The National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action in Laos (UXO-NRA)

Staff and specialists from the Army Engineering Department have successfully removed a 500 pound MK82 bomb from Nayai Chaleun village in Sangthong district, Vientiane on Monday.

The MK82 was unexpectedly found a few weeks ago during a dig to judge the land level for a dispensary construction project being carried out in the village.

Head of the UXO Search and Destroy Section of the Engineering Department at the Ministry of National Defence, Major Southone Theva, said “Today we have successfully defused the 500 pound bomb and removed it from the village. However, it was quite a challenge for us as it was a large bomb and was located very close to the village with a chance of damaging a circular area of up to 1,500 metres if something went wrong.”

According to a report fro m the UXO-NRA, there were 82 UXO items found in the district, including mortar bullets, mines and grenades. This was the fourth time they had found and removed this kind of bomb from the district.

Major Southone said an MK82 was a 227kg bomb and was one of the most common explosive devices dropped by aircraft currently made by the US.

The reason why this bomb, as well as other UXO, remained in this district was because some parts of this area used to be a stronghold during the 1964-75 war, he said.

Head of the Clearance Division of UXO-NRA Mr Phommachan Khammanchan said, “We were quite surprised that the same kind of bomb was located about 15 metres away from the one we found and removed in 2012 with cooperation from specialists at the UXO Search and Destroy Section of the Engineering Department.”

“Since we don’t have any bombing data from this district, it means there is likely to be more of these bombs in the area.

“We have made plans to survey UXO in this district in the near future and have made further plans to clear whatever we find.”

From June 1964-73 the US dropped more than two million tonnes of ordnance on Laos during their 580,000 bombing missions. This is equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years, which makes Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.

Since 1990, the Lao government and the international community have been making joint efforts to clear the UXO.

However, so far the clearance has only covered two percent of the contaminated areas in the whole country.

Source: Vientiane Times
By Phoonsab Thevongsa
July 3, 2014