- The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, whose capital is Vientiane, is Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country. Modern Laos covers more than 236,000 square kilometres, yet has a population of just under 7 million.
- A constitutional monarchy until 1976, Laos is today a one-party dictatorship and one of the world’s last official communist states. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, heavily reliant on aid.
- Life expectancy is a rather paltry 57 years, and there’s a young population, with the average age just 19.5 years.
- Lowland Lao (Lao Loum) comprise approximately seventy percent of the population, upland Lao (Lao Theung) and highland Lao (Lao Soung) roughly twenty and ten percent respectively; within these broad definitions, there are many smaller divisions. Chinese and Vietnamese are a small but economically significant portion of the population.
- The national language is Lao, a tonal language closely related to Thai, although the written scripts differ. English is the most spoken European language.
- Laos is a predominately Buddhist country and follows the Theravadan school of Buddhism, in common with neighbouring Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. Around thirty percent of the population, particularly those in the highlands, follow animist beliefs.
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