The United States has provided more assistance to Laos for its health care and UXO or unexploded ordnance clearance efforts, as US-Laos cooperation continues to expand.<!-- IMAGE -->
Mr. Ralph Cossa, President of the Pacific Forum CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) in Honolulu, reaffirmed during a speech at a recent seminar that US-Laos cooperation has substantially expanded and improved in all areas. The seminar, titled "The Evolving East-Asia Regionalism and the Role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region: National Interests and Strategic Imperatives," was held in late March at the Lao Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane.
Mr. Cossa's remarks came as members of the US Pacific Command were working in Laos in cooperation with the Lao Ministries of Health and National Defense to provide health care in the northern province of Xieng Khouang, where US military medical staffs performed physical checkups and treated patients in hospitals in Phonesavanh and Muang Khoun districts. They also trained Lao physicians on new treatment methods, and donated medicines to both hospitals. The assistance, the first for Xieng Khouang, was a token of US appreciation to the people of the province for their cooperation in the search for Americans missing in action during the Vietnam war.<!-- IMAGE -->
In another development, the US State Department has provided assistance, worth $163,000, to UXO-Lao for training purpose to improve the efficiency of its UXO clearance personnel.
Laos was heavily bombed by the United States during the Vietnam war over four decades ago, and still has unexploded ordnance littered all over its soil to this day, covering more than 87,000 square kilometers. From 1996 to the end of 2009, only 195 square kilometers were cleared of unexploded bombs.
The United States' aid to Laos for its UXO clearance efforts has totaled more than $25 million since 1998 but some Laotians feel that it is hardly enough considering the damage done by the US bombing of their country.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on April 8, 2010. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.