Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LAOS: The World's Most Bombed Country

Not many people had ever even heard of Laos until more recent times when back-packers started to come home from the East with tales of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Much to the surprise of friends and family, many of these returning travellers named the little-known Laos as the highlight of their trip.

Laos is mountainous and jungley and all things mysterious. Oh ... and a river runs through it ... the mighty Mekong brings life and trade to everything it touches.

This is a Buddhist country with a pure form of Buddhism that is rich in culture and history. The temples of Luang Prabang are particularly breath-taking.

Laos is tucked away between Vietnam and Thailand and shares borders with China, Burma and Cambodia. Its isolated location has proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Laos had largely been left alone until the French occupation of the whole Indochine region in the 19th century.

Following a brief occupation by the Japanese during World War II, the French maintained their stake in Laos until 1954. Once independence was granted, Laos continued to have a very difficult history - largely untold.
Today, a sizeable portion of its people continue to live in abject poverty. But that is not their biggest problem.

Parts of Laos were saturated with bombs during the Vietnam War, from 1964 to 1973.

American planes attacked North Vietnamese supply routes through Laos, including the Ho Chi Minh Trail, trying to stop the spread of communism.

They made Laos, per capita, the most bombed country in history.

Every year, an average of 300 people are killed or maimed by these bomblets, including many children.

In fact 260 MILLION bombs were dumped on this poor nation! The loss of life, the misery, and the environmental devastation are difficult to imagine even now. An estimated 80 MILLION bombs remain unexploded on the ground in Laos ... just waiting.

Irish television's RTE launches a new series of What in the World? If you can, tune into the first programme in the series which features Peadar King's report on the legacy of these bombs in Laos. It will be broadcast on RTE1 at 11.05 pm

Also, if you would like to know more about Laos you could begin here.

1 comment:

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