On Wednesday 11 July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a brief stop in Laos on her Asia tour. At an artificial limb center, Mrs. Clinton was introduced to Phongsavath Manithong, a 20 year old cluster munitions survivor and member of the Lao Ban Advocates, who told her how he lost his hands and eye sight in a ‘bombie’ explosion. The United States has not signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs.
Phongsavath described to Mrs. Clinton how four years ago, on his 16th birthday, he was walking home from school with a friend who picked up a ‘strange object’ and handed it to him. The bomb exploded, taking both his hands and leaving him blind. Phongsavath is a member of the Ban Advocates, cluster bomb survivors who – accompanied by Handicap International – have been advocating since 2007 for a ban on cluster munitions and the full application of the rights of survivors.
He said not enough had been done to stop the use of cluster bombs. "I would like to see all governments ban cluster bombs and to clear the bombs and to help the survivors. I am lucky because I received help ... but so many survivors are without help. Their life is very hard."
"You are absolutely right," Clinton replied. "We need to do more."
During her visit, Mrs. Clinton took time to study a map posted on the wall of the artificial limb center: one third over the country is covered with red dots, each dot signifying a bombing mission. There were more than 580,000 bombing missions by the United States Air Force, making Laos the most heavily bombed country on a per person basis. More than 30 percent of the bombs remained unexploded, leaving Laos with a deadly threat. In recent years about 100 people have been killed by unexploded ordnance, 40 percent of them children.
After the visit to the center, Mrs. Clinton said it was “a painful reminder of the Vietnam War era.” It was the first visit to Laos by a U.S. secretary of state in nearly six decades.
Watch the movie of the meeting between Hilary Clinton and the Laos Ban Advocate on the Washington Post website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/clinton-in-laos-visits-...
Ban Advocates Blog: http://www.handicapinternational.be/en/banadvocates