Over 40 years of conflict from World War II through the Indochina Wars have left much of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam contaminated with landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). These explosive hazards still cause injuries and deaths and prevent the safe and productive use of land. To combat this lingering threat, promote increased economic activity, and remediate the effects of U.S. munitions from the Vietnam War, U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) programs in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have contributed over $473 million since 1993. These funds support ERW remediation efforts, which include survey and clearance operations, information management support, risk education, survivors’ assistance, and national mine action capacity development.
Nearly three decades of armed conflict has left Cambodia seriously affected by landmines and UXO, and kept poor communities impoverished by limiting their access to farmland. The Khmer Rouge, Royal Cambodian Armed Force (RCAF), and the Vietnamese and Thai militaries laid extensive minefields during the Indochina wars, Vietnamese occupation, and factional fighting that ended in 1999. Cambodia’s anti-personnel landmine problem is concentrated in northwestern districts along the border with Thailand. Additionally, U.S. air and artillery strikes in the eastern and northeastern areas of the country during the Vietnam War left behind heavy concentrations of UXO along the border with Vietnam. The Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority has worked with international partners to develop the National Mine Action Strategy 2018–2025 with the goal: “Cambodia is mine free and the threat of explosive remnants of war is minimized, and human and socio-economic development takes place safely.” Cambodia now has the right technical tools in place to meet this goal, but declining international contributions could jeopardize it.
To address Cambodia’s legacy contamination, the United States invested more than $140 million between 1993 and 2018 for CWD programs undertaken by our implementing partners. Current highlights include:
- HALO deployed two survey and EOD teams and 15 clearance teams in some of the densest anti-personnel and anti-tank minefields along the K-5 mine belt in northwestern Cambodia.
- MAG provided survey and clearance in western Cambodia and cluster munition clearance in eastern Cambodia.
- NPA collaborated with the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) to conduct survey and clearance of U.S.-origin cluster munition remnants in eastern Cambodia. NPA also introduced explosive detection dogs and provided capacity development resources for CMAC operational teams in seven provinces.
- Landmine Relief Fund supported two Cambodia Self Help Demining EOD teams conducting clearance of small villages in northwestern Cambodia and one MRE team.
- Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (Golden West), in partnership with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, supported an explosive harvesting system. Golden West also continued a global engineering initiative to develop cutting-edge demining tools in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States) and Singapore University.
- Spirit of Soccer (SOS) delivered MRE to primary school children through the training of youth soccer coaches, distribution of MRE materials, and soccer tournaments to engage local populations.
Contamination from the Indochina Wars of the 1960s and 1970s left Laos with the world’s highest level of unexploded submunitions. Cluster munitions account for the bulk of UXO contamination in Laos, though landmines were also laid and other ERW generated during the wars. The majority of the country’s provinces are contaminated with UXO, most of which is of U.S. origin. Population growth in rural areas and other socioeconomic factors have increased pressure to put contaminated land into productive use, which leads to greater risk of death and injury. In September 2016, the United States announced a plan to invest $90 million over a three-year period. As the second tranche of this commitment was delivered in 2018, additional funds continued to support the first-ever comprehensive national UXO contamination survey focused on identifying cluster munition strike footprints. Explosive clearance, mine risk education, and survivor assistance efforts continue at sustained historic levels.
To address Laos’ legacy contamination, the United States invested more than $200 million between 1993 and 2018 for CWD programs undertaken by our implementing partners. Current highlights include:
- HALO supported UXO clearance teams tasked with survey and removal of UXO in Savannakhet Province.
- MAG fielded survey and clearance teams in XiengKhouang Province.
- TetraTech and Janus Global Operations partnered with UXO Laos on survey and clearance efforts, and provided managerial and technical support to the National Regulatory Authority, which oversees all UXO-related activity in Laos.
- NPA continued its evidence-based UXO survey work in the Sekong, Salavan, and Attapeu Provinces.
- Spirit of Soccer provided risk education for schoolchildren through soccer activities in the XiengKhouang and Salavan Provinces.
- Health Leadership International provided portable ultrasounds, trauma care, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide prevention training for healthcare providers. This medical education and training has improved diagnostic capabilities and elevated the overall competency of district-level medical personnel in UXO-affected districts.
- World Education, Inc. supported UXO survivors and their families through projects like the War Victim Medical Fund. World Education also supported the integration of mine risk education into the nationwide primary school curriculum and development of a comprehensive case management system for UXO survivors in XiengKhouang Province.
For further information on U.S.-Laos cooperation, visit https://www.state.gov/special-report-u-s-conventional-weapons-destruction-in-laos/
The majority of ERW contamination in Vietnam is UXO concentrated along the former Demilitarized Zone. Parts of southern Vietnam and the country’s northern border with China also remain contaminated with UXO and landmines. To address this contamination, the United States invested more than $132 million between 1993 and 2018 for CWD programs undertaken by our implementing partners. Current highlights include:
- Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) provided the survey component for a comprehensive survey and clearance project aimed at making Quang Tri safe from known UXO hazards.
- PeaceTrees Vietnam fielded EOD response teams and fund clearance operations along the heavily contaminated Quang Tri border with Laos.
- Golden West continued to develop the capacity of demining teams in Quang Binh, Ha Tinh, and Quang Tri provinces so they can be certified to International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).
- Catholic Relief Services (CRS) assisted survivors of UXO and mine accidents and/or their families in Quang Tri Province. This support is customized for each beneficiary’s needs and includes medical assistance, vocational training, and education. CRS also continued a 48-month project aimed at helping provincial and local governments institutionalize mine risk education (MRE) in primary schools via both classroom instruction and a new smartphone app that is the first of its kind.
- The International Center-Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation continued to develop the capacity of the Vietnam National Mine Action Center (VNMAC), the host government’s lead for issues related to UXO and landmines, by helping its executive office to plan, coordinate, and manage the National Mine Action Program. NPA also provided VNMAC with a technical advisor to develop a standard operating procedure for technical surveys and establish an information management unit. This support for VNMAC’s development will ensure Vietnam has the capacity to deal with residual UXO and landmine threats on its own.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM.