Hanoi, Vietnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/28/2013 -- During the Vietnamese war American forces dropped a staggering 2 million tons of ordnance on the Southeast Asia country of Laos. This unbelievably, adds up to more than a ton for every man, woman and child in the country. So complete was the devastating carpet bombing, that today, almost 40 years after the end of the war, many people, especially children, are still being maimed as they step on unexploded mines and bombs.
It is estimated that of the 270 million cluster bombs that landed on
Laotian soil, approximately 90 million failed to explode. Over the
decades that followed they have caused complete devastation to so many
people here in this beautiful, tranquil country. Last month Hillary
Clinton visited the country and met with the Foreign Minister Mr.
Thongloun Sisoulit and pledged that America would finally fulfil its
obligation and assist the country to get rid of the remaining lethal
The former First Lady was taking part in a weeklong tour of Southeast Asia
to promote diplomatic relations in the region. Threatened by China’s
dominance in the world, she was trying to improve America’s
international standing in the region and gain favour from some of the
fastest growing markets in the world.
Speaking in typical US diplomatic speak she said, that together with
Laotian leaders, she had, "traced the arc of our relationship from
addressing the tragic legacies of the past to finding a way to being
partners of the future." No doubt with one eye on the general public’s
opinion of her countries military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, her
government is trying to change the perception of US actions in recent
The bombs have of course had a terrible financial effect in the country,
with huge swathes of good farming land lying fallow, as the threat from
unexploded bombs is far too great to go near. These and other economic
problems were on the agenda as the leaders also discussed environmental
concerns over the possibility of building a dam on the Mekong River.
The construction of a dam is an extremely sensitive issue. The Mekong
spends most of its 3000 miles in the country. Further down stream it
passes through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Any damming would have
consequences for those countries.
Visiting a prosthetic center in Laos, which is funded by the US, she
said that America had to do more. The cleanup has been painfully slow,
with only an estimated one percent of the affected areas having been
declared safe. Although the US has provided approximately $47 million
since the end of the war, much more is needed. It has pledged a further
$9 million for this year and more will follow.
This is the first visit by a United States Secretary of State for 58 years. This trip to Laos
by Hillary Clinton is seen as a very positive move as Laos, wary of
Chinese assistance, struggles to compete in the region of Indochina.
Providing assistance that would mean the dam not being built, would be a
major boost for the country’s neighbors as well of course to Laos.