US gives Laos extra $90M to help clear unexploded ordnance

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

Leftover bombs from Vietnam War a threat in Laos

VIENTIANE, Sept 6 — The United States announced on Tuesday it would provide an additional $90 million over the next three years to help Laos, heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, clear unexploded ordnance that has killed or injured more than 20,000 people.

The figure announced during President Barack Obama's first visit to Laos is close to the $100 million the United States has spent in the past 20 years on clearing its UXO in Laos.

From 1964 to 1973, U.S. warplanes dropped more than 270 million cluster munitions on the communist country, one-third of which did not explode, the Lao National Regulatory Authority for UXO says.

RELATED: Lethal legacy of secret war in Laos

30 PHOTOS
Lethal legacy of secret war in Laos
See Gallery
Lethal legacy of secret war in Laos
A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
An unexploded bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War is seen decorating a hotel in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War is used to grow plants in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A man makes spoons by melting the bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A woman poses at an entrance of her house next to bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Mr. Soud, 40, who was injured by an unexploded bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War when he was 10 years old, sits in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Kek, 28, who was injured five years ago, while digging for metal to sell, by an unexploded bomb dropped by U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, poses in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) works in a field searching for unexploded bombs that were dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A label is seen on a bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Toui Bounmy Sidavong, 43, holds a bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A boy stands in front of a house built on bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A woman walks past a restaurant decorated with unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) holds a trigger before destroying unexploded bombs and ordnance found in a field, that were dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A man walks past a house standing on bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A fence made of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, is seen in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
A girl poses at an entrance of her house next to a bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Mr. Soud, 40, who was injured by an unexploded bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War when he was 10 years old, sits in his house in the village of Kakho in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) pauses in a field while searching for unexploded bombs that were dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
An unexploded bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War found by technicians from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG), is seen in a field at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A technician from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) works in a field searching for unexploded bombs that were dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Technicians from the NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) work in a field searching for unexploded bombs that were dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, at Phaxay district in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A crater created by a bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force plane during the Vietnam War, is seen in Xieng Khouang, Laos September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A courtyard is used as a deposit of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang, Laos September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A courtyard is used as a deposit of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang, Laos September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A woman poses at an entrance of her house next to bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A girl poses at an entrance of her house next to a bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A man makes spoons by melting the bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
A bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War is used to grow plants in the village of Ban Napia in Xieng Khouang province, Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Public workers play petanque in a courtyard used as a deposit of bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang, Laos September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Laos when he arrived in the once-isolated country on Monday to attend two regional summits, half a century after America's "secret war" left Laos with the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history.

The White House said in a statement U.S. programmes in Laos had helped slash UXO casualties from 300 to less than 50 a year and the additional funding would be used for a "comprehensive UXO survey of Laos and for continued clearing operations".

"The United States is helping Laos clear unexploded ordnance, which poses a threat to people and hampers economic development," it said.

The package would help support UXO victims needing rehabilitation, including orthotics and prosthetics, it added.

Obama, in a speech on Tuesday in the capital, Vientiane, addressed the secret war.

RELATED: Obama at the ASEAN Summit in Laos

8 PHOTOS
President Obama at the ASEAN Summit
See Gallery
President Obama at the ASEAN Summit
U.S. President Barack Obama rises from his seat at the conclusion of a bilateral meeting with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (not pictured), on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) holds a bilateral meeting with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (R), on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address at the Lao National Cultural Hall, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address at the Lao National Cultural Hall, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama holds his hands together and bows at the end of his address at the Lao National Cultural Hall, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama toast during an official state luncheon at the Presidential Palace in Vientiane, Laos, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, right, inspect honor guards at the Presidential Palace in Vientiane, Laos, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. Obama met with Vorachit on the first visit to the Southeast Asian country by a sitting American president. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"As a result of that conflict many people fled or were driven from their homes," Obama said. "At the time America did not acknowledge its role."

"I believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal."

UXO remains a stubborn problem in the region and experts say it could take decades to clear landmines and bombs in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, which were beset by conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s, and in Cambodia's case, in the 1980s and 1990s too.

In the central Lao province of Xieng Khouang, the area most heavily bombed by U.S. aircraft during the war in neighbouring Vietnam, there is a trail of devastation.

About 80 percent of the people of landlocked Laos rely on agriculture, but some of it is simply too dangerous to farm.

Approximately a quarter of its villages are contaminated with unexploded ordnance, says the British-based Mines Advisory Group, which helps find and destroy the bombs.

On Wednesday, Obama is expected to visit an organisation in Vientiane that works with those disabled by unexploded ordnance, the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise Visitor Center.

(Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)

Read Full Story

People are Reading