In 2014, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) News program Foreign Correspondent filmed a segment about the legacies of war in Laos. The video showcases the long lasting and little-known effects of the United States’ bombing campaign during the Vietnam War. The episode aired 14 July 2014.
Laos is the highest bombed country per capita in the world: from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. Approximately 80 million cluster bomblets failed to explode, leaving the inhabitants of Laos vulnerable to explosions to this day. Data from a survey completed in Laos in 2009 indicate that UXO, including cluster bombs, have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians in Laos since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1973, after the war ended).*
The Foreign Correspondent segment highlights UXO survivor Teuy, who lost both of his hands and his vision in a UXO explosion while farming on his land, and how he is working hard to adapt to daily life with physical impairments. It also shows the brave women of Mines Advisory Group (MAG) who work long days and spend weeks away from their families to clear UXO from contaminated areas.
Foreign Correspondent collaborated with World Education Laos (WEL), COPE Laos, MAG Laos, and Legacies of War to create the segment. WEL Country Director, Colette McInerney, and Victim Assistance and Support Team Leader, Samnieng Thammavong, shown in the video interviewing Teuy, who receives support through WEL’s Integrated Victim Assistance Project, and visiting one of the primary schools where World Education’s UXO Education and Awareness Team has distributed UXO safety and awareness curriculum materials, trained teachers, and facilitated a UXO safety puppetry troupe.
This segment demonstrates how Laos is still facing the devastating effects of cluster bombs dropped over 40 years ago. Efforts to clear UXO exist alongside efforts to assist those affected by UXO and educate people about safety to prevent further accidents; together, this comprehensive approach can help reduce the impact of these explosive remnants of war.
*Facts gathered from Legacies of War’s “Cluster Bomb Fact Sheet” http://legaciesofwar.org/resources/cluster-bomb-fact-sheet/