Location: Landlocked nation in south-eastern Asia, enclosed by China, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Thailand and Burma
Area: 236,800 sq km
National composition: Mostly Lao, with many small minority groups
Official language: Lao
Currency: Kip = 100 ats
Administrative divisions: 17 provinces and one prefecture
Other major cities: Savannakhet, Pakse, Luang Prabang
Highest elevation: Phu Bia
Chief rivers: Mekong (on border with Thailand), Hou
Climate: Tropical monsoon type, with high precipitation; cooler in the mountains
Laos is a sparsely populated mountainous country. Monkeys, elephants and various birds of prey are among the wildlife. Farming, forestry and fishing employ three-quarters of the work-force. Rice is the chief food crop, but coffee, maize, sweet potatoes and tobacco are also grown. Cattle, buffaloes and pigs are reared. Forests cover 60 percent of Laos, with savanna in the far south.
Mineral resource include coal, gold, some non-ferrous metals and tin. Laos has few manufacturing industries, no railways and only a few major roads.