The United Kingdom of Lan Xang (Lao: ສະຫະປະຊາຊະອານາຈັກຂອງລ້ານຊ້າງ; Sahapasa Saoanachak Khong Lansang), commonly known as the Lao Kingdom, UKL, Lao or less commonly Laos is an empire in southeast Asia, bordered by British Burma, South Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. The population was estimated at about 30,000,000 in 2013.
The Lao Kingdom traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms, Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak, uniting to form what is now known as Lao. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1947 due to international pressure. Laos became independent in 1951, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a civil war between monarchists and the communist Pathet Lao came to be. After roughly six years of jungle warfare the monarchy, led by teenaged Aelanu I, the Pathet Lao were crushed and exiled to Vietnam. A multiparty constitutional monarchy was established and the Yathotu dynasty was established.
Lao is a country rich in minerals, most notably metals. It has the largest amount of dams per sq mi in the world, with 80% of its energy needs from renewable sources, and this is expected to increase with plans for solar power stations. It is the richest nation in Southeast Asia per head. Lao is a multiethnic country, with several minority groups, including roughly 1,000,000 Europeans. Lao's economy was originally based on fast mass production of cheap goods such as clothes and shoes. It has further branched out into the automobile industry, being one of the largest automobile producers in the world. It also has the largest and one of the most profitable arms manufacture industries in the world. Lao is a member of the Asian Union, the United Nations, the War on Terror Group, La Francophonie and the Southeast Asian Congress.
In the Lao language, the country's name is "Muang Lao" (ເມືອງລາວ) which literally means "Lao Country". The French, who united the three separate Lao kingdoms in French Indochina in 1893, named the country as the plural of the dominant and most common ethnic group, hence the mispronunciation of Lao as Laos by English speakers (in French, the final "s" at the end of a word is usually silent, thus it would be also be pronounced "Lao").