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Country Reports

Laos Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The communist Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) government is stable and faces no political opposition. The government continues to gradually open the country to foreign investment in agriculture, construction, hydropower, and mining. The government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affected sectors such as manufacturing and tourism. However, the lockdown that came into effect on 30 March was eased on 3 May, allowing factories, schools, and restaurants to reopen. Laos recorded 19 cases of COVID-19 with no fatalities, and on 10 June Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith declared the country free of the disease. Thailand’s border checkpoints with Laos were reopened on 1 July. Laos has been able to attract several multinational companies, including Nikon, Toyota, and Mitsubishi, by promoting special and specific economic zones throughout the country. This has resulted in rapid growth in the assembly and equipment parts sectors. Although production relies on imported intermediate inputs to a significant degree, growth in these sectors reflects Laos’s successful participation into regional and global value chains.Environmental activists and local communities organise occasional demonstrations against hydroelectric dam projects, but these are unlikely to turn violent. The export of hydroelectric power provides a vital source of revenue for the government. As such, demonstrations against planned hydropower projects over either environmental or land title issues will probably be tightly policed, and are unlikely to cause major disruption.
Last update: July 3, 2020

Operational Outlook

The government allows for 100% foreign equity ownership in most sectors. However, a slow bureaucracy and high levels of corruption in the form of bribery represent impediments to business. Infrastructure, other than along the main routes, is poor, but new road and rail links are being built with mainland China, Thailand, and Vietnam. There are low risks of industrial action, given that the umbrella labour union is a government agency and the government has "zero tolerance" towards any forms of criticism of its policies. Labour costs are low, but skilled labour is in short supply.

Last update: July 4, 2020

Terrorism

Moderate

In November 2015, March 2016, and June 2017, unidentified assailants carried out attacks using small-arms and one improvised explosive device in Luang Prabang and Xaysomboun provinces apparently targeting government forces and Chinese nationals, killing at least six people. No group has claimed responsibility and the motivation of the attacks was unclear, but they are more likely connected to local land and environmental disputes than the broader Hmong separatist movement. The incidents highlight the risks remaining in central Laos. Although the Hmong ethnic insurgency in central and northern Laos ended with the 2004 ceasefire, the Hmong community maintains a tense relationship with the Laotian government over alleged discriminatory treatment.

Last update: July 4, 2020

Crime

Laos has a low recorded crime rate. Petty crime and violent muggings – often fuelled by growing drug abuse – have been rising, albeit from very low bases. Criminal activity does not generally pose a major threat to foreign business interests or individuals. Banditry remains common in some rural areas. Laos's rugged terrain and its often porous borders, combined with weak law-enforcement, mean the country is regularly used as a conduit for drug trafficking and smuggling. Chinese and Vietnamese criminal gangs involved in drugs trafficking have a presence in Laos.

Last update: July 3, 2020

War Risks

Risks of interstate conflict are very low. The Lao government has good relations with its neighbours, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Joint Chinese, Lao, Myanmarese, and Thai anti-crime patrols on the Mekong River are unlikely to interfere with the passage of commercial vessels. An insurgency in central and northern Laos led by Hmong minority guerrillas ended in 2004 with a ceasefire. However, a series of small-arms and bomb attacks against passenger vehicles, Chinese contractors, and Lao military in northern Laos between November 2015 and June 2017 highlighted isolated but still present security risks there.

Last update: July 3, 2020

Social Stability

Moderate

Strict government control means that political protests are rare in Laos. The ethnic-Hmong-based insurgency formally ended with a 2004 ceasefire, and large-scale Hmong protests are unlikely. There is an absence of strong NGO movements, and most local protests against infrastructure projects take place because of forced relocations or environmental concerns and are peaceful. There remains a limited risk of violence involving residual anti-government insurgents or active criminal groups. The police or security forces will probably forcefully remove such protesters if they block access to project sites.

Last update: July 4, 2020

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all individuals traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Laos is situated in an active seismic zone.

The rainy season lasts from May to November and particularly affects the southern part of the country and the areas along the Mekong River.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Plane crashes (domestic flights) are not rare in Laos (several Yuen-7 and Yuen-12 planes serving domestic routes have crashed over the past few years). Travel by boat on the Mekong River can also be dangerous due to poor safety standards. Furthermore, roads are often in poor condition, particularly during the rainy season. Finally, travelers are advised against taking public transportation (buses, minibuses) as it is often unsafe.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

The rainy season (monsoon) begins in April and ends in October. The hottest months of the year (30°C to 35°C) are April, May, and October. The dry season (November to February) is pleasant with relatively mild temperatures. In higher elevations, temperatures become cool, even cold, in December and January.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +856
Police: 191
Fire Dept.: 190

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019