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Laos:
Geography

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Laos Page


Background
Definition
Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
Location
Definition
Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates
Definition
18 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references
Definition
Southeast Asia
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 236,800 sq km
land: 230,800 sq km
water: 6,000 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly larger than Utah
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 5,083 km
border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
Coastline
Definition
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims
Definition
none (landlocked)
Climate
Definition
tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Terrain
Definition
mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Mekong River 70 m
highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Natural resources
Definition
timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 4.01%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 95.65% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
1,750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
333.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 3 cu km/yr (4%/6%/90%)
per capita: 507 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards
Definition
floods, droughts
Environment - current issues
Definition
unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment - international agreements
Definition
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note
Definition
landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand


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