Today the group met with Messrs. Somnuk Vorasarn and Mike Boddington of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA). In short, the NRA is a UN-Lao operation established in 2004, and beginning operation in 2006, that collects and provides data about those affected by UXO via nation-wide surveys executed at the village level.
In the meeting, Messrs. Vorasarn and Boddington reconfirmed the enormity of the UXO problem in both human and dollar terms; unfortunately, both admit that ridding Laos of every UXO is ” too ambitious.” Despite this, UXO-related fatalities and injuries have decreased decade-to-decade. According to Mr. Boddington, the reason for this is not only because of improved removal techniques and training, but also because of increased education and emergency response. Thus, both men would like to see less international and domestic focus on UXO clearance, and more on education, primary healthcare and victims’ assistance, including trama counseling and psychological support.
Not only was this meeting informative, but also it demonstrated that the NRA has taken a pragmatic approach toward the UXO problem. Mr. Vorasarn was quick to point out that finger pointing will not help solve the problem; rather, he offered his recommendations for improving the lives of his countrymen–improved healthcare and education. I am both thankful and relieved that we can set aside political agendas to accomplish the task at hand.