Location of Laos in Indochina

Laos (/ˈlɑːs/ (listen), /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.

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  Decriminalization – No criminal penalties for prostitution
  Legalization – prostitution legal and regulated
  Abolitionism – prostitution is legal, but organized activities such as brothels and pimping are illegal; prostitution is not regulated
  Neo-abolitionism illegal to buy sex and for 3rd party involvement, legal to sell sex
  Prohibitionism – prostitution illegal
  Legality varies with local laws

Prostitution in Laos is regarded as a criminal activity and can be subject to severe prosecution. It is much less common than in neighbouring Thailand. Soliciting for prostitution takes place mainly in the city's bars and clubs, although street prostitution also takes place. The visibility of prostitution in Laos belies the practice's illegality. As of 2016, UNAIDS estimates there to be 13,400 prostitutes in the country.

Most prostitutes in Laos are from poor rural Laotian families and the country's ethnic minorities. In addition to these, there are many prostitutes in Laos from China and Vietnam, while some Laotian women go to Thailand to work as sex workers. Laos has been identified as a source country for women and girls trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. (Full article...)
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Channapha Khamvongsa (born 1973) is the Lao-American former founder and executive director of Legacies of War, a D.C.-based non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the history and continued effects of the Vietnam War-era bombings in Laos through the use of art, culture, education, and advocacy. In September 2016, President Barack Obama acknowledged Channapha’s advocacy efforts in Laos, when he became the first U.S. President to visit the country. (Full article...)

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