Connect the dots

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hits from the Bomb

2 million metric tons of explosives =
10 tons/square kilometer = 
1/2 ton explosives/inhabitant = 
the most bombed country per capita on earth = 

According to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), 2 million tons or 4,409,200 pounds of explosives, particularly cluster bombs, were dropped on Laos by US forces between 1964 and 1973 during the Secret War. However, 30% of these explosives did not detonate on impact leaving 80 million unexploded ordinances (UXOs) scattered throughout the country. When disturbed, these UXOs, locally known as "bombies" have the potential to maim or even kill a person. Each day in Laos, this is exactly what is happening. Not only do they injure and kill, but they prevent the Lao from using their land for their livelihood, stifling development and the potential for the country to grow out of poverty. In addition, since the scrap metal from the bombs can be used, many try to collect it to make money that they normally would be making from farming the land. Not only do adults realize the potential money to be made from the metal, so do the many children who die harvesting instead many of the tennis ball-like bombies. 

A cluster bomb or bombie from the documentary Bombies.

MAG has some phenomenal films about the aftermath of the Secret War and details some of the work that they do to remove the UXOs.

A bomb remover from the documentary Bombies.
 Visit a Hmong village and instead of seeing wood or bamboo to stilt the houses or build a fence, many of the leftover bombs are used. Once used to kill, the people now use the bombshells as planters to for herbs and vegetables to eat.

Not only do the craters left by the bomb make the landscape surreal, but the sites where many of the UXOs exist are scattered with enormous stone jars also known as the Plain of Jars. Some theorize that the jars are a burial site with evidence of human bone, pottery fragments, iron and bronze objects, glass and stone beads, ceramic weights and charcoal around the sites. In Site 1 alone are 334 jars, each 2.5m by 2.5m. Although much of Site 1 has been cleared, to this day the Laos government and NGOs continue to search for and remove ordinances.

Plain of Jars

Learn more about MAG's work and the Secret War by clicking here.

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