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  • Writer's pictureBarrett B.

80 Million Unexploded Bombs are still in Laos. This global team is taking on the challenge

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

MAG is one organization that is trying to restore normalcy to the lives of the Lao people and one of my recent trips to Vientiane in 2022, I visited one of their MAG information centers. Saying there is a lot to take in was an understatement.

During the Vietnam War, the United States dropped an estimated 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, which is more than what was dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War II. This bombing campaign, known as the "Secret War," was aimed at disrupting North Vietnamese supply routes that passed through Laos. The exact number of bombs dropped is difficult to determine due to incomplete records, but it's estimated that over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos, with up to 80 million of them failing to explode and still posing a threat to the local population today.

Cambodia is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.

Cambodia has a long and tragic history. In the 1970s, the country was embroiled in a brutal civil war. During this time, various factions within Cambodia fought for control of the government. One of the factions, the Khmer Rouge, was particularly brutal. The Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 to 3 million people.After the civil war ended, Cambodia was occupied by Vietnam.

In 1989, the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia, but the country remained unstable. In 1991, a peace agreement was finally reached, but it did not last long. In 1998, Cambodia descended into violence again.The violence in Cambodia finally came to an end in 2004. However, the country is still recovering from the effects of the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime. One of the lingering problems is the presence of land mines and unexploded bombs.During the civil war, all of the factions made heavy use of land mines.

These mines were planted in fields, roads, and villages. They were also buried in the jungle, making them very difficult to see. As a result, there are an estimated 4 to 6 million land mines still buried in Cambodia.Every year, hundreds of people are killed or injured by land mines. In addition, the presence of land mines makes it difficult for farmers to cultivate their fields. They also prevent people from being able to travel freely.

The MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is an organization that is working to remove land mines and unexploded bombs from Cambodia. The MAG was founded in 1989 and has cleared more than 1,500 square kilometers of land. The MAG is funded by various governments and private donations.

This month, MAG's teams in Laos reached a historic milestone: the removal and safe disposal of their 300,000th unexploded bomb.

Between 1964 and 1973, Laos became, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world, with over two million tonnes of bombs dropped during the Vietnam War — a tonne for each person living in Laos at the time.The airstrikes were mostly aimed at disrupting movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a key logistical supply route used by the North Vietnamese.

Bombing raids unleashed an estimated 250 million cluster bombs, about 30 per cent of which failed to explode. But the ones that did not

kill on impact have, instead, laid dormant ever since — ready to strike at any moment.Every unexploded bomb littering the land represents a threat to life and a barrier to development, trapping whole communities in fear.

More than 50,000 people have been killed by unexploded bombs, 20,000 since the war ended. Almost half have been children. MAG has been working in Laos since 1994 because we believe these tragedies can and must be prevented.By our 25th anniversary in Laos in 2019, our almost 1,200-strong team of brave men and women had found and destroyed 250,000 bombs — and, two years later, on the morning of 8 August, they uncovered and disposed of bomb number 300,000.

For every bomb we remove, a community takes one step closer to the freedom to live without fear.

Come over to my youtube channel - Traveling on the Go which focuses on a traveling and storytelling type of channel in various countries around the world.


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