During my painting trip through the otherwise very pleasant country of Laos, one unhappy but important thing I learned about was the amount of UXO (or unexploded ordnance) and the de-mining activities.
Landmine Survivor (photo: James Hathaway, Wiki Commons)
Although Laos was neutral during the Vietnam War and the United States never officially declared war upon it, US forces dropped over two million tons of sub-munition on the country between 1964 and 1973. More bombs were dropped on Laos in that period than on Germany and Japan together during the Second World War, making Laos one of the most severely bombed countries in the world. ( From The “Worlds Without Mines”website).
This bombing was intended to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was the North Vietnamese supply route that ran through Laos and Cambodia. Unfortunately many of the bombs failed to explode and are now littered throughout the countryside, waiting to be accidently detonated.
So far, the United States has contributed an average of about $3 million a year to bomb-removal efforts in Laos. In contrast, the U.S. spent more than $2 million a day (about $17 million in today’s dollars) dropping the bombs.
As a US citizen I feel some responsibility for this. There are several charities working on this problem. A local one with a Palette and Chisel connection is The Center for International Rehabilitation. One of their physicians, Dr. Yeongchi Wu, a sculptor and past member of the Palette and Chisel, developed a simple casting method to create prosthetics for land-mine victims.