The history of Laos is sad.
It was a French colony from 1893 until the Japanese grabbed it (temporarily during WW2). But the French never did anything with it – sure, they wanted to keep it for the annual “my land is bigger than yours” games, but besides adding to the measuring stick, the French saw no purpose to the land. They couldn’t even be bothered to build a railway.
Fast forward to the American/Vietnam War (the name of the war changes depending on your location, over here, it is very much The American War) and turns out maybe not having a railroad was actually a good thing, because it would have been just another thing that that Americans, conducting a “Secret War” would have blown to smithereens.
In the 1950s keeping with JFK’s promise that there were “no ground troops in Laos”, the CIA trained Hmong soldiers in Laos to fight against the growing Red Menace (growing cause the communists banded together to try and evict the French). Then, from 1964-1975, everything escalated. For nine years, the Americans dropped bombs in the South, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail (hoping to cut off a supply chain to Vietnam) and in the North (against more Communists).
For nine years, in an effort to “give Democratic choice” to the people by cutting off the choice of Communism, the Americans dropped more bombs in the (pretty small, population 4M) country of Laos than all the bombs dropped over Europe in WW2.
Millions of explosives were deployed (including 260M cluster bombs) over the 580,000 missions – which is the equivalent to one planeload every eight minutes, 24hrs a day, for nine years.
So, when people ask why this country is slightly under developed – it’s pretty much cause of bombs and at one point, a lack of railway (which the Chinese are now building)