A brief history
Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked communist state in southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and 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 fourteenth to the eighteenth century. After a period as a French colony, it gained independence in 1949. A long civil war ended when the communist Pathet Lao came to power in 1975.
Private enterprise has increased since the mid-1980s. Laos has been ranked among the lowest countries in terms of economic and political freedom. Despite this, the economy of Laos grew at 7.2% in 2006, 35th fastest in the world. Eighty percent of the employed practice subsistence agriculture. The country's ethnic make-up is extremely diverse, with only around 70% belonging to the largest ethnic group, the Lao.
One of the world's few remaining communist states, Laos is one of east Asia's poorest countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 it has struggled to find its position within a changing political and economic landscape.
Communist forces overthrew the monarchy in 1975, heralding years of isolation. Laos began opening up to the world in the 1990s, but despite tentative reforms, it remains poor and dependent on international donations.
Source: Wikipedia, BBC