The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia of U.S Department of State visited UXO Lao’s Clearance Site in Xieng Khouang
On 16 January 2017, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia of the U.S Department of State. W. Patrick Murphy visited UXO Lao’s clearance site in Phou Houm village, Pek, district, Xieng Khuang Province.
Mr. Murphy and his team was briefed by UXO Lao’s Provincial Coordinator, Mr. Kingphet Phimmavong on the site information, including progress so far since the team began to work on the site in Mid-December 2016 and expected to complete the site by Mid-March 2017.
In addition, UXO Lao Director, Mr. Thiphasone Soukhathammavong also explaining about “UXO Lao’s New Concept of Operations”, particularly on the new survey and clearance which now focusing on an evidence based.
UXO Lao thanked the Deputy Assistant Secretary for visiting the site.
On 4 November 2016, the new US Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Ms. Rena Bitter, paid a visit to a UXO Lao technical survey (TS) site in Tam Louang village, Nong district, Savannakhet province.
Ambassador Bitter was able to observe the field base team operating in the site to survey and generate the boundary of UXO contamination, established as Confirmed Hazardous Area (CHA), and logged for later clearance.
She was briefed by the TS team leader Mr. Chonevilay SOULINTHONG at the start of her visit. The team had begun working on the site on 31 October 2016, with five cluster munitions or bombies (type BLU 26) found so far. Some parts of the site are covered by dense jungle which causes problems for the team. The team leader said that this could be helped by having a vegetation-cutting team to support the work. This would increase the pace of the survey and clearance.
Before leaving the site, the Ambassador was given the chance to activate the detonation of all five cluster bombs that the team found on that day (see picture).
Following the successful completion of the second exchange programme under South-South Cooperation Framework - Phase II, the project will now begin the third exchange programme on “Information Management System”
The project consists of six themes of exchange as following:
- Ownership and Partnership Capacity Development; Project Management and M&E;
- Operational Management;
- Information Management System;
- Technology Application and Methodology Development; Survey and Clearance SOP;
- MRE/VR Program; Peace Building Program; and
- Human Resource Capacity Development.
For this programme, there are 5 participants from UXO Lao and CMAC respectively. They are working in different sections in UXO Lao and CMAC Headquarters such as Database Unit, Department of Planning and Operation, Provincial Office and Demining Unit.
The on-the-job-training on theme “Information Management System” will be carried out for 3 weeks, starting from 9-14 October 2016 in Lao PDR and from 17-28 October 2016 in Cambodia. Both sides’ participants will work closely with their assigned counterparts for exchanging and learning from each side experiences of working in Mine/UXO action in related roles and responsibilities. In addition to the programme in Lao PDR, participants will have a chance to go on a sightseeing trip at various tourists and historical sites in Luang Prabang province.
Next programme will be exchanged on theme “Technology Application and Methodology Development; Survey and Clearance SOP” to be conducted by mid-2017.
In this morning at the UXO Lao Headquarters, ITO Supporting Comity (ISC) handed-over equipment supporting the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao). The ceremony was chaired by the UXO Lao Director Mr. Thiphasone Soukhathammavong and the ISC President Ms. Shinrei ITO with attendance of UXO Lao management staff and ISC delegations.
This is the second time for ISC to provide support to UXO Lao after the year of 2009 when ISC supported UXO Lao for the first time. The support of this year is to procure equipment for survey-clearance and risk education activities in nine provinces of the UXO Lao operation. The equipment includes GPSs, exploders medical bags with first aid kit and others.
Ms. ITO expressed her profound thanks for being warmly welcomed by the UXO Lao team. She also said “this is my third time visiting Lao PDR. Every time I look down from airplane’s window, I saw a lot of bomb’s craters when the plain flies above Xiengkhouang territory, which makes me feel sorrow and imagine how many people were killed during the Indochina war. Those remnants of war are still remaining and affecting the people’s lives in the country. It is my pleasure to provide the support to UXO Lao even though the support is just a small amount. I hope that this small contribution would be useful for the organization’s staff who is working in the dangerous areas”.
Mr. Thiphasone expressed his gratitude and thanked to ISC for the kind support to UXO Lao. He also expressed his hope that ISC would continue its support to UXO Lao for addressing the problem of UXOs in Lao PDR in the future.
On 8 September 2016, UXO Lao welcomed Rt. Hon. Mr. John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand to UXO Lao Training Center at Elay Village, Vientiane.
A much needed boost to mine risk education and the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Lao PDR’s heavily contaminated northern province of Xiengkhouang was announced by the Prime Minister of New Zealand at the Training Center.
The new contribution from New Zealand of NZD 10 million (USD 7.2 million) is one of the biggest single contributions made through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Lao PDR’s UXO sector, and will allow for long-term planning by UXO Lao in Xiengkhouang with financing certainty for the next four years.
Speaking at the Ban Elay UXO Training Center, the Rt. Hon. Mr. John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand said:
“New Zealand has a strong legacy of supporting UXO clearance around the world, including for the past 20 years in Laos, and this funding will make a real difference to the safety and economic prospects of the people there.
“We are proud to stand alongside the people and Government of Laos to continue this important work.”
The Government of New Zealand has been a key partner to the Government of Lao PDR and the UNDP since 2010, in the effort to reduce the impact of UXO in Xiengkhouang Province, considered the second most-contaminated province in the country.
Dr. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, acknowledged the impact of New Zealand’s support to UXO clearance in Xiengkhouang Province since 2010:
“More than 3,000 hectares of land have been cleared for safe use and important development projects. This has made a huge contribution to the socio-economic development of the province and the country, addressing poverty, reducing the number of casualties from UXO and reducing the risks to affected communities.”
Casualties from UXO in Xiengkhouang have reduced significantly from 41 in 2010 to 11 in 2015, due to clearance and mine risk education supported by New Zealand among others.
Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative, stressed the importance of sustained support to UXO clearance and victim assistance:
“New Zealand has been a valued partner in this effort. The new contribution announced today is comprehensive. It has been designed together with the Government and in coordination with other donors. The grant is long-term, which enables UXO Lao to plan its work, with a focus on Xiengkhuang province.”
Lao PDR is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, per capita, following the Second Indochina War. The dangerous UXO left behind as sad legacies of the war continue to be a threat to the lives of rural populations and a hindrance to the use of land for agriculture and development.
UNDP works closely with the Government of Lao PDR to address the UXO problem. This engagement is through the national clearance operator UXO Lao and the National Regulatory Authority for UXO and Mine Action in Lao PDR.
The much needed boost of funding from New Zealand to UXO Lao in Xiengkhouang will support 12 UXO clearance teams, one mine risk education team, two UXO survey teams and the purchasing of necessary equipment for the task.
The contribution will also support the process of completing a national survey of known cluster munition contamination by 2021, which has been planned by the National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action with the support of UNDP.
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