Obama promises to clear Laos of Vietnam War-era bombs

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Laos UXOUS President Barack Obama on September 6 at the ASEAN Summit in Laos announced that the US will double its funding to allow the Lao government and assisting organisations to clear bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War era.

He promised that an additional $30 million per year will be given to Laos for three years to help clear undetonated cluster bombs that are still scattered across the landscape. According to Obama, the US had a “moral obligation to help Laos heal” and that the “remnants of war continue to shatter lives.”

It is estimated that around 80 million cluster bombs – of a total of 270 million dropped on the country – did not explode, instead settling on farmland and around villages mainly in eastern parts of Laos, only to later kill or injure 20,000 people.

A cluster bomb is designed to explode into smaller pieces of shrapnel, causing casualties over a large area. The smaller pieces of these bombs, known as cluster munitions, are they are usually the size of a soup can, an orange or a tennis ball. On the ground, they can be set off in a variety of ways, for example when they are struck with a shovel by a farmer or if rain and floodwaters uncover them. They can cause major injuries such as blindness, loss of limbs, hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries and shrapnel wounds.

Overall, two million tonnes of ordnance has been dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973 by US B-52 planes. This amounts to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years in an attempt by the CIA to disrupt supply lines being used by the communist Vietnamese forces and to fight the communist Pathet Lao party in Laos in a proxy war unknown to many at the time. Up to 350,000 civilians in Laos died during the bombing.

Despite all those efforts, the US-backed Royal Lao Government lost power and had to step down by 1975. Eventually, the communist party gained control of Laos and the country remains communist today.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

US President Barack Obama on September 6 at the ASEAN Summit in Laos announced that the US will double its funding to allow the Lao government and assisting organisations to clear bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War era.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Laos UXOUS President Barack Obama on September 6 at the ASEAN Summit in Laos announced that the US will double its funding to allow the Lao government and assisting organisations to clear bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War era.

He promised that an additional $30 million per year will be given to Laos for three years to help clear undetonated cluster bombs that are still scattered across the landscape. According to Obama, the US had a “moral obligation to help Laos heal” and that the “remnants of war continue to shatter lives.”

It is estimated that around 80 million cluster bombs – of a total of 270 million dropped on the country – did not explode, instead settling on farmland and around villages mainly in eastern parts of Laos, only to later kill or injure 20,000 people.

A cluster bomb is designed to explode into smaller pieces of shrapnel, causing casualties over a large area. The smaller pieces of these bombs, known as cluster munitions, are they are usually the size of a soup can, an orange or a tennis ball. On the ground, they can be set off in a variety of ways, for example when they are struck with a shovel by a farmer or if rain and floodwaters uncover them. They can cause major injuries such as blindness, loss of limbs, hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries and shrapnel wounds.

Overall, two million tonnes of ordnance has been dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973 by US B-52 planes. This amounts to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years in an attempt by the CIA to disrupt supply lines being used by the communist Vietnamese forces and to fight the communist Pathet Lao party in Laos in a proxy war unknown to many at the time. Up to 350,000 civilians in Laos died during the bombing.

Despite all those efforts, the US-backed Royal Lao Government lost power and had to step down by 1975. Eventually, the communist party gained control of Laos and the country remains communist today.

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