[ View the story "Legacy of war in Laos" on Storify] Legacy of war in Laos Leftover US bombs from the Vietnam War continue to kill and injure Laotians.
The Stream· Tue, May 13 2014 09:29:45
Between 1964 and 1973, the US
a covert air war, known as the "Secret War", in Laos, dropping an estimated 2 million tons of bombs on the country. That equated to one planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. About 30 per cent of the dropped bombs never detonated. Laos became the
bombed country, per capita, in history, as shown in the video below:
Eternal Harvest - USAF Bombing in LaosRedcoates Studios
As part of the "Secret War", the US also
and trained what became known as a "Secret Army", which was comprised of Hmong who fought against communists in Laos. When the details surrounding the operation were eventually revealed in the 1970s, the US
it as a way to counter the presence of North Vietnamese in the country, as well as to disrupt the flow of supplies and troops along the Ho Chin Minh Trail, which ran through Laos.
A half century later, the remnants of the nine years of bombing remain:
Photos from the Facebook page of the UN Development Programme in Laos show leftover unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the country.
The majority of Laotians
on subsistence farming. Many farmers
their land could be contaminated with UXO, but cannot afford another plot so they continue farming at the risk of coming across an unexploded bomb. Since the end of the Vietnam War, nearly 20,000 people have been
or killed as a result of UXO left in the ground.
The Stream community also pointed out some of the other long-term effects of the US covert bombing campaign:
@DeemaAlpha @AJStream it'll suppress development - it's the sort of problem that can scar the people of a country for a long timeStephen AP Junor
@DeemaAlpha People die obviously. Fertile land can't be used. Transport/mobility is difficult. etc. etc. See:
Organisations such as the
Mines Advisory Group
(MAG) and Lao government-backed
are educating the public about the dangers of UXO and supporting bomb removal efforts:
Pic of the Day: Xieng Khouang province, Laos. Deputy Team Leader Souk Savan carefully removes a corroded 60mm mortar bomb. The team found dozens of mortars next to one of the ancient stupas in Muang Khoun, a popular tourist site, in late-2012. From July to October 2013, MAG removed and destroyed 1,810 unexploded ordnance items and cluster submunitions in Laos, clearing 839,588m² of land.
(Mines Advisory Group)
The video below shows how MAG is clearing UXO from school grounds and educating children about the dangers of playing with unexploded bombs:
Laos: Education For Lifeminesadvisorygroup
Laotians have also used the scrap metal from bombs for practical purposes:
Some online thought it was the United States' responsibility to clean up 70-80 million unexploded bombs that remain in the country today:
@ajstream the US should pay damages by developing the area.IJ/Kini Wolfgang
@DeemaAlpha @AJStream Horrible situation that hinders development and causes grief. USA is to blame, but doesn't take responsibility.Lukas Messmer
@AJStream I guess the #USA is, and has (hat least) pay #Laos for all costs defusals/removals, damages and victims...Netzblockierer
The United States has
$12 million in 2014 for UXO clearance, victim assistance and risk education Laos. Others online thought even wider international support was needed:
@AJStream with international support needed for clearance #Laos & other countries affected by #clusterbombs can be cleared in our lifetimeBan Cluster Bombs
@AJStream to make #Laos free from its dark heritage #UNESCO and #US should come forward in cleaning the #Vietnam war debrisRH Jabbar