Lai Chau Province General Information

Lai Chau province, Northern Vietnam
Region: Northwest
Capital: Lai Châu
Area: 9,068.79 km²
Population: 460,196 (2019 Census)
Density: 51/km²
Demographics: Thai, H’Mông, Vietnamese, Giáy, and Dao
Calling code: 213

Lai Châu is a province in north-western Vietnam. Lai Chau province is the most sparsely populated in Vietnam. It shares a border with China. It once was a semi-independent White Tai confederation known as Sipsongchuthai, but was absorbed by France into French Indochina in the 1880s and subsequently became part of Vietnam following Vietnamese independence in 1954. Lai Chau became part of the Northwest Autonomous Area of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1955 to 1975 when Lai Chau province was formed. Đien Biên province broke out of Lai Châu in 2004.


Sipsongchuthai is a Tai Lü compound consisting of sibsong “twelve” and chu “master.” It is cognate to a Thai name and may be rendered in English as “Twelve Thai Kingdoms” or “Chiefdoms,” according to relative standing in the South-east Asian mandala political model, in allusion to either a Chief of the Name or tribal chief.

Lai Chau Province Administrative Divisions

Lai Châu is subdivided into eight district-level sub-divisions and 106 commune-level sub-divisions:

City (01)

Lai Châu

District (07)

Muong Tè
Nam Nhùn
Phong Tho
Sìn Ho
Tam Duong
Tân Uyên
Than Uyên

Offroad Vietnam Motorbike Adventures - Lai Chau Province, Northwest Vietnam


Languages spoken in Lai Châu Province include the following.

Hmong-Mien languages


Kra languages

Laha – Than Uyên

Tibeto-Burman languages

Sila – Muong Tè
Côông – Muong Tè
Lahu – Muong Tè
Hani – Muong Tè, Phong Tho

Austroasiatic languages

Kháng – Muong Tè, Phong Tho, Than Uyên



Lai Châu has long been the poorest province in Vietnam. It is also the least industrialised province and also one of the least populated provinces. In 1974, the industrial output of Hanoi – the richest province in North Vietnam at that time – was 47 times as high as that of Lai Châu. The province became even more backward after the more industrialised south was separated to become Đien Biên Province. In 2007, Hanoi’s industrial output (before its merger with Hà Tây Province) was 93 times that of Lai Châu.

Industrial output has, however, grown rapidly in recent years, more than tripling between 2000 and 2007, making it the fastest-growing sector in the province compared to an agriculture and forestry sector that has grown by less than 50% and a service sector that has more than doubled in the same time. Popular products include liquor, bricks, cement, and electricity. Industrial output in 2007 was 476.6bn VND, accounting for 28.9% of the province’s economy, compared to only 16.5% in 2000.


Lai Châu’s main agricultural products (in 2007) are rice (99,900t), maize (35,000t), cassava (48,900t), and tea (16,532t). The production of rice and maize tripled since 2000, while the output of cassava and tea has been increasing by around 40% and 120%. Tea from Lai Châu is sold to other provinces in Vietnam and also exported to other countries.

Lai Châu has a relatively large forestry sector with an output of 176.3bn VND in 2007. It has, however, been far overtaken by the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors and contributed little to recent growth. It has grown by only 1.66% in 2007 and 1.69% in 2006, after declining by almost 19% between 2000 and 2005.


There are plans to exploit rare earth elements in Lai Châu. Vietnam’s central government signed an agreement in October 2010 to supply Japan with rare earth elements in Lai Chau Province. This is part of Japan’s efforts to diversify its supply of rare earth and decrease its dependence on imports from China.

Lai Châu’s economy grew by 14.56% in 2007, 12.3% in 2006, and 50.75% between 2000 and 2005.


Annual average temperature: 23 degrees Celsius.
Annual average rainfall: 2.5 m.

For more details about other provinces and cities of Vietnam, please follow this link.

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