Laos and Cambodia Bomb Museums

Luang Prabang Bomb Museum

Laos has the sad designation of the most bombed country in the world. While in Luang Prabang, which is in northern Laos, we visited the sad, but informative, UXO Lao Visitor Center . UXO stands for unexploded ordinance and this museum talks about the excessive amounts of unexploded bombs still out there after the Second Indochina War aka Vietnam War. The Vietnam War started on November 1st, 1955, and lasted for 20 years ending on April 30th, 1975. The United States dropped more than 200 million tons of bombs. They dropped cluster bombs which is a giant bomb with a lot of small bombs inside. The outside shell releases in the air and the small bombs explode on impact. Although, there are still more than 80 million individual bombings that have not exploded. About 30 percent of bombies did not explode in ideal conditions.  

The Problem

This is a significant problem because they are brightly colored and look like a toy, so they attract kids. About 12,000 UXO-related incidents have occurred since 1973, two years before the Vietnam War ended. Note, that not all of these are deaths or injuries, but an incident involving a UXO. Since UXO Lao started gathering UXO information in 1999, they have overseen 934 casualties, 655 injuries, and 279 deaths. Half of those are children and the majority of all accidents are male. This is only the data that UXO Lao has collected and there are more accidents that they have not seen. Although people survive UXO accidents, it leaves a dent in their lives mentally and physically. Visit https://www.uxolao.org for more information.

Siem Reap Bomb Museum/Relief Center

We also visited the Cambodian Landmine Museum 25 km north of Siem Reap. Aki Ra was born in 1970 and his parents were taken from him at the age of 5 by the Khmer Rouge, a group led by Cambodians that killed almost 2 million other Cambodian citizens. In 1979 Vietnamese troops defeated the Khmer Rouge. Aki Ra fought for various armies on both sides and laid landmines, and removed them. After this, he opened this museum and project to start removing landmines that were killing his fellow Khmers. This museum showcases 5000 different UXOs that he has collected. He estimates that he has removed a total of 50,000 different UXOs during this project so far. Visit https://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org for more information. 

History

This museum was originally a school and relief center. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Aki Ra found children that had fallen victim to unexploded landmines and brought them to this center to take care of them until they were well enough to leave. Eventually, other kids started going there to learn. The relief center closed in 2018, with the last child landmine victim leaving in 2013 after finishing high school. In 2008, Aki Ra opened a formal NGO that clears landmines throughout the country. It is called CSHD, which stands for “Cambodian Self Help Demining”.

Visiting these two museums opened my eyes to what was going on during this war. I had not heard much about this war before this. When I went to these museums I did not know how to feel and I’m not sure if I know now. If you visit either of these countries, although it is sad it is important to learn about this war. Thanks for reading!

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