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Laos Nation Report

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My country is Laos. It is a small, poor country in Southeast Asia. The population is about five million. It is 91,400 square miles and the officail language is Lao but french and english is only spoken for business

purposes mainly. The currency is Kip.

Human beings began living in the present territory of Laos more than 10,000 years ago. Stone tools and skulls were discovered in the Huaphan and Luang Prabang provinces. They did carbon dating on these artifacts and test say there around 10,000 years old. The giant jars in Xieng Khouang province and stone columns in Huaphan province date from the neolithic period. Humans in Laos used iron for their tools as early as the last century B.C.

Community grouping of people slowly formed into townships between the fourth and eight century A.D. on both sides of the Mekong River and along its tributaries. In 1349-1357, a movement emerged under the command of King Fa Ngoum, a national hero, to group the townships into a unified Lan Xang Kingdom, the capital of which stood at Xiengdong Xiengthong, now known as Luang Prabang. From then on, the Kingdom of Lan xang entered into an era of national defence and construction under King Fa Ngoum who first introduced Hinayana Buddhism from the Khmer Kingdom into Laos, which is still the religion professed by the majority of Lao people. From 1479 to 1570, the Lao people were forced to defend the country against foreign aggressors.

Under the rule of King Setthathirath, the capital was moved from Xiengdong Xiengthong to Vientiane in 1560. A moat was built to protect the new capital whose name means the rampart if sandalwood. King Setthathirath built a shrine to house the Phra Kaeo, the Emerald Buddha. He also erected the Luang Stupa, a venerated religious shrine which is now the symbol of the Lao nation.

In the seventeenth century, under the reign of King Souliyavongsa, the Kingdom entered its most brilliant era. It was respected by neighbouring countries and was reputed in many countries of the world. in 1694, a Dutch merchand of the East Indian Company, Geritt Van Wuysthoff, and later, two Italian misssionaries, Leria and Marini, visited the Kingdom of Lan Xang. They wrote awed reports on the rich and beautiful palaces and temples, and the splendid religious ceremonies, saying Vientiane was the most magnificent

city in South East Asia. At the end of the reign of King Souliyavongsa, the feudal lords of Lan Xang became contenders for the throne which led to the division of the country into three Kingdoms in 1713: Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Champassak. The division created opportunities for new foreign aggressors. The Lao people fought relentlessly to recover their national independence. The most firece but unsuccessful struggle in the Kingdom of Vientiane was led by King Anouvong, now a National Hero. Vientiane was ransacked completely destroyed by the Siames, with the exception of That Luang and vat Sisaket. The Emerald Buddha was taken to Bangkok. This disaster happened in 1827.

In 1893, Laos became a French colony. The Lao people of different ethnic groups under the leadership of the Communist Party of Indochina, continued to struggle for the self determination and independence of Laos. Lao finally got its independence in 1954. Despite the agreement, neo-colonialist people stepped into Laos to replace the old. During this time period, the ethnic Lao people suffered enormously. The pain of the people and the destruction of land and property was beyond physical measure. Because of the perseverance and struggle of the Lao people, victory after victory was scored until the people was able to seize power throughout the country, and the Lao People\'s Democratic Republic was established on December 2, 1975.


The traditional Lao economy was based on agriculture, handcraft production, and trade. Indeed, for centuries before Europeans arrived, flourishing local and long-distance trade networks had linked Southeast Asia with East and South Asia. It was the prospect of controlling the lucrative Asian trade in spices and other luxury goods that initially lured the French and other Europeans to Southeast Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Later they also hoped to exploit the region\'s natural resources. However, French efforts to develop Laos economically in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to little, as they quickly concluded that Laos\'s terrain made commercial agriculture and mining difficult. The civil war that followed independence in 1953 further impeded economic development. Even today, a large majority of Lao still engage in subsistence agriculture. Industry is limited to small-scale manufacturing of consumer products, though clothing and textile products have become a significant export. Government revenue is insufficient to cover expenditure and investment in infrastructure development, leaving the deficit to be met by foreign aid. The principal aid donors are Japan, France, Sweden, and Australia. In the late 1980s the government opened the economy to foreign investment. As a result, the average growth rate between 1990 and 1998 was 6.6 percent, and by 1998 Laos\'s gross domestic product (GDP) had climbed to $1.3 billion. Average GDP per capita rose to $360, compared to $360 in Vietnam and $250 in Cambodia. Like the economies of other countries in the region, the Lao economy suffered badly when the value of several Asian currencies fell sharply in the late 1990s.

Laos has a total labor force of 2.3 million, of whom 78 percent are in agriculture, 6 percent are in industry, and 16 percent are in the service sector. Rural underemployment and urban unemployment remain high. There is an official Federation of Trade Unions, but independent unions are banned.

Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Laos, contributing 53 percent of GDP. Only 3 percent of Laos\'s total land area is cultivated, but 80 percent of the cultivated land is planted in rice. Other crops include corn, coffee, soybeans, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes. Cotton, tobacco, and cardamom are also grown. The government encourages animal husbandry, and livestock numbers have steadily increased since the late 1970s. Lao farmers raise water buffalo, cattle, pigs, horses, goats, and poultry.

Timber is a major export for Laos, with production estimated at 5.5 million cu m (194 million cu ft) in 1998. Some timber is processed as sawn boards and plywood, but most is exported in the form of logs. Despite government attempts to regulate and manage the industry, illegal logging and smuggling of timber



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