Funding Request to Congress 2013

March 20, 2012

The Honorable Kay Granger
Chairwoman, Appropriations Subcommittee on
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
House of Representatives
Room HB-26 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nita M. Lowey
Ranking Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
House of Representatives
Room HB-26 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey:

We are writing to request that the U.S. allocate $10 million for unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance in Laos for fiscal year 2013, with sustained funding over the next 10 years. In light of the current fiscal situation, this request represents a modest increase of $1 million
increase over FY12 and responds to a need for a sustained commitment to resolving the Lao UXO issue. As appropriate, the total budget for weapons removal and abatement may need to be adjusted to assure that sufficient funds are available for UXO clearance in Laos.

Laos has the tragic distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world, per capita. From 1964 to 1973 the U.S. dropped over two million tons of ordnance on Laos, the equivalent of a bombing mission every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. At least one-third of the land across all 17 provinces of Laos remains littered with cluster submunitions and other deadly UXO dropped 40+ years ago. In a country where 80% of the population lives in rural areas, the threat of UXO makes hundreds of thousands of hectares unavailable for farming or development. Fields that could feed Lao citizens, 40% of whom are malnourished, lie fallow because of contamination. At least 20,000 people have fallen victim since the end of the bombing; approximately 100 people continue to die from UXO accidents each year, and more are maimed. Twenty percent of these victims are injured or killed while farming. In response to this, the United Nations recently took the unprecedented step of adding a Ninth Millennium Development Goal for Laos: reducing the harm of UXO.

The time to act on this issue is now. The State Department Office of Inspections, in a 2010 review of the Embassy in Vientiane, found that while the UXO clearance program is one of the most important political and economic activities the U.S. currently pursues in Laos, it is endangered by inconsistent funding. The program has made many strides in removing deadly UXO from Lao soil in recent years, increasing the land available for farming and development. In the words of the Office of Inspections, “to risk losing such gains would be a poor choice at this moment in the improving U.S.-Lao dialogue.”

In addition to the geopolitical dimensions, continuity — rather than the current “feast or famine” cycle — is needed to allow UXO clearance teams to plan accordingly, scale up operations, and finally get the job done. In summer 2011, six former U.S. Ambassadors to Laos wrote a joint letter to Secretary Clinton endorsing our call for $10 million per year, sustained over 10 years, “to strengthen and secure the Lao UXO sector’s capacity and bring its already effective programs to scale.” A State Department official has called the UXO program in Laos “one of the best programs in the world – the gold standard,” and fully capable of absorbing additional funds. A $10 million appropriation in FY13 would signal a commitment to providing significant, sustained support for the UXO sector in Laos and solidify our friendship with an important ASEAN partner.

Supporting the clearance of unexploded bombs in Laos is not only good foreign policy, it is also the right thing to do. In the 2012 Omnibus report, Congress specifically recognized the responsibility of the U.S. to prioritize the “clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in areas where such ordnance was caused by the United States,” such as Laos. The U.S. has the opportunity to finally bring to an end a 40-year legacy and allow a new generation of Lao citizens to build a legacy of peace and prosperity.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request. We understand that budgets are tight but we are confident that you will find removal of UXO on high priority lands and victim assistance in Laos to be an important humanitarian priority and in our national
interest.

Sincerely,
Channapha Khamvongsa
Executive Director

cc: President Barack Obama
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific
Director, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State

Other members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs:
Representatives Jerry Lewis, Frank Wolf, Tom Cole, Mario Diaz-Balart, Charles Dent, Steve Austria, Nita Lowey, Jesse Jackson Jr., Adam Schiff, Steve Rothman

Other members of the House Committee on Appropriations:
Chairman Hal Rogers, Ranking Member Norm Dicks, Representatives Robert B. Aderholt, Rodney Alexander, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Jo Bonner, Ken Calvert, John R. Carter, Ander Crenshaw, John Abney Culberson, Rosa L. DeLauro, Jo Ann Emerson, Sam Farr, Chaka
Fattah, Jeff Flake, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Tom Graves, Maurice D. Hinchey, Mike Honda, Marcy Kaptur, Jack Kingston, Tom Latham, Steven C. LaTourette, Barbara Lee, Cynthia M. Lummis, Betty McCollum, James P. Moran, Alan Nunnelee, John W. Olver, Ed Pastor, David E. Price, Denny Rehberg, Lucille Roybal-Allard, José E. Serrano, Mike Simpson, Peter J. Visclosky, Steve Womack, Kevin Yoder, C.W. Bill Young

Speaker & Film Screening in Boston Area

“The Bombing of Laos and the Continuing Tragedy of Cluster Bombs”

Forbush Memorial Library Westminster, MA January 20, 2010, 6-8PM

Walt Haney, Forbush Library Trustee and longtime resident of Westminster, will give a talk on “The Bombing of Laos and the Continuing Tragedy of Cluster Bombs.”

Haney spent more than three years in Laos, 1968-71 and 1975. In 1970 and 1971, he carried out two surveys of Lao refugees that helped document the widespread bombing of civilians in Laos. Reports on these surveys were both published in reports by the U.S. Senate.

Haney is also author of an analysis of U.S. involvement in Laos from 1950 to 1970. This analysis was published in Chomsky, N. and H. Zinn (Eds.) The Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers, Vol. V: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972, pp. 248-293). Finally, Haney will describe his involvement with Legacies of War (http://legaciesofwar.org), a group organized to bring attention to the continuing tragedy of cluster bombs, not just in Laos but also in other war-torn countries around the world.

Following Haney’s remarks, there will be a showing of the award-winning film “Bombies” and a discussion. Light refreshments will be served. The lecture and film-showing are open to the public at no charge, but seating is limited.

National Traveling Exhibition Midwest Premiere in Minneapolis

Lao Assistance Center, Pangea World Theater and Intermedia Arts present

Legacies of War: National Traveling Exhibition and Community Programs

Curated by local artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, Bush Artist Fellow

Presented in conjunction with the Refugee Nation Touring Performance.

The Legacies of War National Traveling Exhibition tells the story of the U.S. secret bombing in Laos- a forgotten chapter in U.S. history – through the voices of villagers from Laos and the Lao diaspora at large.

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Opening Night Reception – September 30, 2010

In the 1960s and 1970s, when due to the bombing, Lao civilians became refugees of “The Secret War,” and had no language or tools to communicate with the outside world about their experiences except through a series of crude, hand-drawn sketches shown to visiting foreigners. But this art was enough to provoke questions that ultimately led to a global awareness of what was happening during the CIA’s covert war in Laos, and these sketches contributed to shaping the destiny of over 400,000 Laotians and Hmong in the United States today.

The National Traveling Exhibition has traveled to ten U.S. cities and to Dublin, Ireland. Its Midwest debut will take place at Intermedia Arts on September 30, 2010 (Special Opening Reception at 6:30pm) and run through October 24 with film screenings, community workshops and discussions throughout the month.

Artwork: Malichansouk Kouanchao

Legacies of War is presented in conjunction with the Refugee Nation National Traveling Performance, a collection of oral histories that reveals connections between American and Southeast Asian history, and the unique challenges faced by political refugees and their American children. It gives voice to the Lao Diaspora – often excluded from the American experience. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas of war.

This project is made possible in part by support from Arts Midwest, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Asian Pacific Endowment. Refugee Nation is a part of Intermedia Arts’ Catalyst Series.

Intermedia Arts is located at 2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (map)


Events

» Exhibition

National Traveling Exhibition
September 30, 2010 – October 24, 2010
Daily 12pm-5pm
$3 suggested donation

Opening Reception
September 30, 2010 @ 6:30pm-8:30pm – FREE
Reception will include a blessing ceremony, guest speakers and community gathering.

» Performances

Refugee Nation
October 8-10, Friday – Sunday @ 7:30pm
October 14-17, Thursday – Sunday @ 7:30pm
*Post performance discussions October 9, 15 & 16
Tickets: $10 (advance, students, seniors); $12 (door)
Click here to purchase tickets.

» Workshops & Discussions

Community Art Workshop – Express Yourself
October 2, 2010 @ 1pm-4pm – FREE
Student Day
Two-part workshop: In Tapestry of Hope: Weaving a Bomb Free Future, participants will create art pieces to include in an international art exhibition to debut in Vientiane, Laos in November. In the Refugee Nation workshop, participants will engage in discussions and exercises about identity and community.

Community Discussion – Gen X, Gen Y and Gen G (as in RefuGee)
October 13, 2010 @ 12:30pm – FREE
Bring your lunch for this roundtable intergenerational discussion following the Refugee Nation matinee.

» Film Screenings

Bomb Harvest
October 12, 2010 @ 7pm
$5 suggested donation
Laos: The most bombed country, per capita, on the planet. A bomb disposal specialist has to train a new young “big bomb” team to deal with bombs left from the US “Secret War”, but meanwhile, the local children are out hunting for bomb scrap metal. Post screening discussion with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and community members.

Bombies
October 19, 2010 @ 7pm
$5 suggested donation
Award-winning film portrays the aftermath of the carpet bombing of Laos with made-in-Minnesota cluster bombs and includes local footage of demonstrations at Honeywell and Alliant Techsystems (ATK).
Special guest speaker Marv Davidov, featured in the film as the founder of the MN-based Honeywell Project to end weapons manufacturing during the Vietnam War.

All events held at:
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408 (map)

For more information, visit www.intermediaarts.org or call (612) 871-4444.


Media Contact

Theresa Sweetland
Executive/Artistic Director, Intermedia Arts
(612) 874-2813
theresa@intermediaarts.org

Photo/Interview Opportunities

Digital photos, audio, video, interview and photo opportunities are available upon request.


About the Presenters

  • Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota

    Minnesota has the third largest Laotian community in the US with 25,000 residents, many living in Hennepin County and particularly North Minneapolis. Many first arrived in the US as refugees in the early 1980s to rebuild to their lives. Many Lao in Minnesota received international recognition and awards for their art and community activism, and recently convened the first national Lao American Writers Summit. The Lao Assistance Center was established in 1983 with a mission to help Lao families meet their basic needs and to preserve their culture and traditions.

  • Pangea World Theater

    Pangea World Theater begins from the fundamental paradigm of diversity in the world. Our work expresses this reality and our organization advances this possibility consciously. Since its inception in 1995, Pangea’s goals have included creating a new literature with stories from different communities for theater, changing our methods of auditioning in order to include artists from diverse communities who are not trained in the traditional western methods of the audition process, and creating new possibilities and new aesthetic realities for a more diverse audience. As the community of the Twin Cities has become increasingly diverse with the influx of new immigrants, Pangea has actively sought individuals from these communities to be part of our artistic and advisory team.

  • Intermedia Arts

    As Minnesota’s premier multidisciplinary, multicultural arts center, Intermedia Arts builds understanding among people by catalyzing and inspiring artists and audiences to make changes in their lives and communities. We are a nationally recognized leader in empowering artists and community leaders to use arts-based approaches to solve community issues. From graffiti art to digital technology to performance art to spoken word, we work from the community up to unearth and enliven new and emerging artists and art forms while challenging and exploring the role of art in our lives. By stimulating civic dialogue and giving voice to the issues and experiences of underrepresented communities locally, nationally and internationally, we contribute to a stronger, healthier society.

  • The Catalyst Series

    Intermedia Arts’ Catalyst Series is a new program dedicated to collaborating with and providing support for artists, arts groups and organizations working as catalysts for change in their communities. The Catalyst Series is designed to engage audiences by provoking new performing, visual, literary, multimedia and film presentations that spark dialogue and inspire social change. Our goal is to provide artists, arts groups and arts organizations with the resources necessary to focus on their creative process, connect with their communities, advance their career, market their work, and develop new audiences.

First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP)

Legacies of War is attending the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP) in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Leading up to the meeting, we will be traveling around Laos and attending other events. We will be documenting our entire trip and experiences with a microsite: Legacies of War @ 1MSP. Check it for daily updates.

For more information on this historic meeting, visit http://www.clusterconvention.org/1msp/.

Legacies of War Exhibit in Brooklyn Center, MN

Check out the Legacies of War Exhibit at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, MN. The exhibit will be there until June 1st.

Association of Asian American Studies Conference, New Orleans

Legacies of War will present Undigested War: Purging Official Narratives of U.S. Wars in Asia with Still Present Past at the Association of Asian American Studies Conference in New Orleans, May 18-21. Click here for more information on the conference.