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Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (commonly known in the west as Burma) and the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. The term Lao is most frequently used to refer to the dominant language and people of Laos. It is also a romanised form of the word Laos in the Lao language. It is sometimes used in English to refer to the country as well, but romanisation standards hold that "Laos" is the preferred spelling. During its monarchial times before communist rule (pre-1975) the country was called Lan Xang or Land of A Million Elephants.


The early history of Laos was dominated by the wider Nanzhao kingdom, which was succeeded in the 14th century by the local kingdom of Lan Xang that lasted until its decline in the 18th century, after which Thailand assumed control of the separate principalities that remained. These then came under French influence during the 19th century and were incorporated into French Indochina in 1893. Following a Japanese occupation during World War II, the country became independent in 1949 as the Kingdom of Laos under the leadership of King Sisavang Vong.

Political unrest in neighbouring Vietnam dragged Laos into the greater Second Indochina War which was a destabilising factor that contributed to civil war and several coups d'état. In 1975 the communist Pathet Lao backed by the Soviets and communist Vietnamese overthrew the royalist government of King Savang Vatthana who were backed by the US and France. After taking control of the country, they promptly renamed it the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Initial closer ties to Vietnam and socialisation were replaced by a relaxation of economic restrictions in the late 1980s and the admission into ASEAN in 1997.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Laos".