More than 30 exchange students from the US met with unexploded ordnance (UXO) advocates and officials at the UN building in Vientiane to enhance knowledge and discuss the horrific impact of UXO on Lao people’s lives. According to the student, reducing the impact of UXO is a top priority for development and Lao people’s living so Laos should to conduct risk education for civilian in contaminated areas.

During the session where attended by UNDP Resident Representative, Minh Pham, NRA Deputy Director, Bounphamith Somvichith, UXO Lao Acting Director, Wanthong Khamdala, and Lao Journalists Association Vice President, Somsanouk Mixay as well as representatives from various organisations working in the UXO sector in Laos. The exchange students learnt about the existing UXO in Laos and watched a special short film called ‘Lao, An Untold Story’, which looked at the conditions of people living with disabilities as a result of UXO in Xieng Khuang province.

Speaking at the session, UNDP Resident Representative said “More than 2 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on Laos during the second Indochina Conflict. He said, Up to 30 percent failed to detonate and UXO continues to pose a humanitarian threat and a significant obstacle to the nation’s development today, 40 years after the war ended. According to the UNDP’s representative, presently, “UXO poses a threat to the people living in contaminated areas – about one in four villages in Laos”.

During Questions and Answers session, The exchange also asked the panel saying that, Reducing the impact of UXO is a top priority for development and Lao people’s living.

Interview: Alex Chanthavong, Student of Lao heritage Foundation

Surie Vixaysakd, Student of Lao heritage Foundation

Ravi Khampradith, Student of Lao heritage Foundation

According to Lao UXO, 47 people have died and 25 have sustained injuries in Champassak province as a result of UXO since 1997. In 2012, 56 UXO-related incidents occurred across the country, resulting in 15 deaths and numerous cases of damage to limbs. From 1964 to 2008, about 20,000 people survived UXO accidents in Laos. Many of the victims have lost arms or legs and some have lost their eyesight as well.

Interview: Pom Outama Khampradith, Director of Lao Heritage Foundation

The 24 exchange students are in Laos for a month to study the Lao language and learn about various aspects of the local culture. They are from the Lao Heritage Foundation based in Washington aiming to showcase culture in their motherland.

Interview: Pom Outama Khampradith, Director of Lao Heritage Foundation

Director of Lao Heritage Foundation, Pom Outama Khampradith disclosed that, it is hoped that after the session, the students will return home with a better understanding of UXO issues and be encouraged to become involved in finding solutions.

The foundation started visiting Laos in 2011 to refresh their knowledge and understanding of the traditions, music, dance and culture of the country of their parent’s origin and take back new experiences to showcase for the Lao and local people living in the United States.

Source: LNTV Lao News in English