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More victims counted as UXO convention anniversary marked

The government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and development partners have recommitted efforts to address clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that continues to litter rural and remote communities across the country.

The number of unexploded ordnance (UXO) victims for this year stands at 23 to date while some 59 people were injured or killed last year as a result of exploding bombs in Laos.

The information was outlined yesterday during a press conference to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which falls on August 1.

Laos took a leading role in bringing the Convention into force. The ceremony was held to commemorate the Convention's anniversary and recall Lao PDR's painful history with UXO.

The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng and UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Laos, Ms Kaarina Immonen.

Up to 30 percent of the total 270 million cluster munitions dropped on Laos during the Indochina War did not detonate.

Around 80 million bomblets remained scattered and buried over much of the country's landmass, and it is not clear how many of these remain a live threat.

The hazards of UXO correlate to poverty levels, with the most contaminated districts in the country often also being among the poorest, Dr Khampheng said.

“Laos has reviewed the national implementation of the convention, and we hope to share some lessons learnt with other parties of the convention in the next annual meeting being held in Geneva, Switzerland this September,” Dr Khampheng said. “We fully support the convention's implementation, especially UXO surveys.

“Based on evidence gained from the surveys we will be able to confirm that an area is no longer contaminated with UXO, and allow people to utilise those lands again.”

Ms Immonen said that UNDP had worked with the government to develop a long-term aspiration for the UXO sector, the national Sustainable Development Goal 18 on removing the UXO obstacle to development, launched by the Prime Minister of Laos together with the UN Secretary-General in September 2016.

Earlier this month, Ms Immonen said the government of Laos and UNDP signed a new joint five-year plan of action to lay the important foundation for Laos to achieve these ambitious goals by 2030.

“We feel privileged to be part of a broad coalition in the Lao PDR working toward these aims, with a wide range of international and national supporters,” Ms Immonen said.

With Laos being the second signatory after Norway, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has made a vast contribution to supporting the country and UXO Lao, the national UXO clearance operator, in the efforts to address this violent chapter in the history of Laos.

In total, during the past 20 years of its existence, UXO Lao has cleared more than 61,000 hectares of land for safe use, destroying more than 1.8 million pieces of different types of UXO, according to a report from UNDP.

Moreover, the convention provided a framework for Laos to collaborate with other countries and partners to understand and address its land contamination issue and recent years have shown the fruits of this cooperation. Laos has also made important contributions in advocating for the Convention to be ratified by other countries.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update August 1, 2017)

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