The population of Lao PDR
has reached 5,218,000, and is growing at an annual 2.4%. The average
population density is 21 per square kilometre, giving Lao the lowest
population density in Asia. The highest population in Lao is in
Vientiane municipality, with 149 per square kilometre, while the
lowest population density is in Saysomboun Special Zone, at 8 per
The estimate populations of the major provinces are :
598,000 in Vientiane prefecture :
766,000 in Savannakhet;
572,000 in Champassak;
416,000 in Luang Prabang; 333,000 in Sayaboury.
About 85% of the population are rural dwellers, and the 1999 census
revealed that there were 60,000 more women then men. Over 70%
(2,220,547) are engaged in productive work, and 936,870 are
unemployed, a classification which includes students (69.4%), domestic
workers (12.6%), the aged (14.6%). There are 576,758 people at work in
towns, and 2,580,659 work in the countryside.
An age-group breakdown gives: 0-14 years - 2,251,600; 15,59 years
-2,548,800; 60 years and above - 290,700 people.
The population consists of 94 ethnic groups, in four main linguistic
families, according to preliminary figures given to a symposium on the
name of ethnic groups on August 13-14,2000.
The Mone-Khmer family has 32 ethnic groups which include Khmu, Pray,
Singmou, Khom, Thene, Idou, Bid, Lamad, Samtao, Katang, Makong, Try,
Trieng, Ta-oi, Yeh, Brao, Harak, Katou, Oi, Krieng, Yrou, Souai,
Gnaheune, Lavy, Kabkae, Khmer, Toum, Ngouane, Meuang, and Kri.
The Tibeto-Burnese family includes seven ethnic groups: Ahka, Singsali,
Lahou, Sila, hayi, Lolo and Hor. The Hmong-Ioumien category has two
main tribes: Hmong and Ioumien. These multi-ethnic people of Lao are
generally scattered across the country, while each has its own unique
tradition, culture and language.
Lao people are frank, open and friendly, and they possess a strongly
developed sense of courtesy and respect. Everyone who adheres to the
latter will receive warm welcome.
The generally accepted from the greeting among Lao people is the Nop.
It is perform by placing one palm together in a position of praying at
chest level, but not touching the body. The higher the hands, the
greater the sign of respect to persons of higher status and age. It is
also used as and expression of thanks, regret or saying good-bye. But
with western people it is acceptable to shake hands. When entering a
Wat or a private home it is customary to remove one's shoes. In Lao
homes raised off the ground, the shoes are left at the stairs. In
traditional homes one sits on low seats or cushions on the floor. Men
usually sit with their legs crossed or folded to one side, women
prefer solely the latter. Upon entering guests may be served fruit or
tea. These gestures of hospitality should not be refused.
Lao people boast a plethora of distinctive monuments and architectural
styles. One of the most notable structures is That luang, the Great
Sacred Stupa, in Vientiane. Its dome like Stupa and four-cornered
superstructure is the model for similar monuments throughout Laos.
Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many Stupas are
said to house sacred relics (parts of Buddha's body). Generally,
Hinayana Buddhists cremate the dead body then collected the bone and
put in stupa which up in a round the temple.
Deferent styles of architecture are evident in the numerous Buddhist
Wats. Three architecture styles can be distinguished, corresponding to
the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Wats built
in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and
coved with stucco and high-peaked roofs.
In Luang Prabang the roofs sweep very low and, unlike in Vientiane,
almost reach the ground.
These two styles are different from the Wat Xieng Khouang where the
temple roofs are not tiered.
Lao religious images and art are also distinctive and set Lao apart
from its neighbors. The " Calling for Rain" posture of the Buddha
images in Laos, for example, which depicts the Buddha standing with
his hands held rigidly at his side, fingers pointing to the ground,
cannot be found in other south East Asian Buddhist art traditions.
Religions influences are
also pervasive in classical the Lao literature, especially in the Pha
Lak Pha Lam, the Lao version of India's epic Ramayana.
Projects are underway to
preserve classic Lao religious scripts, which were transcribed into
palm leaf manuscripts hundreds of years ago and stored in Wats.
Another excellent example
of the richness of Lao culture is its folk music, which is extremely
popular with the people throughout the whole country. The principal
instrument is the khaen, a wind instrument which comprises a double
row of Bamboo-like reeds fitted into hardwood sound box. The khaen is
often accompanied folk dance is the Lamvong, a circle dance in with
people dance circles around each other so that ultimately there are
three circles: a circled by the individual, another by the one couple,
and a third one dance by the whole party.