This chapter provides a brief historical background and a description of major events in Laos. It also provides basic political, economic, and social data arranged in the following categories: polity, economy, population, purchasing power parities, life expectancy, ethnic groups, capital, political rights, civil liberties, and status. The chapter discusses the progress and decline of political rights and civil liberties in Laos. Laotians cannot change their government through elections, and the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) tightly restricts most basic rights. The 1991 constitution makes the LPRP the sole legal political party and gives it a leading role at all levels of government. Laos's party-controlled courts provide citizens with little means of addressing government human rights abuses and other grievances. Laos's economy depends on agriculture, which makes up 51 percent of gross domestic product, and trade and sales of hydroelectric power to neighbouring Thailand.