Laos (/ˈlɑːoʊs/), /laʊs, ˈlɑːɒs, ˈleɪɒs/; Lao: ລາວ, Lāo [láːw]), officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, romanized: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao; French: République démocratique populaire lao), commonly referred to by its colloquial name of Muang Lao (Lao: ເມືອງລາວ, Muang Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Located at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest.
The capital and largest city in Laos is Vientiane. Other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country, with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up about 55 percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 45 percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains. Laos’s strategies for development are based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a “land-linked” nation, shown by the construction of four new railways connecting Laos to its neighbours. Laos has been referred to as one of East Asia and Pacific’s Fastest Growing Economies by the World Bank, with annual GDP growth averaging 7.8% for the past decade.
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