"The United States and the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) cooperate in important areas despite disagreements regarding human rights policies in Laos and the LPDR's strong ties with China and Vietnam. Areas of U.S.-Laos cooperation include: the recovery of Americans missing in action (MIAs), counter-narcotics efforts, the removal of land mines, and avian flu. The United States provides relatively little foreign assistance to Laos. Total U.S. assistance to Laos in FY2007 was estimated to be $4.8 million compared to $4.3 million in 2006. Most U.S. aid has focused on counter-narcotics and de-mining efforts. Funding for de-mining efforts declined in 2007 and is likely to decrease further in 2008. New aid program areas include public health, economic development, judicial reform, and civil society. The United States government remains concerned about the plight of former and remaining Hmong insurgents and their families, with ties to the U.S.-backed Hmong guerilla army of the Vietnam War period, who now number some 2,000-3,000 persons. […]. Social and economic conditions in Laos reportedly have improved in some areas. The country was upgraded to Tier 2 on the U.S. State Department's trafficking in persons list (2007) for making significant efforts to curtail trafficking, although significant problems remain. Religious freedom reportedly has improved, particularly in urban areas. Opium production and use have dropped dramatically since 1998. The country reportedly has made progress in deepening economic reforms as it prepares to apply for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This report will be updated as warranted."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34320