Remnants Of War
Sunny • onInformation 11 years ago • 2 min read

Laos is the most bombed country on earth. The US dropped 2.4 million tonnes of bombs on it during the Vietnam War - more than the allies dropped on Germany and Japan combined in World War II. Photographs by Sean Sutton /

The target of this secret war was the Ho Chi Minh trail - a supply route that ran through Laos linking North and South Vietnam. In the village of Phanop, at the northern end of the trail, an aircraft tail fin stands in the grounds of a temple.

The remnants of war have been used in many ways. These boats have been fashioned out of discarded fuel tanks from US Air Force fighter-bombers.

An estimated 270 million cluster bombs were dropped. In the background a fence has been made out of cluster bomb containers. Tens of millions of the bomblets they scattered failed to explode, effectively becoming anti-personnel landmines.

Rockets and mortar bombs are used as weights to keep the thatch down during storms.

Chai, 18, and her 12-year-old brother Song look for scrap metal. Many rely on this dangerous trade, which has expanded in the last four years because of an influx of cheap metal detectors from Vietnam.

Children back off as a villager tries to open a cluster bomblet, to take out the explosives. This kind of activity claims lives almost daily in Laos.

Once the explosive has been removed, the bomblets can be turned into household implements, such as oil lamps. Cluster bombs are the most common type of unexploded ordnance.

Scrap dealers arrive late in the day to take people back to their villages and to weigh and buy the metal. The dealers pay about $1.50 per kilo. Experts say that for many people this is the only way to survive.

Van mourns the death of her brother, Talay, close to his body in the jungle. He and his friend tried to chisel off a bomb fuse.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has been clearing unexploded ordnance in Laos since the mid-1990s. Before that little clearance took place, except on roads.

At least a third of the territory of Laos is contaminated - but the government has other priorities, such as health and education, to focus on. Listen to Bomb Hunters, presented by Angela Robson, at 0905 GMT on 13 June, on the BBC World Service.


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