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Photo Reoprt: ‘Secret War’ for thousand years

Appalling legacy of the war with cluster bombs

by Yu-Kyung Lee, Laos, 24 December 2008

The Northern Province of Xieng Khong in Laos is one of the heaviest bombed provinces in the world along with the country’s southern province Savanakhet. The country itself is the worst affected by UXO and cluster munitions. No country on the earth could be able to compete Laos by the actual number of cluster munitions and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).

During the CIA waged-Secret War from 1964 till 1973, American airplanes had dropped 2 million tons of bombs, among which were 270 millions of cluster bomblets (or ‘bombies’ as locals call), that have been the main cause of 10,500 of death and 11,500 of injury for 35 years since the war ended. The appalling legacy still happens today as of November of 2008.

Children and farmers are particularly vulnerable to bombies. Because bombies are usually found in farm fields and it is often invisible under the ground. Experts say that one CBU (or Cluster Bombs Unit) of ‘BLU 26’, the most common cluster munitions in Laos with 30% dud rate, could devastate three foot ball fields.

Since the mid of 1990s, some international NGOs and Laos government have launched clearance operation of UXO. It is estimated that some thousand years would be taken to clear most of the unknown number of UXO and cluster munitions, as they have been cleared approximately between 0.5% - 0.9% for the past 14 years.

Laos is one of the leading signatories of the International Treaty banning cluster bombs. The Treaty was signed in Oslo in Norway on December 3 rd 2008. 93 countries have reportedly joined the Treaty, while the main producers or traders of the munitions such as America, Israel, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and the two Koreas have not.

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