June 21, 2016

Creative Solutions to Laos’ Ongoing Problem with Conflict Weapons

By: Forrest Curran, Triplepundit.com, June 17, 2016

Bombs were dropped on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years; or the equivalent of 1,000 pounds for every Laotian person. But very few know about this outside of Laos.

Today many of these bombs still sit active underground, known as unexploded ordinance (UXO): 30 percent of what was dropped on the country failed to detonate and is presently alive underground. This chilling legacy from the bombing campaign that lasted from 1964 through 1973 still prevents Laos from attaining self-sufficiency and has locked the country into a cycle of poverty.

Although Laos’ economy is largely agriculturally based, as one of the most bombed countries in the world, this prevents the farmer-population from expanding their land for agricultural use in fear of consequences of the UXOs. There is clear under-utilization and lack of efficiency in the use of agricultural land due to the present situation that has forced Laos to be limited even in one of the most basic sectors of the economy. The lack of options forced Laos to create a dam in the Mekong River to create revenue from energy, and has thus become the center of international controversy of polluting a vital water source for neighboring countries.

Children who were born far after the bombings live through the consequences of the past, as the UXO situation of Laos not only prevents Laos from attaining economic prosperity and growth, but has also created a major safety hazard around the country. Forty percent of the total casualties related to UXOs involve children, often playing in a clearing of land before the ground blew up underneath them. The literacy rate is also very low, especially in the mountain villages, where accessibility to schools is limited due to the road conditions stemming from the UXOs. At the current rate of de-mining funding by the international community, it will still take another 800 years to fully clear the land of active UXOs.

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