Bomb Accident Survivor & Victim Assistance Advocate
“My story is largely about good fortune: I survived the accident even though I had to travel far and for a long time to get medical treatment. I was able to get schooling because my disability did not require many special services. My education allowed me to volunteer and get a great job. I know this is not an opportunity all survivors in Laos have access to”
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At age 8, Thoummy Silamphan took a short half-mile hike outside his village in the Xieng Khouang Province of Laos in search of bamboo shoots in order to help feed his family. Using a simple spade to help him dig through the dirt and debris, his shovel suddenly struck an unexploded ordnance (UXO). The blast of the “bombie”, as the locals call it, ripped through Thoummy’s left hand causing him excruciating pain. Nearby villagers rushed towards the sound of the blast to find Thoummy lying on the ground bleeding profusely, it would take them nearly 45 minutes to carry Thoummy’s to his home and another 70 minutes to reach the local provincial hospital.
Thoummy was hospitalized for 28 days, during which his left hand was amputated. During the recovery stages, learning to cope with not having a hand was very physically and mentally challenging. Thoummy recounts a period of depression but he was very fortunate to have a strong family foundation to help in his recovery. Faced with a life altering injury, Thoummy’s life became much more difficult, but with great determination he vowed to fight on.
Thoummy would go on to complete high school and attend Vongchareun Development College. After his university studies, Thoummy would go on to serve as a field assistant for World Education specifically working on UXO survivor assistance. Thoummy now heads the Quality of Life Association in Xieng Khouang; the first association to serve UXO victims in Laos. Also, in 2010 Thoummy joined Ban Advocates, a project of Handicap International, which organizes individuals who have been affected by cluster bombs and advocate for the international ban of such weapons.
Since Thoummy’s injury, he has been a forceful advocate for UXO survivors and has spoken at international conferences around the world serving as a spokesperson to ban cluster munitions. Thoummy is 25 years old and speaks Lao and some English.