Meet Santi Khotisen, Deputy Provincial Coordinator for UXO Lao in Luang Prabang
Q. How did you end up working for UXO Lao?
A. I started out as a deminer back in 1999. I heard on the radio that UXO Lao were looking for new staff to help with their clearance operations, and I thought it would be an exciting job.
Q. Were you worried about the job being dangerous?
A. No, although I was aware of the dangers of UXO as a few years before a man from my village had been in a UXO-induced accident and suffered bad injuries. The clearance operations had only started in Luang Prabang a year before I became a de-miner.
Q. What was it like working as a de-miner?
A. It was hard work. You work outside from 8am until 4pm, rain or shine. 14 years ago we didn’t have enough metal detectors for everyone, so the job was actually easier back then as we had to take turns using it, and you had longer breaks. These days, the de-miners work all day with only a ten-minute break every hour.
Q. What does your current job involve?
A: From Deminer I was promoted to Operations Assistant and then to my current role of Deputy Provincial Coordinator. In this role, I’m responsible for monitoring the seven field teams that we currently have in this province, including six clearance teams and one survey team. I’m also involved in the planning process for the clearance operations.
Q. How do you decide what land to clear?
A. Usually it starts with a request from a farmer or a landowner, who have found UXOs in their field. From there the request gets to us eventually, through the village chief. Our team decides the schedule for clearance. Last year, we were able to handle 110 out of 120 requests we received.
Q. What does a clearance team look like?
A. One team consists of seven deminers, a team leader, a medic and a driver. In Luang Prabang, UXO Lao currently has six clearance teams as well as one technical team for doing surveys of potential clearance sites. There is demand for another survey team, and I hope we can get one soon.
Q. What do you like best about your job?
A. I’ve been able to travel internationally; to Cambodia, India and Norway. However, the most rewarding part of the job is when we get thanked by the farmers, whose land we have cleared of UXOs. That makes me feel very happy.
Santi was interviewed by UNDP Lao PDR in February 2013.
UXO Lao was founded in 1996 as the national clearance operator, with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF. UNDP has also helped the Government of Laos to establish a National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO and Mine Action sector and continues to provide technical support to both organisations. Most of UXO Lao’s clearance operations, victim assistance and risk education work is funded through the UXO Trust Fund, managed by UNDP.