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Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 45 percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.
Laos' ambitious strategies for development are based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a 'land-linked' nation, shown by the planning of four new railways connecting Laos to those same countries.
The proto-historic period is characterised by contact with Chinese and Indian civilisations.
According to linguistic and other historical evidence, Tai-speaking tribes migrated southwestward to the modern territories of Laos and Thailand from Guangxi sometime between the 8th–10th centuries. Ngum was descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracing back to Khoun Boulom.
He made Theravada Buddhism the state religion and Lan Xang prospered.
Under Vietnamese pressure, he rebelled against the Siamese in 1826. Anouvong was taken to Bangkok as a prisoner, where he died.
A Siamese military campaign in Laos in 1876 was described by a British observer as having been "transformed into slave-hunting raids on a large scale".