PRESS RELEASE: Legacies of War Calls on Secretary Hillary Clinton to Keep the Promise She Made in Laos to Address Past Legacies
Posted: Jul 12, 2012
Legacies of War Calls on Secretary Hillary Clinton to Keep the Promise She Made in Laos to Address Past Legacies
July 11, 2012 (Washington, DC) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touched down in Vientiane, Laos, on Wednesday, marking the first time that a U.S. Secretary of State has visited the country since 1955. In addition to meeting with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong on regional and bilateral issues such as increased U.S. investment and environmental protection, Secretary Clinton made a visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center to observe medical and rehabilitation services for amputees, many of whom are victims of explosions from bombs left over from the Vietnam War era. During her visit, Clinton met Phongsavath Souliyalat, who lost both his hands and his eyesight when a friend handed him a cluster bomb on his 16th birthday while walking home from school. Clinton remarked, “We have to do more. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here today, so that we can tell more people about the work that we should be doing together.”
“It’s remarkable to see the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Laos since the end of the war come face to face with the devastating effects of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Now, she must keep her promise to Phongsavath and the people of Laos, who will otherwise live on dangerous land for generations to come,” remarked Channapha Khamvongsa, executive director of Legacies of War, further adding, “We agree wholeheartedly with Secretary Clinton that we can and should do more to end these past legacies.”
Legacies of War pushed for Clinton’s groundbreaking trip to Laos since July 2011, when it joined with six former U.S. Ambassadors/Chiefs of Mission to Laos in encouraging the Secretary to visit the country and to make a long-term commitment to clearing Laos of UXO. Former Ambassador Douglas Hartwick (2001 – 2004) praised Secretary Clinton for making this historic visit to Laos, calling it “a watershed moment in U.S.-Lao relations,” but warned that “progress on economic development and stability in Laos depends on adequate support for clearing priority land for agriculture and development and decreasing the number of UXO casualties.”
“We are hopeful that Clinton’s visit marks the beginning of increased cooperation and good will between the two nations,” remarked Brett Dakin, chair of the board of directors of Legacies of War. “The U.S. has an interest in a secure, prosperous lower Mekong region, but Laos will never achieve its potential as long as one third of its land is contaminated with UXO.” Dakin added, “UXO clearance is a prerequisite for the State Department’s development goals in Laos, especially infrastructure development and food security.” According to a joint UNDP-Lao 2008 report, at least 200,000 additional hectares of land could be made available for rice production if cleared of UXO, leading UNDP to make UXO clearance itself a Ninth Millennium Development Goal specific to Laos.
Secretary Clinton’s next stop is in Cambodia for meetings of ASEAN and the Lower Mekong Initiative, created by her to boost economic and social development in the lower Mekong countries. While in Cambodia, the Secretary is expected to unveil a new aid package to ASEAN countries called the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative (APSEI), one pillar of which will address war legacies such as UXO.
Legacies of War urges the State Department to respond to growing pressure from Congress and international organizations to clear U.S.-source ordnance around the world, especially in Laos, by including in the APSEI package at least $10 million for UXO clearance in the country for 2013, sustained over the next ten years. Legacies of War will continue to work with champions in Washington and in the community to build on the momentum from Clinton’s visit to secure a commitment from the Administration to significant, sustained funding for UXO clearance, victim assistance, and mine risk education in Laos. See more information about Legacies of War and Clinton’s historic trip to Laos in our press kit, including related news coverage.
Legacies of War was founded in 2004 to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombings of Laos and advocate for greater U.S. funding to clear UXO. Legacies seeks to provide space for healing the wounds of war using art, culture, education, community organizing, and dialogue among the Laotian-American community and the broader U.S. public. The organization is based in Washington, D.C.
Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director, Legacies of War
Cell: (703) 868-0030
Brett Dakin, Board Chair, Legacies of War
Category: Press Releases