Countries participating in the Oslo Process that resulted in the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreed to assign Laos to host the first meeting of its kind next year. For its part, Laos expects more assistance from the international community to fund its UXO clearance efforts.
Laos' Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said one of the important results of the ministerial-level meeting on economic cooperation between ASEAN and the European Union, held at the end of May in Hanoi, Vietnam, was that Laos was assigned the responsibility to present the strategic plan for reaching the Millennium Goal of eradicating poverty and graduating from the least-developed nation status by 2020, which was jointly approved by the Lao government and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently. Another significant development was that Laos was also assigned to host the first meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions next year, an assignment that Laos welcomed.
Dr. Thongloun further said that during the discussion on vaious issues of culture and civilization, he reported on the status of his government's efforts to rid the country of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the importance of the need for the international community to assist Laos in solving this problem. As a result, many countries supported the idea to assign Laos as the host of the first meeting of the signatories of the Oslo Convention next year.
By hosting the first meeting of this kind, Laos hopes to raise the international community's awareness and understanding of the gravity of the problems of unexploded ordnance in its country, and consequently to attract more assistance to fund its UXO clearance efforts. The Lao government set up UXO-Lao in 1996 and has received foreign aid averaging approximately US $12 million annually from many donors. including the U.S. government.
During 1963 and 1975, U.S. B52 bombers flew more than 500,000 sorties over Laos and dropped almost three-million tons of ordnance, amounting to more than 270 million bombs. Roughly 30% of those bombs failed to explode, still littering an area of more than 87,000 square kilometers of this country's land area. However, over the past 13 years since its founding and with all the foreign aid it has been receiving, UXO-Lao has been able to clear less than 1% of the contaminated areas. Therefore, Laos needs more foreign aid to help fund its efforts, or it will take Laos over a century to completely clear all UXOs from its land.
Songrit Pongern reported in Lao on June 9, 2009. For more details in Lao, listen to his report or read our Lao version. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam)