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Area: 236,800 sq. km. (91,430 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Utah.
Capital--Vientiane (2005 pop. est. 698,318). Other principal towns--Savannakhet, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Thakhek.
Terrain: rugged mountains, plateaus, alluvial plains.
Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (November to April).

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Lao (sing. and pl.).
Population (2005): 5.6 million.
Annual growth rate (2005): 2.5%.
Ethnic groups: Lao-Tai Language Family (8 ethnic groups): 64.9%; Mon-Khmer Language Family (32 ethnic groups): 25.4%; Hmong-lu Mien (2 ethnic groups): 8.5%; Other ethnic groups (including Vietnamese and Chinese): 0.2%; Unknown: 1%.
Religions: Buddhism: 66.8%; Others (including Animism: 30.9%; Christianity: 1.5%; Unknown (including Ba’hai and Muslim): 0.7%
Languages: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages.
Education: Literacy--53% (World Bank est.).
Health (2005): Infant mortality rate--82.2/1,000. Life expectancy--55 years (World Bank est.)
Work force (2.77 million, 2005): Agriculture—78.5%; industry and services—21.5% (2005).

Type: Communist state.
Branches: Executive--President (head of state); Chairman, Council of Ministers (prime minister and head of government); 10-member Politburo; 52-member Central Committee. Legislative--115-seat National Assembly. Judicial--district, provincial, and a national Supreme Court.
Political parties: Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP)--only legal party.
Administrative subdivisions: 16 provinces, one special region, and Vientiane prefecture.

GDP (2005 est.): $2.5 billion.
Per capita income (2004): $390.
GDP growth rate (2005 est.): 7.2%.
Natural resources: Hydroelectric power, timber, and minerals.
Agriculture (45.5% of GDP, 2005 est.): Primary products--glutinous rice, coffee, corn, sugarcane, vegetables, tobacco, ginger, water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry, sweet potatoes, cotton, tea, and peanuts.
Industry (28.7% of GDP, 2005 est.): Primary types--garment manufacturing, electricity production, copper, gypsum, and tin mining, wood and wood processing, cement manufacturing, agricultural processing, and tourism.
Industrial growth rate (2005 est.): 13%.
Services (2005 est.): 25.8.% of GDP.
Trade: Exports (2005 est.)--$379 million: gold and copper, garments, electricity, wood and wood products, coffee and other agricultural products, rattan, and tin. Major markets--Thailand, Vietnam, France, and Germany. Imports (2005 est.)--$541 million. Major imports--fuel, food, consumer, goods, machinery and equipment, vehicles and spare parts. Major suppliers--Thailand, China, Vietnam, Singapore.

Adapted from material published in the CIA World Factbook.
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