Laos (pronounced /ˈlɑː.oʊs/, /ˈlaʊ/, or /ˈleɪ.ɒs/), officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar and former People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. Laos traces its history to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or Land of a Million Elephants, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century.
After a period as a French protectorate, it gained independence in 1949. A long civil war ended officially when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975, but strife between factions continued for several years.
In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao, along with Vietnam People's Army and backed by the Soviet Union, overthrew the royalist Lao government, forcing King Savang Vatthana to abdicate on 2 December 1975. He later died in captivity. After taking control of the country, the Pathet Lao government renamed the country as the "Lao People's Democratic Republic" and signed agreements giving Vietnam the right to station armed forces and to appoint advisers to assist in overseeing the country. Laos was requested in the late 1970s by Vietnam to end relations with the People's Republic of China, leading to isolation in trade by China, the United States, and other countries.
The Laotian government was nearly ruined by Doomsday. The nation, which was heavily reliant on their neighbors, especially the destroyed China to the north. The government moved to make the country as self-sufficent as possible. This worked to a certain extent, but the Lao economy was still in a shambles. It would take a re-establishment of contact with its neighbors to do that.
In 1990 Lao citizens reported seeing Vietnamese scouts in the country, but their apparent usage of the South Vietnamese flag had them confused. It turned out that they were from the so-called "Free Republic of Vietnam", and that a democratic government had ruled Vietnam for two years now. The Lao government moved to establish relations with the new country.
When it became all-too-apparent that the Vietnamese government would not trade with the Laotians due to their government, the Laotian government was at a crisis. They quickly determined that economic recovery was more important than keeping their current government. The Laotians had their first democratic elections that year. Most of the incumbants won, but it was a step in the right direction.
The government is a truly democratic Socialist republic. The people elect representatives to the legislature, which performs most of the duties of government. The President, also elected by the people, is mostly a figurehead.
The Lao economy is heavily dependent on investment and trade with its neighbors, Thailand, and Vietnam. Pakxe has also experienced growth based on cross-border trade with Thailand and Vietnam.
Much of the country lacks adequate infrastructure. Laos has no railways. The major roads connecting the major urban centres, in particular Route 13, have been significantly upgraded in recent years, but villages far from major roads can be reached only through unpaved roads that may not be accessible year-round. In many rural areas electricity is at least partly unavailable. Songthaews (pick-up trucks with benches) are used in the country for long-distance and local public transport.
The Laotians have reasonable relations with all their regional neighbors. They have also established an embassy in the ANZC, via their allies in Vietnam. The Laotians have membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and have applied for membership in the LoN.