UXO Remain Threat to Rural Life in Laos, Injures Five While Cooking

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Landmines Remain Obstacle to Rural Life in Laos, Injures Six While Farming
MAG Technicians working in Xieng Khouang province(Photo: MAG/Bart Verweij)

Latest update on 18 January at 11:30 am

Five individuals were seriously injured while igniting a fire under their house in Viengxay village, located in the Phouvong district of Attapeu Province, Laos. The cause of the incident was identified as unexploded ordnances (UXOs) left over from the intense bombing campaign conducted by the United States in Laos between 1964 and 1973.

Half a century after the bombing of Laos by the United States, the country’s population continues to face major threats from UXOs.

Locals in the area reported that the explosion occurred suddenly, catching the victims by surprise. The incident left two females and three males injured, including two children.

The wounded were swiftly transported to a nearby hospital, with one victim suffering severe injuries to the skull due to shrapnel.

Laos has been grappling with the aftermath of the US bombing campaign, during which a staggering 270 million bombs were dropped, equivalent to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes for nine years. Since the bombing ceased, over 25,000 people have been killed or injured by UXOs, with an estimated 80 million bombs failing to detonate. Shockingly, less than 10 percent of these unexploded munitions have been destroyed.

The extent of contamination in Laos remains uncertain, but current data indicates that approximately 1,800km² of land, roughly half the size of Vientiane Capital, requires UXO clearance. From January to October 2023 alone, 18 UXO accidents occurred, resulting in 31 injuries and 10 fatalities.

Despite the persistent threat, the Lao government, in collaboration with relevant parties, is actively addressing the challenges in the UXO/Mine Action sector. In the same period of 2023, the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Lao PDR (NRA) identified 14,163 hectares of Confirmed Hazardous Areas, cleared 3,262, and destroyed 40,448 explosive remnants of war.

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), are also playing a crucial role in assisting those affected by landmines, unexploded ordnance, and small arms and light weapons.

As Laos remains committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 18 – the eradication of UXOs as an obstacle to national development – its dark history continues to cast a shadow over the lives of its population, particularly in the rural areas of the country.