UXO Clearance

Laos: Improving lives by clearing UXOs in Sekong Province

April 4, 2013

Since 2007, CARE with support from AusAID and other partners has worked with over 2,500 families from 19 villages in Sekong Province to improve their livelihoods by reducing the impact of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

To date over 97ha of land has been cleared of UXOs, allowing families to expand their rice fields, and use the land to grow new crops such as coffee, or try new income-generating activities such as fish farming.

Lao PDR is the most bombed country in the world per capita. More than two million tons of ordnance was dropped on the country during the Second Indochina War. Up to 30 per cent of some types of ordnance did not detonate.

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Officials vow to make real progress towards MDGs

April 5, 2013

Lao and overseas officials have vowed to compile a report that reflects the true progress of Laos towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The officials made this commitment during a second workshop held yesterday in Vientiane to discuss the draft of the third report on the progress made towards the landmark development goals.

“I wish you well in generating a good report which reflects the reality of our situation, foresees and agrees on the challenges and figures, and how much achievement has been recorded so far,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alounkeo Kittikhoun said in his opening remarks at the meeting.

Mr Alounkeo highlighted Laos’ achievements in striving for MDG No. 1 which concerns poverty reduction. He said the percentage of people living below the national poverty line has dropped from 48 percent in 1990 to 22 percent at present.

But despite this figure having been halved, the problem persists and there is no easy solution, he said. The same is true of malnutrition, which is a big challenge and is not just about health but involves awareness, healthy eating, breastfeeding, education and issues surrounding stunted growth.

He praised the cooperation between the Lao government, UN agencies and development partners who help to find solutions to ensure better coordination on nutrition. At the same time he called on line ministries and UN agencies to agree on figures during the workshop as a basis for continuing the good work towards realising the goals.

Regarding MDG No. 7 which relates to environmental sustainability, Mr Alounkeo said land use management had been effective in certain areas but not in others.

“We should not deny that mistakes have been made and we welcome all the comments of our friends, and on that basis we will always try to improve,” he added.

Mr Alounkeo also referred to Laos’ special goal – MDG No. 9 – the clearance of unexploded ordnance. UXO is a great obstacle to development efforts as all 17 provinces in the country are contaminated with these remnants of war.

UN Resident Coordinator Minh Pham said that, despite the brighter picture, progress had not essentially been made on the situation presented at the Round Table Implementation Meeting last November. However, some detailed and supportive indicators have changed and the availability of new data such as the labour force survey did not reveal differences with ongoing administrative data.

He noted that some of the new data from the survey confirms the continuing progress shown by the administrative data such as in education, while other data also showed that progress was not as much as had been assumed.

“Some data may also show that the disparity between different social economic groups could be greater than we have assumed. I would suggest that we welcome all new data even if these will conflict with previous assumptions,” Mr Pham said.

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Ireland commits €2 million to support UXO sector in Laos

January 21, 2013

The Government of Ireland has confirmed its commitment to supporting the UXO sector in the Lao PDR through a multi-year contribution of Euros 2 million (2.7 million USD) through 2015.

The contribution will further strengthen the capacity of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) and UXO Lao, the two national institutions tackling the deadly legacy of unexploded ordnance in Laos. The funding will be channeled through the UXO Trust Fund, administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A ceremony was held today to mark an agreement, signed between Mr. Damien Cole, Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and Mr. Minh Pham, the UNDP Resident Representative, at the National Regularity Authority (NRA) for UXO / Mine Action Sector office in Vientiane. Mr. Phoukhieo Chanthasomboune, Director General of NRA addressed the event, which was attended by Mr. Bounheuang Douangphachanh, Minister to the Government Office, other government officials and representatives of development partners.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Cole stated that “Disarmament is a key priority for Irish foreign and security policy in accordance with international humanitarian law and the protection of human rights. I will expect the Programme will continue the battle to rid Lao PDR of the scourge of UXO and reduce the negative effects these have on Lao PDR’s economic and social development”.

Mr. Pham said: “This contribution, which was confirmed in November last year, is very timely and highly appreciated. UNDP is currently working with the government of the Lao PDR to finalize a new Programme cycle to support the institutional strengthening, providing support to the UXO victims, better coordination among the UXO sector, and accelerating prioritized land release in line with national development priorities”.

Ireland has been a consistent and generous partner to the UXO sector in the Lao PDR contributing over US$ 4.7 million since 2006. Ireland also played a leading role in the development and promotion of the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention, and more recently the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The Lao PDR and Ireland are currently co-chairing Clearance and Risk Reduction committee of the Convention.

“Ireland is proud of its relationship with the Lao PDR in the areas of UXO clearance”, Mr. Cole noted. The UXO Trust Fund was established in 2010 to increase Government ownership, improve coordination and effective prioritization of work in the UXO sector.

The Trust Fund helps to ensure that UXO actions are coordinated with the government’s national development priorities, as outlined in the 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) 2011-2015.

Ireland’s contribution will support NRA’s policy making, UXO sector coordination regulatory work, as well as UXO Lao operations, including clearance, roving tasks, surveys, land release, as well as risk education and training.

Tackling the UXO issue is critical for long-term sustainable and equitable development, and continued support from the international community is required to assist the Lao people in realizing their right to live without harm or fear of UXO and to achieve their aspirations for poverty reduction.

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Lao PDR opens up wider to the world

January 2, 2013

Hosting a series of major international and regional events, welcoming top-level leaders from the international community, entering the World Trade Organization (WTO) — All this took place in the year 2012 in Laos, one of Southeast Asia’s least developed nations with a population of only 6.5 million.

This manifested that the small landlocked country that shares borders with China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar was opening its doors wider to the outside world.

The Lao people are proud of the country’s remarkable progress in boosting diplomatic and trade ties with other countries in the past year, believing it will bring benefit to their daily life.

On July 11, 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a brief stop on her Asia tour in Laos, the first visit by an American secretary of state since 1955 when the Lao civil war was in full swing and U.S.-backed royalist faction was in power. The current government came to power in 1975.

During her four-hour stay in Laos, Clinton met with Lao Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong. They agreed to further strengthen relations between the two countries.

The leaders pledged to continue the search for the remains of U. S. soldiers missing in action since the Vietnam War and to get rid of millions of unexploded ordinance (UXO) leftover from the war. Four decades later, millions of unexploded bombs still pockmark the impoverished country and still kill.

The talks also touched on Laos’ role in regional cooperation led by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the country’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of development targets being pursued by the Lao government due by 2015 in efforts to remove the country from its least developed country (LDC) status by 2020.

The eight MDGs target a range of critical areas of development including maternal and infant health and mortality, malnutrition, universal primary education, gender equality, combating infectious diseases and environmental sustainability, while the ninth MDG focuses on reducing the impact of UXO, a problem which hinders the socio-economic development of Laos.

On Nov. 5-6, Vientiane hosted the Ninth Asia-Europe Meeting ( ASEM) Summit, bringing together heads of states and government from the 51 ASEM partners.

The summit, the largest international conference ever hosted by Laos, provided an important occasion for ASEM partners to share their thoughts and explore ways in enhancing better understanding between Asia and Europe and in addressing global challenges, especially economic woes.

To Laos, it is greatly conducive to raising its role and reputation in regional and international arenas.

The summit concluded with the signing of the Vientiane Declaration on Strengthening Partnership for Peace and Development and Chairman’s Statement of Ninth ASEM Summit.

On Oct. 26, 2012, the WTO finally confirmed Laos as its 158th member, the last of the 10 ASEAN countries to join the club after a 15-year quest for the membership.

The country has enjoyed robust economic growth of more than 7 percent a year over the last decade.

To meet the WTO requirements, Laos has enacted and amended over 90 laws and regulations and committed to reducing import tariffs to an average of below 18.8 percent, limiting agriculture subsidies and opening up 10 industries to foreign competition.

Laos has also undertaken additional commitments in bilateral negotiations with interested WTO members, including Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Ukraine.

Entry into the WTO club brings with it the promise of increased trade volume and new trade partners for Laos, as well as the prospect of fresh investment pouring into the country, analysts say.

It has also “provided us the necessary basis to achieve our goal of graduate from the LDC status by 2020,” Lao Industry and Commerce Minister Nam Viyaketh said last year.

It is hoped that the WTO membership will accelerate development, entice greater international investment and boost economic growth in Laos. The country’s bright economic future and continued opening to the outside world hold great promise for its people, the region and the world.

In sports, Laos successfully hosted the 16th ASEAN University Games on Dec.12-20, 2012 with the participation of teams from 10 ASEAN countries.

Ending years of isolation, Laos is embracing the outside world.

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Deputy PM calls for faster UXO clearance

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
December 24, 2012

A cluster bomb found sitting on top of a tree stump in rural Laos.

Deputy Prime Minister Asang Laoly addressed a consultancy planning meeting on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) clearance in Luang Prabang province recently, calling on all concerned to hasten the clearance process.

“I observe that it always takes a long time to carry out surveys and get the bombs cleared from our land. The current system of work wastes time and money,” he said.

Mr Asang said surveys should be accelerated to speed the clearance of UXO contaminated areas in line with the government’s development priorities.

Areas which are not development priorities can be cleared later if there is funding to complete the work, he added.

Funding for UXO clearance has increased since Laos hosted the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010. International organisations contributed US$19 million in 2010, US$30 million in 2011 and US$25 million in the first nin e months of 2012.

However, the budget for clearing contaminated land is still insufficient, Mr Asang said, and advised submitting a proposal to the United Nations Development Programme for additional funding and seeking assistance from other international organisations.

Laos still has more than 87,000 square kilometres of UXO contaminated land to be cleared, the deputy PM said.

Currently, the National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao) employs teams of 22 people to clear one hectare of land each month. But even using many teams they can only clear 5,000 hectares each year, and new technologies need to be employed to speed up the process.

Using special vehicles to clear scrub and sniffer dogs to find any remaining bombs are some of the measures which can be taken to speed the clearance effort if the funding is available.

At present, Laos receives about US$30 million in financial support each year, but needs another US$20 million annually.

“We still don’t have enough funding to clear what remains We need US$50 million each year to fulfill the National Strategy Plan for UXO Clearance from 2011-2020,” Mr Asang said.

The government will contribute funds to the clearance effort, while provincial and district authorities should also allocate funding to clear priority development areas, he added.

He advised UXO Lao to expand its clearance efforts and bolster its teams so it has the ability to undertake clearance in 80 percent of the impacted areas.

By 2020 the government aims to have cleared UXO from 200,000 hectares of land, removing devices from 20,000 hectares each year.

From 1996 to 2012, more than 31,000 hectares have been cleared and the total UXO identified and demolished during surface clearing now totals over 1.3 million items.

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Laos calls in army for UXO clearance

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
July 11, 2012

An unexploded ordnance site being cleared by metal detectors in Laos. Credit: UXO Lao

The Lao National Regulatory Authority (NRA) is seeking the assistance of the Lao People’s Army to join forces with the Lao National UXO Programme (UXO Lao) for unexploded ordnance clearance this year.

“We will work with the Army’s UXO clearance teams because we want to clear more of our land each year,” NRA Director Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun told Vientiane Times on Tuesday.

By 2020 the government aims to have cleared UXO from 200,000 hectares of land, removing devices from 20,000 hectares each year.

UXO Lao employs teams of 22 people to clear one hectare each month, but even with many teams they can still only clear 5,000 hectares each year.

Almost 30,000 hectares of UXO-contaminated land have been cleared since 1996.

Mr Phoukhieo said the Army teams have to be further trained by the NRA and UXO Lao before they will be allowed to clear land.

“In one year Laos can clear about 5,000 hectares, but with the assistance of the army’s clearance teams we will be able to do much more. However, we cannot say just how much more as we have insufficient funding from the government to fully carry out the task,” he said.

The NRA must look for international donors to supplement the government budget to maximise the use of clearance teams from the Army in conjunction with UXO Lao staff.

“We think the target of clearing 200,000 hectares by 2020 will be difficult to achieve. It means clearing at least 20,000 hectares per year and we don’t have the financial resources to do this at present,” Mr Phoukhieo said

Currently, Laos receives funding from international donors amounting to about US$15 million per year, but this is not enough to meet the objective. That will require about US$30 million annually.

UXO Lao wants to create more teams to speed up clearance and return the land to the people, but they cannot do this because of funding constraints, Mr Phoukhieo explained.

A specialised Japanese-made Komatsu UXO clearance vehicle was used for a pilot programme in Xieng Khuang province from January to May. According to the NRA, however, the programme could not continue because the vehicle was unable to destroy all the cluster bombs. In fact only 50 percent of cluster sub-munitions could be destroyed.

It is estimated that out of the 2 million tonnes of bombs, including 288 million cluster bombs, that were dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973 about 30 percent did not detonate.

It is thought that over 87,000 sq km of land is contaminated with UXO. A countrywide survey on the socio-economic impact of UXO in 1996/97 found significant contamination in 15 provinces, with 25 percent of all villages reporting UXO.

During this period, a total of 580,000 bombing missions were conducted, which averages out at one bombing mission every eight minutes around the clock for nine years.

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Quality of Life Association: Bringing hope to UXO accident survivors in Laos

By Phon Thikeo
April 29, 2012

Trainees learn how to cut fabric to make sinh and other clothes.

UXO accident survivors, family members of UXO victims and impoverished people living in Xieng Khuang province are learning job skills with the help of a local support group – the Xieng Khuang Quality of Life Association (QLA).

QLA Chairman Mr Thoummy Silamphan said the province set up and registered the non-profit association last year. Its main aim is to provide people with information about what to expect after an accident and to provide support for UXO accident survivors. It is also looking at ways to solicit donations from foreign tourists.

Mr Thoummy said they set up the association in Xieng Khuang province because it is one of the most bomb affected areas in Laos. “Xieng Khuang, know for the Plain of Jars, is also the plain of scars.”

He said the presence of the buried bombs affects the quality of life of local people in many ways. Economic development is stalled. Children need to learn at an early age that they must be careful around their homes and villages. Agriculture is more difficult and often dangerous. Many people who have survived an accident need expensive medical care and follow-up treatment; families who have lost a loved one also need economic support and new livelihoods.

The association’s membership consists mainly of people who survived a UXO accident or their immediate family members.

Mr Thoummy said funds for activities are raised through donations and contributions from international donors. The QLA runs a visitor centre, village shop, and traditional massage parlour in the provincial capital Phonsavan.

The visitor centre informs international tourists through a modern illustrated exhibition about “our lives with the bombs” and “survivor stories”. In a reading and video room visitors can read books and watch videos made by the QLA. The village shop sells products made in UXO-affected communities.

The QLA centre has been designed with assistance from Germany (GIZ, Schmitz Foundation, and German Embassy) and the USA (World Education, McKnight Foundation, and American Embassy). Three tour guides tell visitors about their own lives, which are representative examples of the stories of many UXO survivors.

The QLA supports UXO affected communities through training on animal raising, weaving and dyeing, and the production of hand-crafted souvenirs. Another important aspect is emergency and long term medical care as well as psycho-social support.

“The money we get from our services and donations is used to help UXO survivors and poor people by running training courses for them,” Mr Thoummy said.

The association has run training courses for UXO accident survivors, family members of UXO victims and poor people in nine villages of the province that were targeted by the association for assistance after it conducted a survey among local communities.

“We select 15 people representing 15 families in a village to attend a course. We firstly give priority to a UXO affected family member and UXO survivors because they are our target groups. Our second priority is poor families,” Mr Thoummy said.

After attending a training course on livestock or poultry raising, each person is given 600,000-700,000 kip to use as capital to undertake this activity. Those who attend a training course on weaving, making handicrafts or tailoring can sell their products at the QLA village shop.

The association provides all the materials needed for trainees to make the products and pays them for each item in accordance with their ability and the orders placed by the QLA. A training course on tailoring has taught women how to sew small fabric bags to contain laptops and mobile phones.

Mr Thoummy said the association will continue to help UXO affected communities in all districts of the province. A large number of people need assistance and have no permanent job to provide them with a regular source of income.

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Borikhamxay villagers ordered to evacuate bomb site

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
January 11, 2012

UXO workers brave the dangers to place 4,000 sandbags on top of the unexploded bomb.

UXO workers brave the dangers to place 4,000 sandbags on top of the unexploded bomb.

The residents of a Borikhamxay village have been ordered to stay at least one kilometre away from the site where a 2,000 pound bomb remains buried under sandbags.

It is feared the bomb could detonate at any time, and poses a huge risk to the people of Oudom village in Khamkeuth district.

The bomb was unearthed last week when a bulldozer driver working on a road upgrade struck it with his grader blade, according to local authorities.

Despite the fact that the bomb now lies under more than 4,000 sandbags, district authorities have ordered villagers to leave the area and not come within a one or two kilometre radius until the bomb has been removed and detonated in a safe place.

Many families have gone to stay with relatives or friends elsewhere, while district authorities have established temporary shelters a safe distance away for those unable or unwilling to leave the area.

However, some of the men have ignored the order to evacuate. While they have asked their wives and children to leave, they are afraid that thieves will burgle their houses if there is no one in the village. They are more scared of foolhardy young thieves than the 30-year-old bomb, believing that deciding to leave the vicinity altogether could be even more damaging.

Mr Pounsawath Thavisouk, a member of the Solidarity Service International (SODI) UXO clearance team, said “We made the decision when we first arrived to wait another 192 hours to make sure the bomb’s automatic detonation system did not go off. We want to leave it where it is for a total of 336 hours or two weeks before we try and remove it, mainly because the bulldozer blade hit the bomb a number of times.”

Mr Pounsawath explained that they were unable to completely uncover and remove the bomb as they lacked the appropriate equipment to conduct the operation safely, and the design of the weapon complicated matters.

Despite the fact that they couldn’t completely unearth the bomb they were able to identify it as a heavy artillery weapon specifically designed for use in the Indochina War, and said it contained an automatic detonation device.

Mr Pounsawath said the bomb was designed to explode within six days or 144 hours after it was armed, if for some reason it did not explode on impact. He said that this particular type of bomb had an automatic timing mechanism, which would detonate within six days of being armed, or immediately on impact.

“We still don’t understand why the detonation mechanism did not work; in fact this bomb should have exploded when it was first dropped,” he said. When asked if it was safe to remove, given that the timing mechanism should have detonated the bomb, he replied that the utmost caution was still required.

“No, no! The detonation system is not necessarily broken or dead. It could still be ignited at any time if it is disturbed,” he explained. He said that despite the fact that the bomb had been buried for so long, possibly due to muddy ground at the time it was dropped, it was still a potentially deadly weapon, given that it had been struck by the bulldozer blade a number of times.

The SODI disposal experts will return to Oudom village on or after January 16, to safely remove and disable the bomb. They plan to transport it to their dedicated disposal area nearby, where they are working to clear UXO in Borikhamxay province, which was heavily bombarded during the war.

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Digging through history: Joining an archaeological dig in Laos

By Robert Pollard
January 7, 2012

Nestled away amongst the tress of a small Savannakhet hilltop a group of Lao and International archaeological excavators excitedly worked away. There was a buzz in the air of Peun Baolo, their tireless work had uncovered something special, an ancient burial site containing substantial historical artefacts.

Amongst the crowd one figure lay face down in the dirt, examining and preparing the finds for removal, archaeologist Dr Nigel Chang.

Dr Chang has been working in the area, in and around the Sepon Copper Gold Mine, since 2007 when the Department of National Heritage first invited him to work there. Having worked in South East Asia for twenty years he is familiar with the region and is excited about what is being discovered here in Central Laos.

“It’s a real frontier for archaeological research,” Chang says about the potential for archaeological finds in Laos. “When we first came here I had no idea what we were going to find, but I knew we just didn’t know anything about this area, particularly Savannakhet province. Archeologically it’s just been fantastic”.

Through mining operations, UXO clearance and anthropological studies several sites of archaeological significance have been discovered within the tenement area of the Sepon Copper Mine.

The work has revealed much about the history of the area and it is now thought that approximately 2000 years ago the area was being used for copper mining and was a link between Laos and Vietnam.

Perhaps the most notable find uncovered by the work is a large Dong Son Copper Drum on display at the National Museum. The discovery of the drum, by a UXO clearance team, signalled the potential of archaeological finds around the mine and has led to further excavations. The drum also gained Laos international recognition when it travelled to Belgium as a highlight of an exhibition featuring South East Asian artefacts.

The Archaeological excavations in the area are part of a broader Cultural Heritage Management Plan conceived by MMG in co-operation with the Department of National Heritage, The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, the National University of Laos and James Cook University in Australia, amongst others.

Anthropological studies and the establishment of a District Cultural Heritage Centre in Vilabouly District help make up the broader strategy of the plan.

Dr Warren Mayes, superintendant of MMG’s social sustainability unit say the plan is important considering the areas more recent history and its location on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

“This place was really quite central to the activities through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and the bombardment had a dramatic impact on the area.” Mayes says.

“The impact on livelihoods during the bombardment was that people just didn’t go back to the same place afterwards”.

The disruption to the communities led to valuable pieces of local history being lost. Pieces that the archaeological and anthropological work is helping to rediscover.

As part of the plan a District Cultural Heritage Centre will be built and will be a central point for work done under the plan.

Dr Mayes says a great value will also come from the centre in community learning, educating local people in the greater value of their local history but also the true worth of historical artefacts beyond just a monetary one.

Often when locals discover an artefact they are unaware of its significance and it is sold for a price not reflective of its true value, which is more than just a monetary one.

One such case was the discovery of a second smaller Dong Son Copper Drum.

The villagers who had found the drum were using it as a cooking pot when a buyer offered them 200,000 Kip for it, a lot of money to a local farmer looking to feed their family.

Fortunately a worker from the mine heard about the find and a Vilabouly District Culture Officer persuaded the villagers of the Drums significance.

A reward was offered, much greater that the previously offered value, and the drum is now in the Vilabouly District Office and will eventually go on display in the planned District Cultural Heritage Centre.

Capacity building is a further focus of the work and for digs such as this one at Peun Baolo, Dr Chang works alongside students from the National University as well as officials and workers from various stakeholders in the project.

“At the moment some of the students we have are from the first generation of students to learn archaeology at the National University” Chang says. “I’m sure over the next few years there will be many enthusiastic and keen students coming out and doing exciting things”.

The crew on top of Peurn Baolo were excited that day with the discovery of the burial site. Inside the grave lay various artefacts including ingots, pots and a bracelet, and it was the discovery of the large bronze dagger axe that was the most substantial. Hidden within axe may be new insights into the history of not just the local area but also the region and the world.

Yet the true excitement lies in what else sits beneath the surface, as Dr Chang says, “I think there’s still many other sites to be found”.

Further information on archaeological discoveries in the Sepon Copper Gold Mine area is available from the booklet entitled “Neighbours Past, Present and Future” by Dr Richard Jackson.

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Minister monitors UXO clearance in Xieng Khuang

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.”

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