Southeast Asia suffered significantly following multiple bombing campaigns throughout the region during the Indochina Wars of the 1960s and 1970s. During the extensive bombing campaigns of the Vietnam War, the United States and allies dropped over 7.5 million tons of munitions on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Nearly one-third of all U.S. cluster munitions failed to detonate. As a result, unexploded ordnance (UXO) continue to negatively affect lives and livelihoods in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. To combat the danger posed by UXO, the United States partners with governments and NGOs to survey and clear affected areas.
In August 2019, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink launched the second Cluster Munitions Remnants Survey (CMRS) workshop, a U.S.-funded regional seminar on survey and clearance methods unique to cluster munitions—the kind of ordnance used predominantly in the Vietnam War. The Quang Tri province, the location of the workshop, lies along the former demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam, and consequently has one of the highest concentrations of UXO in the world.
Yet, as Ambassador Kritenbrink lauded, because of the tireless efforts of our partners on the ground, “not a single man, woman, or child was a victim of a UXO-related injury in this province for the last two years.”
The workshop was an opportunity to discuss the Quang Tri survey method, an innovative way of conducting UXO survey and clearance missions that has influenced UXO eradication efforts in the region and globally. The workshop was also an opportunity for countries to share important lessons learned from its methodology and improve national capacities for survey and clearance.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Kritenbrink praised the progress on UXO clearance that has been happening in Quang Tri and throughout the region. Representatives from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were present alongside partner organizations such as the HALO Trust, Norwegian People’s Aid, and Mines Advisory Group.
Using historical data and working with local communities, the United States has supported the methodology developed during this workshop to help implementing partners and national authorities identify and clear cluster munitions and UXO safely and efficiently. This methodology has tripled productivity of UXO clearance, providing better value to donor governments and improving the rate at which land can be returned safely to communities. Clearing explosive hazards is a prerequisite for development and the focus of CMRS has been and will continue to be making communities safe.
Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $470 million to support UXO clearance operations in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. For more information on the United States’ commitment to UXO clearance operations in Southeast Asia, see the special report on U.S. conventional weapons destruction in Laos.
The partnerships cultivated with NGOs and national and provincial authorities are crucial to our efforts. The United States remains committed to addressing UXO and other legacies of war in Southeast Asia.
About the Author: Shawn Hikosaka serves in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.