American Students Learn About UXO in Laos
Vientiane, 11 July 2013 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO sector (NRA) and other UXO advocates met with Lao-American cultural exchange students today at the UN building to discuss the impact of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) on people’s lives in Lao PDR.
The event was attended by more than 30 exchange students and their local hosts as well as government officials from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and staff from a US-based Lao Heritage Foundation.
The participants were welcomed by Mr. Minh H Pham, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, and the students were able to share views and ask questions from a panel that included Mr. Bounphamith Somvichith, Deputy Director of NRA; Mr. Wanthong Khamdala, Acting Director of UXO Lao; Mr. Somsanouk Mixay, Vice president of Lao Journalists association; Ms. Alexandra Bounxouei, Goodwill Ambassador of UNDP Lao PDR; as well as representatives from various organizations working in the UXO sector in Laos.
More than 2 million tons of ordnance was dropped in Lao PDR during the Second Indochina Conflict. Up to 30% of them failed to detonate and unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to pose a humanitarian threat and a significant obstacle to the nation’s development today, 40 years after the war ended., However, many foreigners remain unaware of the tragic history of the country.
The cultural exchange students are in Laos for a month to study the Lao language and learn about various aspects of the Lao culture. It is hoped that after today’s session the students would return home with a better understanding of the UXO issues and that they would also feel encouraged to become advocates of the problem.
Clearance works have been ongoing in Laos since 1996, when UXO Lao was founded 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. The UXO continue to pose a threat to the people living in UXO-contaminated areas, which include up to one in four villages in Laos.
For more information please contact Ms Vanhsana Sayaseng
Tel: 021 267 763