On the last day of the conference, a group of 10 US citizens rather spontaneously organized a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. We were able to meet with the acting ambassador, Peter Haymond and the Economic/Commercial Officer responsible for Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) issues in Laos, Franc Shelton.
In the course of our 30-45 minute conversation we expressed our appreciation for US assistance to Laos in the UXO sector, as well as our strong desire that this assistance be greatly increased to more nearly match the scale of the problem. Several members of our group noted the stark contrast between the enormous amount of U.S. funds expended during the 9-year US bombing campaign and the small amounts being spent for UXO removal and victim assistance.
We also expressed our disappointment that the US was not present at the Convention on Cluster Munitions meetings in an official capacity.
We urged the embassy to assume a strong advocacy role within the State Department for a continued and sustained increase in U.S. funding for Laos, even as we continue our advocacy work with Congress.