrabang, Vientiane, and Champasak. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three territories uniting to form what is now known as the country of Laos. It briefly gained freedom in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but was recolonised by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953 under King Sisavang Vong.

The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately 60 percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 40 percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.

Laos' ambitious strategies for development are based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbors, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a 'land-linked' nation, shown by the planning of four new railways connecting Laos to those same countries. This, along with growth of the mining sector, Laos has been referred to as one of East Asia and Pacific's fastest growing economies by the World Bank, with annual GDP growth averaging 7% for the past decade. It is a member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit and La Francophonie. Laos became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013.

Unity was the code name for Thailand's covert supply of mercenary soldiers to the Kingdom of Laos during the Laotian Civil War. From 4 July 1964 until March 1973, battalions of Thai volunteers fought Communist insurgents on the Plain of Jars in Military Region 2. As the Hmong L'Armée Clandestine was sapped by ongoing casualties and a limited basis for replacements, Unity battalions replaced them.

By December 1970, Unity battalions also began defensive operations against People's Army of Vietnam units pushing westward from the Ho Chi Minh trail in the southern Lao panhandle. By the time the Communists defeated the Royalists in February 1973, about 18,000 Thai volunteers were serving in Laos. (Full article...)
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