Laos is a sliver of rivers and mountains and emerald rice fields, curving between Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east. To the north are China and Myanmar; to the south, Cambodia. It is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, categorized by the United Nations as a "Least Developed Country."
Laos hopes to leave that category in the middle of this decade, and is currently working with its neighbors to improve transport and logistics links, including a new high-speed rail link with China.
Tourism is an important source of revenue for Laos, and is slowly reviving following the COVID pandemic.
During the Vietnam War, the US carried on a secondary, "secret" war in Laos. This parallel war had two objectives: to suppress the Lao Communist insurgency in the north, and to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail (which North Vietnam used to supply its forces in South Vietnam) as it passed through central and southern Laos. Because of treaty promises not to use ground troops in Laos, the US carried on these efforts almost entirely by means of bombing--over half a million bombing runs from 1964-1973, blowing up much of the country, and leaving millions of undetonated bombs littering the landscape. The advocacy group Legacies of War offers an in-depth look at this history.
Laos is littered by bombs, most of which are cluster munitions. These are generally baseball sized weapons which were dropped in large casings from a plane. The casing opened in the air, raining down submunitions which were designed to explode on or near the ground and kill anyone in the area. But about 30% of the submunitions failed to detonate, meaning that they are still lethal. The US dropped about 270 million such bombs on Laos, and the best estimate is that there are about 80 million still waiting to go off. There is also an unknown number of unexploded large bombs, such as the one Mine Action Team 53 discovered and deactivated near a roadway in summer 2022.