Backgrounder Unexploded bombs in Laos
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.