UK Continues Decades-long Support for UXO Clearance in Khammouane Province

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UK Continues Decades-long Support for UXO Clearance in Khammouane Province
A MAG staff trying to detect UXO underneath the ground

On 14 February, the United Kingdom pledged to donate over USD 1.65 million to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a British organization for landmine clearance based in Laos, as a move to support the country’s ongoing Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) survey, clearance, and explosive ordnance risk education activities in Khammouane province. 

Khammouane and Xieng Khouang provinces were the two most heavily bombed provinces in Laos during the second Indochina War (1964-1973), part of which was the Vietnam War. The area was targeted by the US to disrupt movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a vital supply route for North Vietnam

The grant, provided by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), will help MAG survey 8,270,000 square meters of land, clear 680,800 square meters of high-priority areas, and provide 142 risk education sessions in Khammouane province. 

This fund is also guaranteed to benefit at least 3,692 individuals and support a dedicated roving team to promptly respond to UXO items reported by local communities.

The event also marked the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MAG, the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos (NRA) to implement the project’s activities through 31 March 2025.

Cashel Gleeson, Deputy UK Ambassador, highlighted the UK’s contribution, totaling over USD 22 million from 2016 to 2023, making it one of Laos’ largest bilateral donors. Gleeson also praised the impact of the work, citing examples such as reducing deaths, clearing land for farming, and building schools and wells. 

MAG’s Country Director, Eli Mechanic, expressed gratitude for the ongoing support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. He stressed the importance of this funding in enabling MAG to continue its essential work in Laos.

Mechanic added that, as MAG marks 30 years in the country, the partnership between Laos and the UK has been crucial to ensuring community safety across Laos by removing UXO threats and creating a safer future for children and families in affected areas.

Throughout their three-decade-long mission, MAG has cleared 127 million square meters of land and destroyed over 344,000 items of UXO, helping Laos achieve its 18th Sustainable Development Goal titled “Lives Safe from Unexploded Ordnance (UXO),” which aims to completely remove all the 80 million unexploded bombs left in the country.