One-Party Rule Continues as International Relations Improve
During the 1990s, the country began making more diplomatic overtures toward its neighbors. In 1995, the U.S. announced a lifting of its ban on aid to the nation. By most international estimates, Laos is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. The subsistence farmers who make up more than 80% of the population have been plagued with bad agricultural conditions?alternately floods and drought?since 1993.
Since March 2000, Vientiane has been rocked by a series of unexplained blasts. The activity has been widely attributed to a group of Hmong tribesmen based in the north. The anti-Communist rebel group has been protesting the government's reluctance to embrace democratic reforms. Others attribute the bombs to rival factions in the government or military.
In Feb. 2002 parliamentary elections, 165 out of 166 candidates were members of the governing Lao People's Revolutionary Party. In 2006, Choummaly Sayasone became party secretary-general and president of Laos. First Deputy Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh became prime minister.