Blowing up

How one woman is digging up millions of bombs in Laos

Maw Khang, with two of her four children, near her home in a remote village in Xieng Khouang Province, Laos, March 16, 2015. Three years ago, her husband was chopping down a tree when a bomblet embedded in the tree trunk exploded and blinded him. Unable to farm, he later hanged himself. Adam Dean/The New York Times

Thanks to one brave Lao-American woman’s steadfast lobbying, the United States will be spending $12 million to get rid of millions of unexploded ordnance in Laos, up from $2.5 million ten years ago. Channapha Khamvongsa has been toiling from her “tiny, shoe-box operation” in D.C. to raise money and awareness about the contaminated country, despite initial lukewarm reactions from other Lao-Americans who wanted to distance themselves from the war-torn country. Laos is littered with live, hidden cluster bombs from 580,000 American bombing missions half a century ago. They are forgotten leftovers from “the Secret War,” one of the most severe air campaigns in history. Locals have accidentally detonated the bombs, mistaking them for balls or accidentally striking them as they chop trees or farm for food. Over the past five decades, the explosives have killed 8,000 people and wounded 12,000. Although it’s estimated that it will still be decades until all the bombs are removed, with this increased budget for clearing teams, let’s hope the death toll stops rising.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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