Laos still paying the price of Vietnam war

Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:39pm EST
 
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By Thin Lei Win

XIENG KHOUANG, Laos (Reuters) - Imagine growing up in a country where the equivalent of a B52 planeload of cluster bombs was dropped every eight minutes for nine years.

Then imagine seeing your children and grandchildren being killed and maimed by the same bombs, three decades after the war is over.

Welcome to Laos, a country with the unwanted claim of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world.

Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions -- also known as bombie in Laos.

To put this into perspective, this is more bombs than fell on Europe during World War Two.

The U.S. bombing was largely aimed at destroying enemy supply lines during the Vietnam war that passed through Laos. The war ended 35 years ago, yet the civilian casualties continue. According to aid agency Handicap International, as many as 12,000 civilians have been killed or maimed since, and there are hundreds of new casualties every year.

On December 3 this year, over 100 nations will sign an international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs to prevent further tragedies like Ta's, a father of seven who lives in a remote village in Khammoune Province in southern Laos.

One morning four years ago, he saw something that looked like a bombie. He knew it was dangerous, but he had also heard that the explosive inside could be used for catching fish, so he decided to touch it with a stick.   Continued...

 
<p>Cluster bomblets are destroyed at a farm in Xiengkhuang in Laos in this undated handout photo. Imagine growing up in a country where the equivalent of a B52 planeload of cluster bombs was dropped every eight minutes for nine years. Welcome to Laos, a country with the unwanted claim of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world. To match feature LAOS-CLUSTERBOMBS REUTERS/Stanislas Fradelizi/Handout</p>