The Seedlings Project

Art. Music. Pop Culture.

Clearing Out the Bombs of Laos

[Photo of UXOs in Laos. Used from Comprock’s Flickr photostream, used under creative commons.]

By: Julie Thao

In 1964, during the Vietnam War, the United States began a nine-year bombing campaign titled “Operation Barrel Roll”. This campaign dropped 260 million cluster bombs in Laos, more than what the U.S. dropped in World War II on Germany and Japan combined (Honda). The bombs were to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao during the U.S. Secret War during the Vietnam War.

When the bombs landed, up to a third of them did not blow up. The explosive weapons, also known as unexploded ordnance (UXO), included bombs, bullets, shells, grenades, land mines, and naval mines (“Leftover”). Cluster munitions, released from cluster bombs designed to disperse the smaller bomblets, were made to explode on impact. Cluster munitions however had an estimated 30% failure rate at the time (“Leftover”). These cluster munitions are small and can resemble toys, which led to a higher victim rate of children. Less than 1% of the 75 million bombs that failed to detonate have been cleared (Honda).

An average of 300 Lao people are killed or injured every year due to these unexploded ordnance (Honda). About 60% of accidents result in death, 40% of victims children (“Secret”). One third of the land remains littered with these UXOs, leaving farmers unable to use the fertile soil of the land and creating a problem for Laos–one of the poorest countries in the world. All of the 17 provinces in Laos as well as 25% of the country’s 10,000+ villages are contaminated with UXO (“The Unexploded”).

About 1,000 workers are destroying ordnance and leading education programs in Laos (Honda). “The United States is leading the international effort to help Laos clear the dormant cluster bombs by contributing $9 million of the $30 million Laos receives in annual international funding” (Blanchfield). However, the United States spent more than $2 million a day (about $17 million in today’s dollars) dropping the bombs (Honda). “According to the UN Development Program, at current funding levels, the cluster bomb removal program in Laos may take up to 100 years to complete” (“The Bombs”).

Works Cited

  • Blanchfield, Mike. “Learning the ABCs of Cluster Bombs in Laos.” Metro News. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 25 July 2013.
  • “The Bombs That Keep on Killing in Laos.” Friends Committee on National Legislation. N.p., Oct. 2007. Web. 25 July 2013.
  • Honda, Mike. “Vietnam War Continues in Laos: 75 Million Bombs Remain.” Huffington Post. N.p., 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 25 July 2013.
  • “Leftover Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).” Legacies of War. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 July 2013.
  • “Secret War in Laos.” Legacies of War. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 July 2013.
  • “The Unexploded Ordnance Problem in Lao PDR: Statistics.” Mag International. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 July 2013.

One comment on “Clearing Out the Bombs of Laos

  1. Veni Vidi Optavi
    January 1, 2014

    This article reminds me that the majority of Americans live in ignorance and it floors me every time people complain about virtually everything. Some of the wounds and issues seem to be reopened for rehashing (that occurs way too often) pale in comparison to the plight of those currently living in Laos. Many Americans don’t even know about Laotians and our experience during the Vietnam War. Laotians literally have to “deal” with the cluster bomb problem. I know many of my fellow countrymen live, but live with fear. Think about that – someone somewhere can lose a limb or worse, a life through no fault of their own.

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This entry was posted on December 30, 2013 by in Media.
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