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Laos - Country Analysis Laos - L

VIEWS: 43 PAGES: 9

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     Country Analysis: Laos - Lao People's
                               Democratic Republic

Doc Name: OP-LG-CA Laos01.doc
Version          Date                             Author                  Approval                         Comment
0.1              January 22nd,                    Aviad Eilam,            Ilana Wartenberg
                 2004                             Oded Debby              Ph.D. ABD linguist




Index
1.  General Information ..................................................................................... 2
  1.1. Background: ...................................................................................................... 2
  1.2. Geography ......................................................................................................... 2
  1.3. People ................................................................................................................ 3
  1.4. Government....................................................................................................... 3
2. Economy....................................................................................................... 4
  2.1. Economy - Overview........................................................................................ 4
  2.2. Economy - Data ................................................................................................ 4
3. Telecommunications ................................................................................... 5
  3.1. Telephone system ............................................................................................ 5
  3.2. Fixed Line .......................................................................................................... 5
  3.3. Cellular ............................................................................................................... 5
  3.4. Internet ............................................................................................................... 6
4. Languages .................................................................................................... 7
  4.1. Languages ......................................................................................................... 7
  4.2. Other countries ................................................................................................. 8
  4.3. Writing ................................................................................................................ 8
  4.4. Existing Language Resources ....................................................................... 8
5. Summary ...................................................................................................... 9
6. References ................................................................................................... 9




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1. General Information
   1.1. Background:
       In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government,
       ending a six-century-old monarchy. Initial closer ties to Vietnam and
       socialization were replaced with a gradual return to private enterprise, a
       liberalization of foreign investment laws, and the admission into ASEAN
       in 1997.
   1.2. Geography
       Location: Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
       Area: 236,800 sq km.
       Land: boundaries: 5,083 km (Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China
       423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km).
       Climate: tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry
       season (December to April).
       Terrain: mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus.
       Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones.




                              Figure 1: Laos Map

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   1.3. People
       Population: 5,921,545 (July 2003 est.).
       Population growth rate: 2.45% (2003 est.).
       Nationality: Lao or Laotian.
       Ethnic groups: Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%,
       Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong ("Meo") and the Yao (Mien)
       9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%.
       Religions: Buddhist 60%, animist and other 40% (including various
       Christian denominations 1.5%).
       Languages: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic
       languages.
       Literacy: 52.8% (male: 67.5%, female: 38.1%).
   1.4. Government
      Government type: Communist state.
      Capital: Vientiane.
      Administrative divisions: 16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural), 1
      municipality (kampheng nakhon, singular and plural), and 1 special zone
      (khetphiset, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai,
      Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang,
      Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan, Viangchan,
      Xaignabouli, Xaisomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhoang.
      Legal system: based on traditional customs, French legal norms and
      procedures, and socialist practice.




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2. Economy
   2.1. Economy - Overview
       The government of Laos - one of the few remaining official Communist
       states - began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise
       in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking -
       growth averaged 7% in 1988-2001 except during the short-lived drop
       caused by the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Despite this high
       growth rate, Laos remains a country with a primitive infrastructure; it has
       no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and
       internal telecommunications. Electricity is available in only a few urban
       areas. Subsistence agriculture accounts for half of GDP and provides
       80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid
       from the IMF and other international sources and from new foreign
       investment in food processing and mining.

   2.2. Economy - Data
       Currency: Kip (LAK).
       GDP: purchasing power parity - $10.4 billion (2002 est.).
       GDP - real growth rate: 5.7% (2002 est.).
       GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,800 (2002 est.).
       Labor force: 2.4 million (1999).
       Industries: tin and gypsum mining, timber, electric power, agricultural
       processing, construction, garments, tourism.
       Industrial production growth rate: 7.5% (1999 est.).
       Exports: $345 million (2002 est.).
       Exports - partners: Vietnam 25.7%, Thailand 19%, France 7.5%,
       Germany 5.3% (2002).
       Imports: $555 million f.o.b. (2002 est.).
       Imports - partners: Thailand 58.9%, Vietnam 12.3%, China 7.9%
       (2002).




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3. Telecommunications
   3.1. Telephone system
        Laos appears to have finally started to move forward positively in its
        efforts to strengthen its telecommunications sector, to attract more
        foreign investment into the sector and to build a modern
        telecommunications network. Following the end of Lao Telecom five year
        exclusivity period, 3 new operators have entered the market. The
        government continues to struggle with structural and regulatory issues,
        however, and the economy certainly remains that of a developing
        economy.
        Despite setting up a telecom joint venture company with the Thai
        company, Shinawatra, six years ago to, kick start the telephone network,
        fixed line penetration was still below 1% at the start of 2002, and a fixed
        line teledensity of just over one telephone per 100 people by end-2002.
        Mobiles, while popular, have proved unreliable and have not been an
        acceptable substitution for fixed lines.

        Fiber Optic backbone cabling has been installed linking Vietnam, Laos
        and Thailand (2.5 Gbps). The objective of this project is to link China,
        and the South-East Asian countries to Europe.

   3.2. Fixed Line
        Laotian Telecom Company (LTC) – biggest telecom company, 65% of
        landlines. A joint venture between the government (51%) and the Thai
        company Shinawatra (49%).

        Number of fixed lines: 69,863 (2003). Most of them in the capital
        Vientiane.
        Density: 1.31%
        Switching centers nationwide: 48,000.

        LTC claims for a fully digital switching telephone service nationwide.

        ISDN: No Information.
        Satellite: Satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region).
   3.3. Cellular
        Number of cellular: 107,635 (2003)
        Mobile density: 2.02% (2003)



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       Mobile networks are un-reliable, and are not a substitute for fixed line
        (2002).
        CDMA networks are planned to start service soon.
        Lao Telecomm claims to cover 8 major cities.
         .Network             System GPRS HSCDD Frequency
         Lao Telecom          GSM    no   no    900 MHz
         Millicom             GSM    no   no    900 & 1800 MHz

   3.4. Internet
        Service is very expensive.
        ADSL service has just started in the Vientiane capital and is still costly.
        Most users still use modem dialup and lease line with 64K bandwidth.


        Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 3 (2000).
             LaoNet
             LaoTel Internet (LTC) – owned by LTC.
             Planet Online.


        Internet users: 10,000 (2002).




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4. Languages
   4.1. Languages

      The main language of Laos is Lao, as spoken and written in the capital of
      Vientiane. It is first language to approximately 3 million of Lao’s 6 million
      residents and an additional 1 million speak it as a second language.
      Although there is no established standardized form of a national language,
      Lao has successfully become the lingua franca between all Lao and non-
      Lao ethnic groups in Laos.
      Lao belongs to the southwestern branch of the Daic (Tai) language family,
      along with Thai and many other languages. Like them, it is a tonal and
      phonetic language. It is closely related to the languages spoken in
      Thailand, northern Myanmar (Burma) and pockets of China's Yunnan
      Province. There are six main dialects in the country: Luang Prabang (the
      northern dialect), Vientiane (Wiang Jan; spoken in the capital),
      Savannakhet (Suwannakhet) and Pakse (both southern dialects), Lao-Kao
      and Lao-Khrang. They vary in various characteristics such as number of
      tones, pitch levels and contours.


      There is no official Latin transliteration system for Lao. In Laos, French-
      based systems are used and there is considerable variation in spelling,
      particularly of vowels. In Thailand, the Royal Thai General Transcription is
      used. Educated Lao can also read written Thai.


      A description of Lao phonemes can be found at
      http://laoconnection.com/language1.htm#2 or
      http://www.seasite.niu.edu/lao.

      Additional languages spoken in Laos are primarily other Tai languages or
      languages belonging to the Austro-Asiatic language family. With respect to
      the former, the major Tai languages are Phu Thai (128,000 speakers as of
      1993), Phuan (96,000 speakers as of 1993) and Tai Nüa (120,000
      speakers as of 1990). Major languages of the Austro-Asiatic family are
      Khmu (389,694 speakers as of 1985) and Sô (spoken by approximately
      100,000 people). Hmong Njua, a Hmong-Mien (Miao-Yao) language, is
      the first language of 100,000 speakers (1975).

      Foreign languages spoken in Laos are English and French, used primarily
      in business transactions.


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           Name (Dialects)       Number of     Classification                Area
                                 Speakers
     Lao (Luang Prabang,         3,000,000   Daic:              Throughout the Mekong River
     Vientiane, Savannakhet,                 Southwestern       Valley, from Luang Prabang in
     Pakse, Lao-Kao, Lao-                                       the north to the Cambodian
     Khrang)                                                    border in the south
     Phu Thai                     128,000    Daic:              Western Laos, near the Thai
                                             Southwestern       border
     Phuan                         96,000    Daic:              Western Laos, near the Thai
                                             Southwestern       border
     Tai Nüa                      120,000    Daic:              Western Laos, near the Thai
                                             Southwestern       border
     Hmong Njua                   100,000    Hmong-Mien         Northern Laos, near the
                                             (Miao-Yao):        Chinese border
                                             Hmongic:
                                             Chuanqiandian
     Khmu                         389,964    Austro-Asiatic:    Scattered through northern
                                             Mon-Khmer:         Laos
                                             Northern Mon-
                                             Khmer: Khmuic:
                                             Mal-Khmu
     Sô                           100,000    Austro-Asiatic:    Both sides of the Mekong River
                                             Mon-Khmer:         in Thakhek and Savannakhet
                                             Eastern Mon-       Provinces
                                             Khmer: Katuic:
                                             West Katuic:
                                             Brou-Sô

                       Table 1: The Major Languages of Laos

   4.2. Other countries

          Lao is also spoken by a few thousand Laotians residing in Vietnam,
          Cambodia and Thailand.
   4.3. Writing

          The Lao alphabet is a version of the early Thai script, adapted in the 14 th
          century by Lao scholars, and thus retains many aspects of the
          appearance of the early Thai script which have disappeared from the
          modern Thai script. There are 27 consonant symbols and 39 written
          vowel sounds (see http://www.omniglot.com/writing/lao.htm).
   4.4. Existing Language Resources
          We were not able to locate any existing language resource in
          ELRA/ELDA and LDC catalogs, nor in any other sources.


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5. Summary
  Taking into consideration the size of market, the local regime, the state of the
  economy and the telecommunications’ poor infrastructure – it might be very
  hard to show the attractiveness of collecting data in Laos. If there is going to
  be any attempt to cover the whole area in the future (I.e.: Burma, Vietnam,
  Cambodia), then we recommend to concentrate on the main language of
  Laos: Lao, as spoken in the capital Vientiane.

6. References
  Ruhlen, M. (1987). A Guide to the World's Languages, Vol. 1: Classification.
  Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, pp. 301-378.
  Ethnologue: http://www.ethnologue.com
  Omniglot - Lao Alphabet: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/lao.htm
  CIA: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/
  Lonely planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_east_asia/laos
  Research & Markets: http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/29360/29360.pdf
  Asian Forum on Information and Telecommunication:
      www.apdip.net/asian-forum/country/la.pdf
  Telecom Daily: http://www.telecom-daily.com/asia/
  Lao Telecommunication: http://www.laotel.com
  Cellular News - http://www.cellular-news.com/coverage/laos.shtml
  SEAsite Laos: http://www.seasite.niu.edu/lao
  Asia Information: http://www.asianinfo.org/asianinfo/laos/laos.htm
  Access Asia: http://www.accessasia.co.uk/phil.asp




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