An official at the Handicap organization in Laos says
Lao children are increasingly at risk of being endangered by unexploded
ordnances (UXO) as they are lured to collect metal scraps underneath the
grounds for money.
The coordinator for Handicap says the issue is now most
troubling because more and more Lao children are forced to look for metal
scraps left from the Indochinese War, making them increasingly vulnerable to
unexploded ordnances, because the detectors many children use to detect signals
from metals buried under the grounds cannot differentiate between scrap metal
and unexploded bombs. If what they detect is real scrap metals, they are
lucky. But if they find unexploded bombs
instead, it certainly means that their lives and body are at risk of facing
accidence or death, which will affect their families both emotionally and
financially as the families have to spend a lot of money in treating them.
According to the report by the Lao National
Unexploded Ordnance Programme, or UXO-Lao, from 1996 to the end 2008, several
thousand Lao people have been affected and victimized by UXOs and hundreds have lost their lives. The victims
include more than 830 children who lost their lives or limbs during their searches
for scrap metals. And the reason for
their dangerous occupation is, of course, poverty. As Lao people are
experiencing severe economic hardship, just like citizens of other countries,
because of the current global economic slump, more and more Lao children in rural
areas are forced to search for and collect more scrap metals so that they can
sell to get money for their families.
According to a UXO-Lao assessment, currently there
are over 270 million ordnances left on Laos' soil, and at least 30% of them are
unexploded bombs, which can endanger Lao people's lives and bodies any
time they come in contact with those bombs.
Since its establishment in 1996, UXO-Lao has recovered
and destroyed over 800,000 unexploded bombs, and have reclaimed over 13,000 hectares
of the UXO affected land areas; however, this proportion is less than 1% of the
total land areas affected by UXOs. It is estimated that, at its current ability level, UXO-Lao will take over a century to recover all the
unexploded bombs left on Laos' soil. And Lao authorities attribute that to the limited assistance they have received from foreign countries.
Songrith PonNgeun reported from Bangkok. (English
translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam).
For details in Lao, listen to our audio files.