Laos <<LAH ohs>> is a country in Southeast Asia. It is a tropical land of mountains and thick forests. Laos is bordered by China on the north, Vietnam on the east, Cambodia on the south, and Thailand and Myanmar on the west. Vientiane<<vyehn TYAHN>> is the capital and the largest city.
The Lao, Hmong, and Tai people of Laos speak languages similar to Chinese. Other people speak languages similar to those spoken by other people in Southeast Asia and parts of India. They include the Kha people.
About half the people of Laos are Lao. The Lao people are leaders in business and government. Many Hmong helped the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. After the war ended in 1975, thousands of Hmong fled to other countries. The Kha were the first people to live in Laos. Until recently, they were treated badly and had few rights.
Most of the people live in villages and farm for a living. Many farms are on the lowlands along the Mekong River and other rivers. Farmers there raise mainly rice. Most villagers are poor, and some villages have no schools.
Ancestors of the Lao and Tai people probably moved into Laos about 1,200 years ago. About 600 years ago, most of what is now Laos was joined together in a kingdom called Lan Xang, which means “land of a million elephants.” France took control of Laos in the late 1800′s. Laos became an independent country in 1953.