PEOPLE AND BOMBS


2 MILLION TONS OF EXPLOSIVE DROPPED
LESS THAN 1% HAVE BEEN EXPLODED

The operation was aimed at blocking Vietnam’s supply lines on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the south of Laos, and also to support the Laos government loyalists in a civil war against communist forces in the North.   In total, between 1964 and 1973, the US dropped more than two million tons of bombs -- one of the heaviest aerial bombardments in history.

Most of the munitions dropped were cluster bombs, which splinter before impact, spreading hundreds of smaller bomblets -- known locally as “bombies." 

To this day, less than 1% of the bombs have been removed, according to US-based NGO Legacies of War, which is spearheading the campaign to clear them.  "We were all but forgotten here," says the Laos-born founder of Legacies of War, Channapha Khamvongsa.  But the people of Laos can’t forget, as the “secret war” is still claiming victims.


PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT AND BOMBS DON’T MIX



DEMOGRAPHICS and RELIGION    ລັກຊະນະປະກອບ ແລະ ສາສນາ

Laos is a Southeast Asian country traversed by the Mekong River,  French colonial architecture, Hill-tribe settlements and Buddhist monasteries. The information here in depth has been gleaned from almost 100 articles on the subject and though records were difficult to verify in some cases, there is strong belief all this information is correct.

Vientiane, the capital, is the site of the That Luang monument, where a reliquary reportedly houses the Buddha’s breastbone, plus the Patuxai war memorial and Talat Sao (Morning Market), a complex jammed with food, clothes and craft stalls.

It is landlocked country occupying the Northwest portion of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is surrounded by China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma. It is twice the size of Pennsylvania. Laos is a mountainous country, especially in the North, where peaks rise above 9,000 ft (2,800 m). Dense forests cover the northern and eastern areas. The Mekong River, which forms the boundary with Burma and Thailand, flows through the country for 932 mi (1,500 km) of its course.


EARLY HISTORY
An ancient human skull was recovered from the Tam Pa Ling Cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos; the skull is at least 46,000 years old, making it the oldest modern human fossil found to date in Southeast Asia.  Some Stone artifacts including Hoabinhian types have been found at sites dating to the Late Pleistocene in northern Laos.  

Archaeological evidence suggests agriculturist society developed during the 4th millennium BC. Burial jars and other kinds of sepulchers suggest a complex society in which bronze objects appeared around 1500 BC, and iron tools were known from 700 BC. 

This period is characterized by contact with Chinese and Indian civilizations. According to linguistic and other historical evidence, Tai-speaking tribes migrated southwestward to the modern territories of Laos and Thailand from Guangxi sometime between the 8th–10th centuries.

LAND OF THE MILLION ELEPHANTS
Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants), founded in the fourteenth century, by a Lao prince Fa Ngum, who with 10,000 Khmer troops, took over Vientiane.   Ngum was descended from a long line of Lao kings, tracing back to Khoun Boulom.  He made Theravada Buddhism the state religion and Lan Xang prospered. Within 20 years of its formation, the kingdom expanded eastward to Champa and along the Annamite Mountains in Vietnam.   

His ministers, unable to tolerate his ruthlessness, forced him into exile to the present-day Thai province of Nan in 1373,[25] where he died. Fa Ngum's eldest son, Oun Heuan, came to the throne under the name Samsenthai and reigned for 43 years. During his reign, Lan Xang became an important trade centre. After his death in 1421, Lan Xang collapsed into warring factions for the next 100 years.

In 1520, Photisarath came to the throne and moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane to avoid a Burmese invasion. Setthathirat became king in 1548, after his father was killed, and ordered the construction of what would become the symbol of Laos, That Luang. Setthathirat disappeared in the mountains on his way back from a military expedition into Cambodia and Lan Xang began to rapidly decline.

It was not until 1637, when Sourigna Vongsa ascended the throne, that Lan Xang would further expand its frontiers. His reign is often regarded as Laos's golden age. When he died, leaving Lan Xang without an heir, the kingdom divided into three principalities. Between 1763 and 1769, Burmese armies overran northern Laos and annexed Luang Phrabang, while Champasak eventually came under Siamese suzerainty.

Chao Anouvong was installed as a vassal king of Vientiane by the Siamese. He encouraged a renaissance of Lao fine arts and literature and improved relations with Luang Phrabang. Under Vietnamese pressure, he rebelled against the Siamese in 1826. The rebellion failed and Vientiane was ransacked.  Anouvong was taken to Bangkok as a prisoner, where he died.


THE SECRET WAR      ສົງຄາມລັບ

The Laotian Civil War (1953–75) was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao (including many North Vietnamese of Lao ancestry) and the Royal Lao Government, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers.  It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.

We called it the Viet Nam war and it ran concurrent with the  North Vietnamese Army, versus US, Thai, and South Vietnamese forces. 

The Kingdom of Laos was a covert theatre for other belligerents during the Vietnam War. The Franco–Lao Treaty of Amity and Association signed 22 October 1953 transferred remaining French powers to the Royal Lao Government except control of military affairs, establishing Laos as an independent member of the French Union. However, this government did not include representatives from the Lao Issara anti-colonial armed nationalist movement.

The following years were marked by a rivalry between the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right wing under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing Lao Patriotic Front under Prince Souphanouvong and half-Vietnamese future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane. Several attempts were made to establish coalition governments, and a "tri-coalition" government was finally seated in Vientiane.

The actual fighting in Laos involved the directly and through irregular proxies in a struggle for control over the Laotian Panhandle. The North Vietnamese Army occupied the area to use for its Ho Chi Minh Trail supply corridor and as staging area for offensives into South Vietnam. There was a second major theater of action on and near the northern Plain of Jars.

The North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao eventually emerged victorious in 1975, as part of the general communist victory in all of former French Indochina that year.   A waste or resources, financial, military, and human.

And a few small percent of the bombs have been neutralized. The only method is to blow them up, they are too dangerous to handle any other way.


THE SECRET WAR CONTINUED

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