Hanoi, Vietnam -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/28/2013 -- During the Vietnamese war American forces dropped a staggering 2 million tons of ordnance on the Southeast Asia country of Laos. This unbelievably, adds up to more than a ton for every man, woman and child in the country. So complete was the devastating carpet bombing, that today, almost 40 years after the end of the war, many people, especially children, are still being maimed as they step on unexploded mines and bombs.
It is estimated that of the 270 million cluster bombs that landed on Laotian soil, approximately 90 million failed to explode. Over the decades that followed they have caused complete devastation to so many people here in this beautiful, tranquil country. Last month Hillary Clinton visited the country and met with the Foreign Minister Mr. Thongloun Sisoulit and pledged that America would finally fulfil its obligation and assist the country to get rid of the remaining lethal weapons.
The former First Lady was taking part in a weeklong tour of Southeast Asia to promote diplomatic relations in the region. Threatened by China’s dominance in the world, she was trying to improve America’s international standing in the region and gain favour from some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
Speaking in typical US diplomatic speak she said, that together with Laotian leaders, she had, "traced the arc of our relationship from addressing the tragic legacies of the past to finding a way to being partners of the future." No doubt with one eye on the general public’s opinion of her countries military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, her government is trying to change the perception of US actions in recent years.
The bombs have of course had a terrible financial effect in the country, with huge swathes of good farming land lying fallow, as the threat from unexploded bombs is far too great to go near. These and other economic problems were on the agenda as the leaders also discussed environmental concerns over the possibility of building a dam on the Mekong River. The construction of a dam is an extremely sensitive issue. The Mekong spends most of its 3000 miles in the country. Further down stream it passes through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Any damming would have consequences for those countries.
Visiting a prosthetic center in Laos, which is funded by the US, she said that America had to do more. The cleanup has been painfully slow, with only an estimated one percent of the affected areas having been declared safe. Although the US has provided approximately $47 million since the end of the war, much more is needed. It has pledged a further $9 million for this year and more will follow.
This is the first visit by a United States Secretary of State for 58 years. This trip to Laos by Hillary Clinton is seen as a very positive move as Laos, wary of Chinese assistance, struggles to compete in the region of Indochina. Providing assistance that would mean the dam not being built, would be a major boost for the country’s neighbors as well of course to Laos.
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