VIENTIANE, Sept 6 — A metal detector squeals as it’s passed over a stretch of land in northeastern Laos.
A bomb detecting group is searching for unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions leftover from the Vietnam War.
For about 10 years in the ‘60s and 70s, the US Air Force used the region as a dumping ground for some 270 million bombs.
When their targets in Vietnam weren’t available, and when they couldn’t land while carrying the explosives, US warplanes dropped munitions here a third of which are still unexploded.
More than 20,000 people have been injured or killed.
Humanitarian workers with the UK-based Mines Advisory Group are doing what they can to find and detonate the munitions, but say another 20 years of clearing is needed.
Villagers are trying to make the best of it using the old bomb casings as building pillars, or melting down the metal into souvenirs.
But the threat remains and people say the US needs to deal with the problem.
If America feels guilty, this villager says, they should come here help remove the explosives.
US President Barack Obama will be in the capital this week for the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit and is expected to announce more funding for bomb removal programmes. — Reuters