Hai Lang District, Quang Tri, Vietnam – 01 October 2009:
The Spanish television group (TVE) arrived when Thi was busy clearing mud and debris of his house which was underwater up to 1.5 meters previous night, as resulted from the most powerful typhoon of the year, Ketsana.
During two consecutive days earlier, the typhoon directly hit the central region of Vietnam, including Quang Tri Province where Thi is living with extremely strong wind and torrential rain, causing a huge damage to these provinces. The typhoon has damaged 170,000 houses, of which 6,000 wiped out completely; 125,000 houses remain being flooded in Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam. Hundreds of thousands of people have to seek shelter in their relatives’ or stay in temporary camps without electricity, clean water and food. Until now, a total of 101 people were reported dead, 23 missing, and over 200 injured. A number of locations in the region remain isolated due to flash flood or landslide as the typhoon aftermath.
The television group asked Thi a lot of questions. Thi described briefly how he lost his right hand in a cluster bomb accident when he was 23 years old and how badly that accident affected his life some years afterwards. Thi explained to the group the accident occurred to him just two years after the war and he and other farmers at that time didn’t know what a cluster bomb was, having to work on their rice field regardless of danger to afford their family. Now he is telling people about the risks of unexploded ordnance, advising them to stay away, mark any found items and report them to the local authorities or demining projects for safe removal.
Asked why he is interested in involving in campaigning for the convention on cluster munitions, Thi said as a cluster bomb survivor that he is honored to be part of the international coalition against the cluster bombs, that he wants to contribute to advocating for a final ban of the cluster bombs for the sake of people not only in Vietnam but also in other affected countries. Thirty decades after the war ended, explosive remnants of war (ERW), primarily cluster bombs or “silent killers” still kill or injure people in his province, said Thi.
A recently released final report on Landmine Impact Survey conducted in six central provinces of Vietnam by Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal (BOMICEN), Ministry of Defense Engineering Command in collaboration with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), Quang Tri has the highest level of ERW contamination; approximately 83.8% of the total land area is affected by ERW, which requires extensive clearance operation today.