Foreign policy and defense
Lao's geographical location, sandwiched
between more powerful countries with different political
systems, has long characterized the foreign-political
relations. However, the relaxation after the Cold War
has meant that the country now has relatively good
contacts with all neighboring states.
Regional cooperation has become increasingly
important for Laos. Since the mid-1990s, work has been
underway to integrate the four countries around the
Mekong River: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. With
expanded infrastructure and joint projects around the
Mekong, the economies of the four countries will be
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Laos for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
In 1997, Laos became a member of the Southeast Asian
cooperation organization Asean. Membership accelerates
Lao's integration with the economically more developed
countries of the region.
Improved relations with Thailand
Relations with capitalist and US-friendly Thailand
were long overdue. In 1984 and 1988, short-term fighting
broke out at the border. The main problem was that the
Lao guerrillas had bases in Thailand from where the
attacked targets in the home country. From the early
1990s, relations improved since Thailand intervened
several times to prevent guerrillas from making raids
In 1991, the two countries agreed to allow the
majority of about 60,000 Lao refugees in Thailand, most
of whom are native to Hong Kong, to settle in the United
States. As the refugee camps were emptied, support for
the Laotian insurgency groups in Thailand decreased.
Since then, the two neighboring countries have
cooperated in bringing thousands of remaining Laotian
refugees back to their homeland, usually against their
will; There are reports that many of these refugees are
having a hard time.
Across the border of the Mekong River, several
bridges have been built between Thailand and Laos, the
first in 1994. The first rail link between the countries
was opened in 2009. Thailand also contributes to several
projects in Laos. Among other things, the neighboring
country is the main financier for the controversial
Xayaburi dam that was inaugurated in 2019. Thailand buys
almost all electricity generated there (see Natural
Resources, Energy and the Environment).
Close ties to Vietnam and China
Communist Laos has had close relationships with
communist Vietnam as well since the Indochina wars
between the 1950s and 1970s (see Modern History).
The relationship has been strengthened by the fact that
over the past 30 years, countries have encountered
similar problems during the transition from socialist
planning economics to market-adapted economic
conditions, without sacrificing the political dominance
of the ruling Communist parties. Vietnam has made
extensive investments in Laos since 1989.
Lao's relations with China have been stable since the
mid-1980s and can now be said to be as important as
Lao's relationship with Vietnam. The Chinese investment
in Laos is greater than the Vietnamese and the Thai.
However, the regime in Vientiane has been careful to try
to balance the relationships without favoring anyone.
Laos receives technical assistance and loans from China
to expand the infrastructure, as well as buy
Chinese-made weapons and other military equipment. Not
least, China is financing several road construction
projects in northern Laos. Moreover, the exchange
consists of both trade and aid.
Japan, India and the United States
The Lao Government signed bilateral trade and
cooperation agreements with Japan in 2000 and with India
in 2002. With India, a broad financial and technical
assistance program was signed in 2010 in a number of
areas, including electric power projects. In 2011, India
and Laos signed a free trade agreement. Japan has
provided loans and assistance for infrastructure and
bomb remediation in the 2000s and 2010s. Laos also has
good relations with Myanmar and Cambodia.
Relations with the United States and other Western
countries have improved since the end of the Cold War.
Laos has helped the United States find the remains of
Americans killed in the country during the Vietnam War
in the 1960s and 1970s. They have also worked together
to stop the opium cultivation in Laos and to destroy the
bombs that the US dropped over the country during the
1995 repealed the United States a 20-year aid embargo
against Laos in 2004 resumed trade relations between the
countries, and in 2012 visited Hillary Clinton Laos, the
first US Secretary of State since 1955. The US has also
been critical to the Lao government's treatment of the
Hmong population (see Population and language).
In September 2016, Laos was visited by Barack Obama,
the first US President ever. Obama spoke to the Lao
State leadership about the problem of the undetected US
bombs in Laotian land, and about China's growing
influence in Southeast Asia. Obama pledged $ 90 million
to bomb remediation, saying the United States has a
"moral obligation" to help Laos heal the wounds after
Lao's defense is based on general military duty for
at least 18 months. Alongside the regular military
forces, there are semi-military associations in the form
of "public security forces" for self-defense of rural
villages and towns.
FACTS - DEFENSE
25 600 men (2017)
The air Force
3,500 men (2017)
600 men (2015)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.2 percent (2013)
Military spending's share of the state budget
0.8 percent (2013)