Laos continues to clear UXO in country's north

October 22, 2020

The Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Program (UXO Lao) has cleared more than 700 hectares of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in northern Laos' Xieng Khuang province, as part of its continuing survey and clearance works that focus on agricultural land and inhabited areas.

The latest results of the work were reported during a field visit to Xieng Khuang province, some 180 km northeast of Lao capital Vientiane, by officials from the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos under the Lao Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Xieng Khuang is considered the second most-contaminated province in Laos, though a full survey of contamination across the country has not yet been completed and is planned to be finalized by 2021.

Head of UXO Laos in Xieng Khuang province, Kingphet Phimmavong said that the province is heavily affected by UXO.

"Many hectares of land need to be cleared of UXO, especially agricultural land and living areas," he said, quoted by Local daily Vientiane Times on Tuesday.

Currently, 14 UXO Clearance Operation Teams are engaged in surveys and removing UXO. Of these, 12 teams are funded by New Zealand and two by Japan.

The government established the UXO Lao in 1996, with support from the UNDP, UNICEF and other partners. It has a mandate to reduce casualties from UXO and increase safe land for development and agriculture.

The organization undertakes UXO surveys to identify contamination, clearance of land, roving tasks to respond to UXO discovery by the public, and risk education activities in affected areas.

From its establishment in 1996 and up to the end of 2019, UXO Lao cleared more than 44,000 hectares, of which more than 86 percent was for agricultural use.

During the same time, UXO Lao conducted more than 13,000 risk education activities that were designed to inform at-risk populations about the threat of UXO in order to reduce accidents and casualties. These activities covered more than 2,900,000 people and contributed to a huge reduction in the annual number of casualties nationwide from 304 in 2008 to 25 in 2019.

Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world per capital. Throughout 1964-1973, over two million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos, of which 30 percent failed to explode.

Over 270 million cluster munitions were dropped from American aircraft, leaving an estimated 80 million live bomblets scattered and buried around the country.