Vientiane Times – “UXO survey reveals victim, accident figures”

March 28, 2010
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From 1964 to 2008, more than 50,000 Lao people were victims of accidents involving unexploded ordnance (UXO), according to the first survey report of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for UXO/Mine Action Sector in Laos.

NRA representatives, senior officials from government and international organizations, donors and NGO [Non Governmental Organizations] operators gathered at the International Cooperation Training Center in Vientiane yesterday to discuss the report.

The meeting was chaired by Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Ms Onechanh Thammavong.

About 60 percent (30,000) of people maimed or killed by UXO suffered accidents between 1964 and 1973, said NRA Director Dr. Malinga Saignavongs.

He said the report listed 50,000 victims, of whom 60 percent (30,000) died and 40 percent (20,000) were injured.

Some 13,500 of the 20,000 injured people who are still alive are disabled, said Dr. Mallinga.

About 25 percent of all victims live in Savannakhet province and 12 percent live in Xieng Khuang province.  About 26 percent of the victims are under 18 years old.

Over the last decade, 30 percent of the victims were involved in accidents caused by bombies and 13 percent were injured by mines, he said.

From 1964 to 1968, about 65 percent of UXO victims died on the spot and 35 percent suffered injuries.

When the second Indochina War ended 30 years ago, people living in areas where munitions were dropped during US bombing missions continued to be at risk of death or injury from UXO said Ms Onechanh.

She said these devices were still a major problem for Laos and prevented people from growing crops, denying them a means of poverty reduction and slowing socio-economic development.  The physical and mental rehabilitation of UXO victims was a heavy responsibility for the Lao government and society, Ms Onechanh said.

The first survey on UXO victims was carried out jointly by the NRA [National Regulatory Agency] and the National Rehabilitation Center, and provided information in resolving the UXO problem in Laos, she added.

The report also gives basic information on the implementation of UXO clearance projects and would serve to boost cooperation between the government, donors, and operators, she said.

The NRA has just begun Phase II of the survey, which will revel the accident figures for 2009.

Laos is generally accredited with being the most heavily bombed country in the world, per capita.

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