By Phoonsab Thevongsa
December 14, 2011
Thousands of people in Xieng Khuang province are benefiting from the clearance of UXO, but many bombs still remain buried in the ground, the national UXO clearance body has reported.
Minister to the Government Office Mr Bounheuang Duangphachan, who is President of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos, last week headed a visit to the province to monitor the progress of UXO clearance.
As part of the trip, Mr Bounheuang attended a meeting to discuss a pilot project for the use of specialised equipment to detect and destroy bombies (cluster bombs) at the Xieng Khuang provincial Administrative Office.
The meeting discussed the objectives and history of the project, use of the equipment, and how to run the project to ensure maximum benefit.
Mr Bounheuang said the widespread presence of UXO has been a barrier to poverty reduction for many decades. Laos now has to shoulder the burden of erasing the deadly legacy of the Indochina War, during which more than 2 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on the country between 1964 and 1973.
Since liberation was achieved in 1975, the people of Xieng Khuang and other provinces have had to suffer the daily inflictions forced on them by UXO, which remain a deadly threat. Xieng Khuang was one of the most heavily bombed provinces in Laos, which has caused a large number of deaths and injuries, and is a severe barrier to development.
Mr Bounheuang said UXO was hindering socio-economic development in 15 provinces, and 300-400 people were dying in UXO-related accidents each year.
In recent decades, Xieng Khuang has received considerable financial and technical support from international organisations and governments, but so far only 0.28 percent of UXO-contaminated areas have been cleared. The government is trying to source more funding and technical support to accelerate clearance.
President of the Xieng Khuang Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mines Mr Khampian Sinuanthong said “Through this pilot project we hope that clearance will move faster through the use of a vehicle that is specially designed to locate and destroy bombs. This is the first pilot project run by the NRA in conjunction with the Japan Mine Action Service. Funding and technical support from Komatsu worth more than US$100,000 has been provided, with Xieng Khuang selected for the five month project which will start in January.”