30 April 2013

The inspirational ‘Voices from Laos’ US tour ends today in Washington DC, on the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war

The ‘Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs. Protecting Lives" national speakers tour, organised by CMC member organisation Legacies of War, culminates in Washington DC today, on the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war.The highly successful tour started in New York on 4 April – UN International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action – and has visited twelve US cities.

The tour has created a space for dialogue and awareness raising about how individuals and communities are affected by the legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, including cluster munitions, leftover from the Vietnam war-era bombings.The tour has also served to inspire and motivate people in the US to take action to support UXO clearance efforts in Laos, champion the rights and needs of survivors, create a safer future for the people of Laos and to raise funds for the UXO sector and for Legacies of War’s invaluable work.

The stars of the tour, who have captivated audiences across the US, are Manixia Thor, an All-Women Bomb Clearance Team Leader for the Mines Advisory Group in Laos, and cluster muniton survivor and victim assistance advocate Thoummay Silampphan who is head of the Quality of Life Association in Xieng Khoung, which serves UXO victims in Laos, as well as being a member of Handicap International’s Ban Advocate team. You can read more about their inspiring lives and work, and see coverage from the tour, on the Legacies of War website.

Lao PDR is the world’s most heavily cluster munition contaminated country. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor unexploded submunitions were reported to have caused at least 7,580 casualties in the period 1964–2011, and approximately 2,500 survivors of this indiscriminate weapon live in Laos today.Laos was one of the first countries to join the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the international treaty that bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions and establishes provisions for clearance, victim assistance and international cooperation and assistance.

Laos has continued to play a leadership role in the work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions as president of the convention in 2011 after hosting the convention’s First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane in November 2010. This included outreach in support of the multi-year Vientiane Action Plan, which serves to guide States Parties’ implementation of the ban convention.

Each year, more people in Lao fall victim to this deadly legacy, such is the extent of the contamination there. However, a huge effort to remove this threat is underway, with help from international NGOs such as CMC members NPA, HI and MAG, as well as the national authorities. With increased support from the global community this deadly threat that impacts the lives of ordinary people in Lao PDR every day could be lifted within our lifetime.