Laos, US Legacy, and Unexploded Ordnance

By Elena Rosenblum

For decades, Laos’ economic development and relationship with the United States has been strained by unexploded ordnance (UXO), a legacy of the Vietnam War.

Roughly 30 percent of the two million tons of bombs that the United States dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War failed to detonate on impact. To date, only about one percent of affected land has been cleared and over twenty-thousand people have been killed or injured by UXO since 1975.

However, in January 2014, Congress allocated $12 million in funding towards UXO assistance programs in Laos as part of the omnibus spending bill, four times the average annual UXO budget from 1995-2013. This creates an opportunity for the United States to address a key flashpoint in U.S.-Lao relations while making strategic development inroads with the largest single benefactor of Chinese investment in the region.

Since the end of the bombing in 1975, the United States has provided $74 million in UXO assistance in Laos, with forty-percent allocated in the last five years.

Laos receives an annual $4 billion from China in mining, hydropower, and agricultural investments.

UXO has hampered transportation infrastructure development in Laos

UXO has hampered transportation infrastructure development in Laos

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