Source: Vientiane Times
Personnel from the Lao and Russian armies have cleared more than 30 hectares of war debris in Khammuan province over the past five months and located more than 100 other UXO devices.
The achievements were reported at a meeting of the two armies held in Khammuan province recently.
The meeting was held in Nakai district and attended by Laos’ Deputy Minister of National Defence, Lt. Gen. Khamlieng Outhakaysone.
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Laos, Mr. Vladimir Kalinin, addressed the Russian and Lao bomb disposal experts and provincial officials, emphasising the importance of UXO clearance for the further economic and social development of Laos.
Laos is facing the challenge of making progress while carrying the burden of the “dangerous past” of the “Indochina war”, he said.
According to experts’ estimates, from 1967-1975, during the so-called “undeclared war”, more than 2 million tons or about 270 million munitions were dropped over Laos. The most affected areas were Xieng Khuang, Huaphan, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan, Xekong and Attapeu provinces.
Today, more than 80 million explosive objects remain in the ground and every year these munitions continue to harm hundreds of Lao citizens, indicating that UXO clearance is a priority for the future development of Laos.
Several donor countries provide mainly financial support to Laos for UXO clearance operations through NGOs.
But only Russia, under an agreement with Laos’ Ministry of National Defence, regularly sends sappers and field engineers from the International Mine Action Center of the Russian Armed Forces to Laos. Risking their lives, they conduct on-site demining and pass on their knowledge to their Lao partners.
Russian bomb disposal experts resumed UXO clearance operations in 2018 and from 2018 to 2022 more than 168,000 square metres of Lao territory was cleared by Russian and Lao specialists.
During the present 5th stage of joint UXO clearance operations, 124 explosive objects were removed and destroyed. Some 120 Lao specialists from the Engineering Corps of the Lao People’s Army were trained in the methods used by the International Mine Action Center of the Russian Armed Forces.
By the end of every stage of UXO clearance operations, specialists from the Lao Engineering Corps were provided with special armaments and equipment.
In addition, Russian specialists with demining experience in “trouble spots” the world over held regular training sessions with personnel from the Lao People’s Army as well as briefing local people on the correct action to take if they found any kind of unexploded ordnance.
There is no doubt that Russia will continue to provide all necessary humanitarian assistance to Laos, including the clearance of UXO, so that Lao citizens in affected areas have the opportunity to return to a normal and prosperous life.