UN International Day for UXO/Mine Awareness and Assistance in UXO/Mine Action in Lao PDR

  • UN International Day for UXO/Mine Awareness and Assistance in UXO/Mine Action

Each year the 4th of April belongs to the UN International Day for UXO/Mine Awareness and Assistance in UXO/Mine Action. To mark the day, the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector (NRA) in Laos invited all operators to participate in a public event under the slogan ‘No more cluster munitions’, which was held at the Patuxay monument in Vientiane Capital, on Sunday, 4th April 2010.

The Lao Ban Advocates came from their villages all over the country to Vientiane for the weekend, so that a second advocacy training workshop could take place on Saturday before the main event on Sunday. The first week-long workshop in January 2010 was such a great success (report on the blog: 15 January 2010) that all participants were excited and enthusiastic about participating in round two.

No sooner said than done! After refreshing the lessons learned on public speaking in the morning, Ta, Phonesavath and Norva Lee had the chance to use their refreshed advocacy skills in the afternoon when they were interviewed by journalists from three different Lao media outlets – Lao Star Television, Lao Radio and the Vientiane Times. While the three advocates were sharing their stories, all advocates were listening intently to the comments of the journalists. What issues are journalists are interested in? How can I answer their questions precisely?

The next day, the Ban Advocate team had to get up early for the big event at the Patuxay monument. It was clear that the Ban Advocates were happy to be part of the event and to have the opportunity to contribute to such an important International Day that would raise awareness about UXO and cluster munitions in Laos.

The Ban Advocates were able to interact with exhibits of other operators, such as the Cooperative Orthotic and Prothetic Enterprise (COPE), Mine Action Group (MAG) or SODI, and sat among the many attendees, listening to speeches by the Deputy Prime Minister and the UN Resident Coordinator, as well as watching UXO theatre performances and a Lao student’s poem competition. One of the highlights of the day was a symbolic march on the ‘Champs-Elysées’ de Vientiane - the Lang Xang Avenue - to the Presidential Palace with a final balloon release.

The stage speech of the Lao Ban Advocates had the audience’s full attention. One could hear a pin drop while the audience listened to Bounmy’s words on the danger of UXOs, and the degree to which it has affected all their lives. Speaking as one voice in their final appeal, the Ban Advocates asked the world for ‘No More Victims’.

"I am extremely excited about Mine Awareness Day, and about having the chance to meet and talk with other people who work in the UXO sector," said Mr Bounmy. "I hope too, that I will be able to represent UXO survivors in a way that helps people to develop a whole new understanding of the difficulties we are facing, but of the strength that we have when we receive the support of the community and the world around us."

This year’s UN International Day for UXO/Mine Awareness and Assistance in UXO/Mine Action was a milestone for the Lao Ban Advocates and their advocacy mission. It is but one of the advocacy opportunities that will be taken by the Ban Advocates in the build up to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is scheduled to be held in November 2010 in Lao PDR.

Mandy Malzigus