The ancient history site of The Plain Of Jars in Laos is still littered with unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War. A British company, Mines Advisory Group, are striving to make the area safe for locals and tourists alike
Sebastian Berger wrote a detailed article about the Mines Advisory Group’s efforts to make safe The Plain Of Jars in Laos for The Daily Telegraph a couple of years ago.
While the site is safe for tourists to see the Jars, the area is still awash with unexploded ordnance, and it still claims the lives of farmers and their children every week. There’s still some 20 to 30 people killed each month by unexploded bombs in Laos, mainly from this region. UNESCO are also working in this area, trying to understand more about the origins of the Jars and the artefacts found around them, so it’s extremely dangerous for their archaelogical teams. Most of all, reclaiming the land and making it safe is vital not just for tourism and archaelogy but for the locals themselves.
Here’s a quote from the article:
The bombing of the plain followed escalation of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. US forces sought to support the government in Vientiane against the Pathet Lao insurgency, backed by North Vietnam. They also hoped to block the Viet Cong supply routes through Laos.
From 1964 to 1973, US forces flew 580,944 bombing missions over Laos, dropping more than two million tons of munitions, the equivalent of a B52-load of bombs every eight minutes for nine years.
On a per capita basis it is the most heavily bombed country on Earth, and Xieng Khouang province, where the plain lies, was the second most-targeted area, with more than 63,000 sorties.
An estimated 30 per cent of the bombs failed to explode on impact. Every week people are being killed and injured when they set them off.
“There’s nowhere in Xieng Khouang that’s safe to put a shovel in the ground if it hasn’t been cleared,” said Mick Hayes, Mag’s operations manager for Laos.
You can read my article and see my photos about visiting The Plain Of Jars too.