The Secret Bombs of Laos

During the Vietnam War, The Viet Cong got used to crossing the border with Laos in the North of Vietnam to be able to either get fresh supplies, or come down in the South of Laos to cross again the border and join the center of Vietnam. The Americans then began to bombard Laos to affect the Vietcong. Laos being a neutral country, this war was led in the deepest secret and without the agreement of American Congrés.

With more than 2 million tons of artillery deployed between 1964-1973, Laos became the most bombarded country in history with an average of one bomb of B-52 dropped every 8 minutes during 9 years. The American bombers dropped more bombs on Laos during this period than the entire airstrikes of all second world war.

In the province of Xieng Khouang the landscape has the scars of its intense bombardments. The nature got over it as to forget what passed. Nevertheless 25 % of villages are contaminated by bombs which did not explode, called « bombies ». The war is not finished for them and they have to deal with it. The  » Bombs Villages  » is the the strongest , the old shells are now recycled and used in the village as foundation for houses, fences and sometimes for the gardeners. Most great danger right now is the contamination with Unexploded ordnance (UXO) who surrounds villages.

To Phonsavan the Non-Governmental Organisation MAG (Mines Advisory Group) try to clear the mines of the ground to allow the villagers to cultivate their lands and for the children to play without accident. But the cleaning is slow and the financial means of Laos are not rather consequent . The villagers take now mindless risks to go and dig up bombs to sell the metal or recycle it in manufacturer and make aluminum objects as spoons, open bottles, bracelets. Some local NGO go to villages to inform the inhabitants of the daily risks and avoid the accidents.

More than 34,000 persons were killed or hurt by UXO since the end of bombardments in 1973, with near 300 persons killed in Laos every year. At the moment, less than 1 % of the UXOS have been cleared of mines, the danger is everywhere. Approximately 40 % of the accidents cause the death and 60 % of the victims are children.