On 26 July 2016, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Stéphane Dion, paid a visit to the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Visitor Center in Vientiane and observed the work of the Center for Medical Rehabilitation (CMR).
During the visit, UXO Lao Director Mr. Thiphasone SOUKHATHAMMAVONG delivered a summary presentation on survey and clearance work in Lao PDR, detailing progress so far, new methods and plans for the future. This covered UXO Lao's achievements since 1996 and ended with a warm expression of gratitude for the extensive support that Canada has provided to the UXO sector in Lao PDR since 2010.
On the same day, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Børge Brende, also visited COPE. Mr. Brende was briefed by Mr. Thiphasone and Jonas Zachrisson, Country Director of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in Lao PDR on the terms of the new partnership project that is being implemented in the country by both organizations.
Mr. Thiphasone, expressed his profound thanks to Norway and NPA for supporting the transition to evidence-based clearance in Lao PDR. This new methodology has proved a significant increase of the productivity of clearance. Now, land is cleared based on analysis of data and technical survey, so that uncontaminated land is not cleared. Since UXO Lao started using this new methodology, the average number of cluster munitions found per hectare cleared has increased from 5 to more than 22.
Mr. Thiphasone also expressed his gratitude to Norway for their generous support to UXO Lao, which enable UXO Lao to achieve several output results as planned. He also expressed his hope to continue working with both Canada and Norway to implement the organisation's future plans to address the remaining problem of UXO contamination and help the country on the road to development.
CMAC and UXO Lao successful completed second exchange scheme under South-South Cooperation Project – Phase II
The successful completion of the first exchange scheme under the South-South Cooperation Project - Phase II took place during 2-13 November 2015 and focused on “Ownership and Partnership Capacity Development, Project Management and Monitoring & Evaluation”
The second theme of exchange focused on “Operational Management” and was carried out through four-week-on-the-job-training, including two weeks in Cambodia and two weeks in Laos. The first session took place from 6th – 17th June 2016 at CMAC Headquarters in Phnom Penh, Technical Institute of Mine Action in Kompong Chhnang province, Demining Unit 2, Central Workshop, Demining site in Battambang province, Demining Unit 4 in Siem Reap province and Demining Unit 5 in Kompong Cham.
After one week-off for preparation, both sides continued the second session in Laos, the training took place from 27th June – 8th July 2016 at UXO Lao Headquarters in Vientiane Capital, UXO Lao Training Center, UXO Lao Khammuouane and Champasak offices.
Visit minefield in Battambang province Visit UXO clearance site in Champasak province
The main purpose of CMAC-UXO Lao South-South Cooperation Project Phase II is to develop human resources and strengthen institutional capacity of governmental organizations of both Lao PDR and Cambodia working in the UXO/Mine Action Sector through sharing knowledge and experiences.
There were 12 participants attending the whole course of four-week on-the- job-training in Cambodia and Laos, they are working in different sections in CMAC and UXO Lao Headquarters and Provincial offices/Demining units.
Assigned counterparts were sharing experiences from
each side at UXO Lao Training Center
In front of Angkor Wat Temple In front of Thatluang Stupa
In addition to the training program, both sides organized for city sightseeing on weekends of the first week of training, participants were given a chance to go on a sightseeing trip at various tourist and historical sites in Siem Reap province and Vientiane capital.
On the last day, all training participants had a chance to share what they have gained from four-week on-the-job-training with UXO Lao and CMAC top management, along with representatives from JICA Cambodia and Laos offices, at the end of the closing ceremony, certificates of completion were distributed to all training participants, handed-over by UXO Lao Director Mr. Thiphasone SOUKHATHAMMAVONG, and H.E. OUM Phumro, Deputy Director General of CMAC at UXO Lao Training Center in Vientiane.
Japan handed over dormitories and brush cutter machines to UXO Lao for enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of its UXO clearance operation
On 11 May 2016, the Japanese Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Mr. Takeshi HIKIHARA, representing the Government of Japan, handed over the dormitories and brush cutter machines (BC) to UXO Lao under the Project Acceleration of UXO Clearance for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication in 3 southern provinces of Lao PDR –namely: Champasak, Salavan and Sekong. H.E. Mr. Bounthong DIVIXAY represented on behalf of the Government of Laos as well as 3 provincial authorities to receive the dormitories and BCs. The ceremony was held at Paksong District, Champasak Province and attended by officials from the concerned central agencies and provincial authorities. On this occasion, H.E. Mr. Takeshi HIKIHARA, delivered his speech that the presence of UXOs in Lao PDR has killed and injured many people for years and negatively affected to socio-economic development of the country, preventing access to agriculture land of local people. The Government of Japan has started to support UXO Lao since 1998 with more than four-thousand million Japanese Yen or equivalently 40 million USD. Notably, the support during 2014 – 2016 has provided 4 dormitories, 4 BCs, vehicles and operation costs, aiming at improving environmental living conditions for field staffs and accelerating the clearance speed. He also further stated that the Standard of Operation for the BCs is in the process of approval, and once it is approved it would help UXO Lao to speed-up on UXO clearance operation in difficult terrains where there are high UXO contamination. Aside from supporting the UXO sector, the Government of Japan also supports Lao PDR in other sectors across the country, e.g. health, educational, infrastructures, and other development projects.
In the last of his remark, the ambassador, Takeshi HIKIHARA, expressed his gratitude to the Lao Government for the long relations and collaboration between the two countries, and he also expressed his thankful to H.E Mr. Bounthong DIVIXAY, the Champasak’s Governor for the warmed welcome and representing the Lao Government as the Chairman of the hand-over ceremony as well as to all participants from the central and local governments for sparing the valuable time to participate. He lastly thanked to the organizer that made this hand-over ceremony successful. Represent the Lao Government, H.E. Mr. Bounthong DIVIXAY, Champasak’s Governor, expressed his appreciation to the Japanese Government for its assistance to the Lao PDR. During his remark, he proudly expressed to represent the Lao Government and the 3 provincial authorities of Champasak, Salavan and Sekong and delivered a speech in receiving of the dormitories and BCs supported by the Japanese government. He also expressed his hope that the Japanese government would continue to provide more support to the Lao PDR.
On the last session, both sides made a ribbon cut for an official hand-over, meaning that all supports are under the responsibility and being the assets of the Lao government from now on.
Ms. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, UNDG Chair and her delegation visited Lao PDR-Luangprabang province on 27-29 November 2015.
In this visit, Ms. Helen Clark and her delegation went for a sightseeing tour of the World Heritage City of Luangprabang province include: Wat Visounarath, Wat Xiengthong and the Royal Palace and then they visited UNDP/FAO agrobiodiversity project site (Villages engaged in the production of oyster mushrooms). Ms. Helen Clark and her delegation also visited UXO Clearance field, CHA and mine risk education site in Luangprabang.
The Australian high level officials visited UXO Lao Visitors Center in Luangprabang province at 3:00pm in the afternoon on 24 November 2015. This visit was very significant. The purpose of this visit was to open the small opening ceremony of this visitors center.
This Visitor Center was established on 16 March 2009 with the support of Australian Goverment, but it was damaged by short-circuit electricity on 18 June 2014 and then it has been renovated that funded by DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).
At the ceremony, Mr. Houmphanh CHANTHAVONG, Luangprabang provincial coordinator provided a briefing about history of UXO in Laos and then Mr. Craig Chittick, First Assistant Secretary for South-East Asia Mainland and Regional Division provided a short speech about their support to this center. This ceremony was also honorly witnessed by Mr. Vongsavanh THEPPHACHANH, Vice-Governor of Luangprabang province. After the opening ceremony, Mr. Houmphanh CHANTHAVONG guided australian high level officials tour in exhibition room and watched a UXO short film. Finally, they left this center at 4:00pm and we closed the ceremony.