Vientiane Times: “Govt looks to US for help with UXO clearance”

Posted: Nov 12, 2010

Govt looks to US for help with UXO clearance

Laos does not demand but rather is hopeful that the US government will see the harm being caused by UXO and provide more assistance to remove these deadly bombs from Lao soil.

This was Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh’s response to a Japanese reporter, who yesterday asked him “I think the US should take responsibility for clearing UXO contaminated areas and assisting victims. What do you think about that?”

“I think the US is a developed and civilised nation and I hope it is aware of the aspirations of the world community and shares the strong common political views of delegates attending the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane,” Mr Bouasone said.

“I also hope the US will continue to provide Laos with assistance to address the post-war negative impacts of UXO. We understand that the US has knowledge of the technical aspects and consequences of these bombs.”

According to Cluster Munitions Monitor 2010, the United States dropped more than two million tonnes of bombs on Laos during the Indochina war from 1964 to 1973, including more than 270 million sub-munitions. Up to 30 percent of the bombs dropped are believed to have failed to explode.

The presence and scale of UXO poses humanitarian challenges throughout Laos and are an impediment to poverty reduction and development. UXO continues to cause an average of 300 deaths or injuries per year, as well as hindering use of agricultural land, and the building of roads, schools and other essential infrastructure.

Many donors have stepped in to help Laos free its land of UXO, including Japan, Australia, the European Union, USA and the United Nations Development Programme.

But, Mr Bouasone said, despite all the efforts on the part of the government and development partners in recent years, they had not been able to remove even one percent of these remnants of war. To accelerate progress, he called on the international community to provide more assistance for this daunting task.

Mr Bouasone said delegates in Laos for the cluster munitions conference this week would be able to see for themselves the true situation regarding UXO contamination.

Because UXO is so widely distributed, the government is unable to confirm an exact timeframe for the removal of the devices, he said.

The Lao government has included UXO clearance as one of its Millennium Development Goals, which it hopes to achieve by 2015. It has taken this step due to the urgency of freeing up agricultural land so farmers can ensure their food security.

Mr Bouasone said he wants more countries to sign the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions so the world can be free of these deadly weapons.

However, the Lao government respects the decision of those countries that choose not to become a party to the convention.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update November 12, 2010)

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