A committed group of Laotian-Americans and supporters have come together to develop the Legacies of War project, which seeks to address the history of the Vietnam War era bombings in Laos and the present day impact of unexploded ordnances on the local population. The project is led by Ms. Channapha Khamvongsa.
Channapha Khamvongsa, who fled her homeland at the age of six, spent most of her life in America where she did her undergraduate studies at George Mason University and received her masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. Even though she is now an American, in her heart she still considers herself as Laotian. After a visit to Laos in 2003, she became involved and preoccupied with a new project called “The Legacies of War,” which she helped set up to create awareness among the people about the facts and history of the secret bombings in Laos.
She says that many people are aware of the
Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge, but very few people know about the CIA’s secret war in Laos, where many regions were most heavily bombed during the Vietnam War. She adds that Laos is officially the most bombed country per capita in history. Over two million tons of ordnance – more than the amount used in the entire World War II – were dropped on Laotian territory by the United States military between 1964-1973, representing an average of 1,500 pounds for every man, woman and child living there during that time period. Thousands of Laotian civilians were killed; another several hundred thousand were displaced from their villages and forced to seek refuge.
Today, according to Landmine Monitor, some 35,000 square miles – over 35 percent of the country’s surface area – is affected by unexploded ordnance or UXOs. In reply to our question regarding the objective and goal of her project, Channapha says “The Legacies of War project seeks to respond to this tragedy by educating the international community about the bombings in Laos during the Vietnam War and its consequent effects on the local population.
The project attempts to tell a forgotten chapter in the history of armed conflicts through the voices of Laotian villagers and the diaspora at large. Legacies of War has three primary goals: to help Americans and the people of Laos to better understand the enduring impacts of war on this forgotten country; to increase US support in the removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, while providing better assistance to survivors; and to connect the lessons learned from the history and legacies of war in Laos with the current international discourse on peace and security.”
On November 17, 2005, a Legacy of War fundraising event will take place in Washington DC, which Laos’ ambassador to the United States, Mr. Phanthong Phommahaxay, and U. S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum from Minnesota will attend. Channapha also told VOA that “This is a very first fundraising event, it’s a good start for many of us to learn more about the Legacies of War in Laos and find out what they can contribute to help get rid of unexploded ordnance in Laos.”
Listen to our audio for more detailed information
Additional information, please go to http://www.legaciesofwar.org/