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People dying in Laos from US bombs

13 Mar , 2015  

Cope Centre (15) (Large)

Bombies at COPE centre, Vientiane

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) are explosive weapons (bombs, grenades and land mines) that did not explode when they were dropped and still pose a risk of detonation, decades later. About one third of Laos remains contaminated with UXO left behind from the Vietnam War – the most heavily bombed country in the world.

Cluster munitions are the small explosive devices released from cluster bombs. Although they are designed to explode on impact, cluster munitions have a significant failure rate (estimated at 30% in Laos during the Vietnam War). They are usually the size of an orange or soup can and can stay buried in the ground indefinitely. As a result, cluster munitions kill more civilians than enemy soldiers and prevent locals from redeveloping bombed land. Lao people call these “bombies.”

 

Few people seem to know about the Secret US War in Laos. The on-going effects in Laos are huge and very saddening to see people struggling every day with this rubbish littering their land and standing in the way of progress. Lao students receive education on how to stay safe from bombies at school but unfortunately for many children the tiny amount of money they receive for scrap metal from bombs is too tempting.

Facts

  • Cope Centre (11) (Large)

    A drawing at COPE centre by a child

    At least 25,000 people have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in Laos since bombings ended.

  • About one third of the land in Laos is contaminated with unexploded ordnance.
  • Many farmers in Laos know their land is contaminated but simply have no choice but to cultivate their land.
  • The most common injuries victims sustain from a UXO explosion include loss of a limb, blindness, hearing loss, shrapnel wounds, and internal shock wave injuries.
  • Over the past four decades, only 500,000 of the estimated 80 million cluster munitions (1%) that failed to detonate have been cleared.
  • The bombings were part of the U.S. Secret War in Laos to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao and to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civilians during the nine-year period.
  • From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a plane load of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
  • Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (210 million more bombs than were dropped on Iraq in 1991, 1998 and 2006 combined)
  • Each year there continue to be over 300 new casualties in Laos. Close to 60% of the accidents result in death, and 40% of the victims are children.
  • Between 1996 and 2012, the U.S. contributed on average $2.6M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $17M per day (in 2010 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos ($56 billion in total). The U.S. spent as much in three days bombing Laos ($51M, in 2010 dollars) than it spent for clean up over 16 years ($51M).

The CIA and Air America in Laos

cialaosThe CIA started recruiting mercenaries from among the native Hmong hill tribes to stop supplies from reaching the Vietcong and stop the infiltration of Laos and northern Thailand.  War with Laos and Cambodia wasn’t an option, so America’s involvement had to be kept secret, so everything was managed through the CIA-owned airline Air America.

Planes would drop rice on villages that offered warriors to fight their secret war. Once involved, there was no backing out. Quitting meant they were treated as an enemy or denounced. When more soldiers died off or abandoned America’s secret war, children were put in their place to fill the numbers. At the peak of fighting in 1971, about 40% of the soldiers were Hmong, and most were child soldiers, no more than 13 or 14 years old. Read more.

Info from UXO Lao, MAG International, Legacies of War

 

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