Casualties Of A War Never Fought – The Ongoing Carnage Left Behind By U.S. Bombs In Laos

 

Photojournalist Kosuke Ryujin is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his project ‘Secret War, Laos‘.  To see Kosuke’s projects click on any photograph.

 

 

 

 

Laos, a country located in Southeast Asia with a population of 6.8 million, has been targeted by more bombs relative to population than any other country in the world.

 

“This figure exceeds the total number of bombs dropped in World War II.” 

 

“…the tactic of aerial bombing was carried out as many as 580,000 times, roughly once every eight minutes for every day of those nine years.”

 

During the Vietnam War, although the US was not at war with Laos, a CIA dropped 270 million bombs on Laos in secret. CIA fell on the Ho Chi Minh trail that ran through the country (90 percent of the Trail having been set up within Laotian territory), and in order to prevent the communization of Laos. This figure exceeds the total number of bombs dropped in World War II. It also includes the bombs that could not be dropped on Vietnam and were dumped on Laos to avoid shock or detonation when landing. During the period from 1964 to 1973, the tactic of aerial bombing was carried out as many as 580,000 times, roughly once every eight minutes for every day of those nine years. As the interest of those in the media was focused on Vietnam, the US completely destroyed Laos under a veil of secrecy.

 

"From the end of the war to the present, unexploded bombs have caused over 20,000 casualties, most of whom have been impoverished peasants and children. Bombs being detonated when agitated by farm tools such as hoes and spades as farmers worked their lands, as well as children being injured or killed when playing with an object without knowing it was a bomb."

 

Today, roughly 90 million bombs remain as unexploded bombs within the country. Among these, cluster bombs are the most common remaining type. The bomb canisters, 2-3m in length, split in two in the air, and the 200-300 tennis ball- sized bomblets contained within spread out over a vast range, killing and maiming people indiscriminately on impact. From the end of the war to the present, unexploded bombs have caused over 20,000 casualties, most of whom have been impoverished peasants and children. Bombs being detonated when agitated by farm tools such as hoes and spades as farmers worked their lands, as well as children being injured or killed when playing with a object without knowing it was a bomb. Unexploded bombs in the forests and mountains are also often detonated while poor farmers disassemble them to collect the metal in order to sell it as scrap.

 

 

 

 

 

In 2016, as Barack Obama made the first visit of a US president to Laos, he touched on the US’s moral obligation and promised to begin providing assistance with unexploded ordnance management and risk education. However, the number of unexploded bombs that have been disposed of thus far sits below one percent of the total, and it is said that it will take over 100 years at the very least to dispose of all of them.

 

 

While the Asian countries show remarkable growth, the countless unexploded bombs buried within Laos’s territory have been hindering its development. It has been about 50 years since the end of the war, and the bombs that once kept falling incessantly still torment the people of Laos to this day.

 

 

See also:

Children In Kathmandu, Nepal

By Kosuke Ryujin


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