PRESS RELEASE: Secretary Hillary Clinton to Make Historic Visit to Laos

Posted: Jul 6, 2012


For Immediate Release
Contact: Channapha Khamvongsa
Executive Director
Legacies of War
703-868-0030
channapha@legaciesofwar.org

PRESS RELEASE
Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Laos Provides
Historic Opportunity for U.S. to Renew its Commitment to Ending the UXO Crisis in Laos

On Wednesday, July 11, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Vientiane, Lao PDR, marking the first time that an active U.S. Secretary of State has visited the country since 1955. Legacies of War has been pushing for this groundbreaking trip since July 2011, when it joined with all six former U.S. Ambassadors to Laos in encouraging the Secretary to visit the country and to make a long-term commitment to addressing the crisis caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over by U.S. bombings during the Vietnam War era. “The important progress Laos has made . . . in matters of economic liberalization, trade, and religious freedom has already led to a remarkable improvement in U.S.-Lao relations,” wrote the Ambassadors in a joint letter to Secretary Clinton. “We feel strongly that the United States should acknowledge this progress by reaffirming our commitment to help Laos overcome the UXO crisis.”

Secretary Clinton’s historic visit demonstrates that she “recognizes that bringing along the less developed countries of the lower Mekong region is key for stability and development in the region,” said Brett Dakin, Chair of the Board of Directors of Legacies of War.  “However,” he added, “Laos will not reach its full potential as long as much of its land is still contaminated with unexploded bombs.”

An estimated one third of Lao land is still littered with UXO from over 40 years ago, making land unavailable for food production or development, and 20,000 people have been killed or maimed by UXO since the bombings ended.

The bombings were part of the U.S. “Secret War” in Laos, unauthorized by Congress, to stem communist ground incursions from the North and to interdict traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. dropped the equivalent of one planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day on a country the size of Minnesota. One ton of bombs was dropped for every man, woman, and child in Laos at the time, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.

“The people who continue to suffer from the bombings are ordinary Lao villagers,” said Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director of Legacies of War. “We are hopeful that after witnessing the human impact of UXO in Laos first hand, the Secretary will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to helping Laos solve this problem once and for all.”

U.S. funding for UXO clearance began in 1997 and remained at an average of $2.6 million per year until recently, when Congress directed that funding be increased to a record $9 million in 2012. Legacies of War joins its supporters in the diplomatic community and in Congress in asking Secretary Clinton to commit to allocating at least $10 million per year over the next ten years to help bring UXO clearance operations up to scale and make significant progress toward clearing Lao land for farming and development.

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.

For interviews or additional information please contact Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director, 703-868-0030, channapha@legaciesofwar.org.


Category: Press Releases