Heidi wrote a compelling article about the COPE Centre in Laos back in April 2016. In her post she addressed the issue of unexploded ordinance (UXO) spread throughout certain parts of Laos, and the damage these devices are doing to the local communities.If you haven’t read it yet please follow the link above and do so.
“That conflict was another reminder that, whatever the cause, whatever our intentions, war inflicts a wrenching toll, especially on innocent men, women and children. – President Barack Obama, September 2, 2016.”
More than two million tonnes of bombs – “one tonne for every Lao citizen” fell on Laos between 1964 and 1973. ‘Bombies’, as the locals called them, were dropped from American planes on a peaceful country that they were not at war with, as part of a CIA led operation desperately trying to prevent the expansion of Communist North Vietnam. To put this in context, the Americans dropped more bombs on Laos during the Vietnamese war than they dropped onto both Germany and Japan during the second world war.
I’m not going to discuss the morality, politics or strategic reasoning that this decision was taken. Many people have been doing this for decades and will continue to do so for many more years to come. I just want to see some support and assistance for the Laos people to clean up the mess and prevent further catastrophe. To that end I was pleased to see that President Obama recently announced during his visit to Laos that it was,
“…time to pull America’s secret war in Laos from the shadows.”
Great! So what does this equate to for the Laos people? Unfortunately the President stopped short of apologising for the actions of his predecessors, however he did commit to a three year, ninety million dollar, clean up plan.
Will these reparations result in a UXO free Laos? Only time will tell, but its a good first start.