Our Lao theme continues here in Vientiane too, we cannot afford much… so we did all the free stuff: watched the sunset over the Mekong, saw Victory gate and the Presidential Palace.
So we adopted the Lao culture of just taking it easy, watching the world go by and doing a little bit each day. And in 35 degree heat (and then some), this way of life comes a bit too easy!
The main thing we wanted to see, and learn about was the Lao unwilling involvement in the U.S bombing of Vietnam, which is known as the ‘Secret War’ as it has been wiped from America’s history completely, with many higher powers denying it ever happened. When you see the amount of amputees, it is quite clear it did. Too cut a very long story short, the U.S bombed Lao for 2 reasons: 1) due to the Ho Chi Minh trail connecting Lao to Vietnam in which goods and supplies were moving between the two countries. AND 2) mainly to get rid of bombs they had left over from bombing Vietnam and didn’t want to land with as it is unsafe and includes too much paperwork, so they just dropped them over Laos.
The bombing was so extensive that it works out Lao’s is the most bombed country per square metre, it works out it was bombed every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. Now, that’s a lot of bombs. What makes it worse, the type of bombs dropped were meant to kill civilians, not destroy buildings. Most of these bombs also did not explode, leaving live bombs in the ground.
Due to all this, over 20,000 people have been killed due to these unexploded bombs since the war ended, and they are continuing to be killed or maimed to this day as there is little to no money to clear the cluster bombs found in fields, by houses, schools and even growing up in the bamboo.
We visited the COPE visitor centre in Laos (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) which provides free care and support to people who need prosthetic limbs. Here it gave a detailed history of what happened to thousands of Laotian’s and what they do now to help.
It’s scary to think what happens in the world that goes unnoticed.