Back­grounder Un­ex­ploded bombs in Laos

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

Laos is the most heav­ily bombed coun­try, rel­a­tive to its pop­u­la­tion, in his­tory. The United States dropped 270 mil­lion bombs on it be­tween 1964 and 1973, even though the two coun­tries were never of­fi­cially at war. The mis­sions, which were run by the CIA, were part of what was later known as the se­cret war, as Amer­i­cans were un­aware of what was go­ing on.

The key rea­son for the stag­ger­ing num­ber of bomb­ing mis­sions, which were car­ried out pri­mar­ily in north­ern Laos, was the coun­try’s lo­ca­tion: part of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a route that pro­vided sup­plies and man­power for North Viet­nam’s war with the US, ran through the coun­try.

The route and sur­round­ing ar­eas were car­pet-bombed for years in an at­tempt to stop re­in­force­ment sup­plies get­ting through and to kill North Viet­nam’s com­mu­nist al­lies.

A num­ber of com­pa­nies are work­ing to clear Laos of un­ex­ploded ord­nance; 3,000 peo­ple are rou­tinely work­ing on clear­ance in any one day.

The United States and Laos are talk­ing about the best way to es­tab­lish how much of the coun­try re­mains con­tam­i­nated. The ord­nance could take decades to clear.

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