15 Jul, 2015
Last month, the United States announced a new aid package of $15 million for the unexploded ordnance (UXO) sector in Laos. The aid package—the highest annual amount the US has ever given for UXO cleanup in Laos—brings to total about $85 million the US has given to Laos for UXO cleanup since 1993.
This is a shocking and embarrassingly low figure. The UXO is the result of one of the most intensive bombing campaigns in human history, when the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos from 1964 to 1973. One third of the bombs did not explode on impact, and have killed or injured twenty thousand people since 1973.
The United States has a moral responsibility to do everything it can to clean up the UXO and help the victims. The $85 million the US has allocated to date are mere pennies compared to the $18 million(inflation-adjusted) the US spent bombing Laos per day from 1964 to 1973. The best estimated amount to clean up all the UXO is $16 billion, according to UXO expert Mike Boddington (as quoted in the excellent book by journalists Karen J. Coates and Jerry Redfern,Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos).