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Country Reports
LAOS, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: A total of 622 hectares of land were cleared in 1999, with an additional 255 hectares January-March 2000. Almost 90,000 UXO and mines were destroyed in 1999, with about 25,000 more January-March 2000. There were 102 new UXO/mine victims in 1999, and 68 in the first five months of 2000. Almost 180,000 people received UXO/mine awareness education in 1999.

Mine Ban Policy

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Laos did not participate in the Ottawa Process. Laos has been absent from every vote on pro-ban resolutions in the UN General Assembly since 1996, including the December 1999 resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty. Laos is not known to have made any public statements regarding a mine ban in 1999 or 2000. Laos did, however, attend the ban treaty intersessional Standing Committee of Experts on Mine Clearance meetings in September 1999 and March 2000 in Geneva. Laos acceded to the Convention on Conventional Weapons on 3 January 1983, but has not ratified the Amended Protocol II on landmines.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Laos is not thought to have ever produced or exported antipersonnel mines. Laos is believed to maintain a stockpile of mines, but no details are available. There are no allegations of recent use of antipersonnel mines by Laotian armed forces.

Landmine/UXO Problem

The primary threat to civilians in Laos is unexploded ordnance (UXO), not antipersonnel mines, though both are present. To the civilian population, there is little or no difference between the two. The massive problem with unexploded ordnance is the result of extensive U.S. bombing during the Indochina War, especially during the period from 1964 to 1973. Bomblets (or “bombies as they are known to the Lao people) from U.S. cluster bomb units became de facto antipersonnel mines when they did not explode on impact as designed. It is often said that there are millions of unexploded bombies, and in 1996 the UN estimated that 500,000 tons of UXO were still present in Laos.[1] However, UXO Lao, the national coordinating body, has expressed concern that the real number of UXO in Laos remains unknown and that the very rough hypotheses put forth cannot be substantiated.[2]

Handicap International (HI), which in 1997 released the results of an extensive national survey of villages, found that over 3,800 villages, with a population of 1.3 million people, had been affected by UXO and mines. HI stated, “More than 1,000 villages reported the presence of landmines in the past with 214 villages currently reporting landmine contamination.”[3] For extensive additional details from the HI study, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999. The UXO problem continues to be so serious in Laos that it remains a daunting obstacle to development by adding hazards, time and expenses to virtually any new economic activity.[4]

UXO Lao notes that in Laos casualty rates are not the predominant issue, nor the best way to assess the problem: “The Lao government, UNDP and the NGOs working in the programme increasingly understand that land denial and barrier to development are more pressing.... The effects UXO has on food production, infrastructure development, water and sanitation, school and hospital extensions, etc. are profound.”[5]

Mine/UXO Coordination

In February 1996 the government established a national office, simply called UXO Lao, with the following tasks: (1) create a national capacity for UXO activities; (2) implement a national UXO strategy and demining projects; and (3) coordinate UXO clearance, awareness and survey projects throughout the country.[6] With a staff of more than 1,000 people, UXO Lao is one of the country’s largest employers.[7] The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is the executing agency responsible for the implementation of the Lao national UXO program.

UXO and mine clearance has been carried out with both technical and financial assistance from international agencies that are implementing partners (IPs) in the development of the UXO Lao program. UXO Lao has assigned particular provinces to these IPs who work alongside the Lao staff in the field and local offices. In every province with clearance activities, UXO Lao has a Provincial HQ that employs all the field staff, and is managed by Lao staff, with the IP’s assistance.

Mine/UXO Clearance

See Landmine Monitor Report 1999 for a description of mine/UXO clearance programs from 1996 to early 1999.

UXO Lao reports that in 1999, 89,093 UXO and mines were removed from the ground and destroyed. A total of 622 hectares of land were cleared. More than 951,000 people benefited from the clearance operations.[8] UXO Lao also reports that from January-March 2000, a total of 255 hectares of land were cleared, benefiting 51,140 persons. A total of 25,163 mines and UXO were destroyed.[9]

Those IPs conducting mine/UXO clearance activities in Laos in 1999 and 2000 include:

Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a UK based NGO, has been working in Xieng Khouang province since 1994 and in Saravane province since 1997. MAG's operations were initially encouraged, supported, and facilitated by the Mennonite Central Committee. MAG has trained and employed well over 200 Lao nationals, men and women, to address the massive problem of UXO contamination. Following a phased approach, MAG is now in the process of handing over employment responsibility for the staff to UXO LAO. At the end of 1999, MAG's staff in Saravane were transferred to the national body. In May 2000, staff working in Xieng Khouang were transferred. Other assets will be transferred through December 2000. In the one-year period between September 98 and August 99, over 19,000 items of UXO were found, unearthed and destroyed in Saravane. In Xieng Khouang, MAG destroyed over 21,000 items through the period November 1998 to October 1999.[10]

MAG continues to provide management training for national staff, and is concentrating this year on further technical training, quality assurance and support. MAG now directly employs 28 national staff, in addition to the supervisory role it currently carries out with regard to the UXO LAO technical staff that have recently been transferred. In coordination with UXO LAO - with funds provided by the Danish Government - MAG is to continue clearance & awareness in six of Xieng Khouang's seven districts during 2000.[11]

Handicap International, an NGO based in France, is providing technical assistance to UXO Lao clearance operations in Savannakhet Province, particularly in the four most affected districts on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Its main objective is to provide capacity building for the establishment, coordination and management of a provincial UXO clearance program. During 1999, five technical advisors provided training to ninety Lao deminers and supervised the clearance operations. The teams cleared a total of 128 hectares, including schools and agricultural land. Mobile roving teams visited 292 villages to destroy a total of 12,000 UXOs, among them 6,000 bombies.[12] The European Union funds HI.[13]

Norwegian People’s Aid, an NGO, has been operating in Sekong province since late 1997 and in Attapeu since 1998 providing on-the-job training to the UXO Lao staff. Its aim is to further develop the capacity of the provincial Lao staff so they can manage and implement all facets of the program. NPA has supported UXO Lao with a financial management position since 1998 and is currently focusing on developing a mid-management training program for national EOD staff. It receives financial assistance from the Norwegian government.[14]

World Vision Australia, an NGO, started operating in Khammouane province in 1999 with the support of the Australian Aid agency (AusAID) providing technical advice and capacity-building to manage the programs at provincial levels.

Gerbera, a German commercial company (supported by the German government through a bilateral agreement with Laos) has been working in the provinces of Houaphan since 1996 and Luang Phrabang since 1998 providing clearance and awareness.

The government of Belgium has provided in-kind contributions of qualified Explosive Ordnance Demolition military staff to support UXO Lao’s provincial staff in Champassak province since 1998.[15]

In addition to UXO Lao and its implementing partners, the following agencies also conduct UXO/mine related activities:

Milsearch, a commercial company, is undertaking surveys and clearance for private companies in eight provinces. Interests are in oil exploration, mining, hydraulic construction sites, village relocation and road and bridge building.[16]

The exploration company Hunt Oil has also carried out surveys in four provinces with assistance from the British firm CGG-Exploration Logistics.[17]

Lao Armed Forces also undertake clearance operations.[18]

(See Table below of Expected Clearance Projects and Donor Mechanisms for 2000-2002).

Some foreign UXO clearance personnel in Laos have complained that the United States has been reluctant to share its "render safe procedures."[19] However, UXO Lao reports, “All requested safe procedures have been provided by the U.S. government during 2000 and distributed to the field staff and NGO technical advisors.”[20]

Training Lao Nationals

UXO Lao trains Lao staff at a training center in Ban Ylai. Until January 1999, the center was in Nam Souang. Financial and technical assistance has been provided by the United Nations, U.S. military personnel, other governments and NGOs.[21] All candidates for training are selected from the provinces and districts that they will return to work in. Criteria for selection includes basic education but also the knowledge of a local minority language. Around 1,000 Lao nationals have graduated from the center with skills in UXO clearance, community awareness, paramedical techniques and team leadership.[22]

Mine/UXO Awareness

UXO Lao has a Community Awareness (CA) section to provide UXO risk awareness education. UXO Lao reports that in 1999 a total of 178,846 persons were provided UXO awareness information, from a total of 746 villages.[23] Between 1996 and 1998, 953 villages were visited and more than 233,000 people educated. UXO Lao also reports that from January-March 2000, UXO awareness was provided to a total of 41,650 people.[24] UXO Lao currently has 18 CA teams operating with a total of 108 staff.[25]

Besides clearance, MAG is also carrying out UXO awareness programs through a community awareness team travelling from village to village conducting workshops, demonstrations and puppet shows to help inhabitants develop safer UXO skills. Gerbera is also carrying out awareness as well as clearance programs. A U.S. NGO, Consortium, has developed and piloted a draft UXO in-school curriculum and teacher training package in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, USAID and UNICEF. In addition, Consortium has also used child-to-child approaches in creative arts workshops and children performed puppet shows. UNICEF is implementing a mass media campaign targeting the nine most affected provinces using national radio and television, in addition to traditional media. The Mennonite Central Committee is also involved in UXO awareness activities include.

UXO Lao’s Action Plan for Year 2000

UXO Lao has set a summary of targets for 2000, in addition to those of routine programs and capacity building tasks:

  • Community awareness teams to visit 759 villages, briefing more than 190,000 people.
  • Land clearance teams to clear 1,005 hectares of high priority agricultural and development land.
  • Roving clearance teams to carry out 857 village visits, destroying more than 100,000 UXO.
  • Training and equipping an additional 158 deminers, 17 medics, 20 surveyors and additional provincial support staff.
  • Expansion by four new district-structured organizations. (Achieved).
  • Complete the transfer of all national field staff from implementing partner to UXO Lao contracts. (Achieved).
  • Put into place mechanisms ready to take over the responsibility for running costs, equipment, and support functions from the implementing partners MAG and Gerbera.
  • Introduce advanced EOD courses at the national training center (delayed from 1999).
  • Conduct a study into “Reimbursable” demining.[26]

Mine Action Funding

In 1995 the Lao government established a Trust Fund to finance a nationwide program of UXO/mine clearance and awareness. UXO Lao reports that the following governments have contributed either to the Trust Fund or bilaterally:[27] Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States, as well as the European Union. The UN Development Program, UNICEF, and UNV have also contributed to the program.[28]

The United States has been the largest donor. From 1994-1999, the U.S. provided $13.95 million in assistance for UXO/mine clearance, (28% of total contributions). The total in 1999 was $3.3 million, including funds provided by the Defense Department, State Department, and Agency for International Development. U.S. funds are also used in victim assistance programs in Laos.[29] UXO Lao has stated that while the U.S. government has been one of the most consistent donors to UXO Lao, “There are some Lao sensitivities about accepting some U.S. aid. There have been some components of U.S. assistance that the Lao government has chosen not to accept.”[30]

In 2000, UXO Lao has budgeted $12.2 million for UXO clearance and awareness activities for the national program (nine provinces, Training Centre and National Office) -- $6.3 million Trust Fund and Bilateral; $5.9 million Implementing Partner.[31]

UXO Lao provides the following table of projects and expected funds for 2000-2002:[32]

Donor and Mechanism
Budget per Year
Funds Available
Xieng Khouang (MAG)
Trust Fund
2000: 1,165,312
2001: 600,000
2002: 600,000
Houaphan (Gerbera)
Germany bilateral fund
2000: 470,000
2001: 500,000
2003: 500,000
Luang Phrabang
Bilateral fund
2000: 470,000
2001: 500,000
2002: 500,000
(World Vision Australia)
Bilateral fund
2000: 450,391
2001: 424,420
2002: 400,000
(Handicap International)
European Union
Bilateral fund
2000: 843,634
2001: 650,000
2002: 600,000
843, 634
Saravane (MAG)
Bilateral fund
2000: 1,133,969
2001: 600,000
2002: 600,000
Sekong (Norwegian People’s Aid)
Bilateral (pledge)
2000: 425,000
2001: 425,000
2002: 250,000

Attapeu (Norwegian People’s Aid)
Bilateral (pledge)
2000: 425,000
2001: 425,000
2002: 250,000

Campassak (Belgium Military)
bilateral fund
2000: 500,000
2001: 500,000
2002: 500,000

Mine/UXO Casualties

For 1999, UXO Lao reported 63 UXO/mine accidents resulting in 102 victims (26 deaths and 76 injuries). Among the victims, 60 were children and 84 were male.[33] For the first five months of 2000, there were 39 reported accidents causing 68 victims (26 deaths and 42 injuries). The victims included 25 children and 56 males.[34] It should be noted that it is not possible to know with certainty the exact number of casualties, as many villages do not report them.

Handicap International’s survey concluded that from 1973-1996, there were 1,171 people who suffered landmine accidents, and another 9,473 who suffered UXO accidents (a total of 10,644 victims).[35] A report released in early 2000 had similar findings, stating that since 1973 UXO have killed or maimed 11,928 Lao people.[36]

The HI report also noted that one-third of all recorded UXO accidents occurred in the first four years following the war (1973-1976), with an average of three accidents per day. In the following ten years (1977 to 1986), the annual casualty rate declined to an average of one accident per day. From 1987 to 1996, the annual casualty rate remained constant, averaging about 240 accidents per year.[37]

Survivor Assistance

Prostheses, orthoses, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices are provided by the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) which is a partnership between the Ministry of Public Health, POWER, the International Limb Project, World Vision, the Cambodian School for Prosthetics and Orthotics and the Association (CSPO) for Aid and Relief (AAR). COPE grew out of the work of POWER, which established in Laos in 1995, conducted a complete survey of amputees and other disabled, and of facilities available to serve them. In early 1996 it drew together the other partners in COPE which started operation at the beginning of 1998. The work of COPE is governed by a National Plan of Action, prepared by all of the partners. The plan has recently been extensively revised (NPA-FR) given the achievement of most of the early objectives.

As a result of the COPE Program, five orthoprosthetic centers have been, or are being, completely renovated and upgraded (Vientiane, Luang Phrabang, Phonsavane, Savannakhet and Pakse) and new equipment has been installed throughout. Existing staff have undergone training and twelve students have been sent for training to CSPO. In addition, significant awareness-raising work has been undertaken throughout the country. Whilst refurbishment and training has been in progress, production has been lowered, and only about 400 prosthetic devices were fitted in 1999.

The NPA-FR contains a wide-ranging program for all mobility disabled in the Lao PDR, including UXO victims. The program includes upgrade training for orthopædic surgeons, training for physiotherapists and occupational therapists, vocational training for disabled people, quality control mechanisms for each center, a sports development element, and strengthening of the Lao Disabled People’s Association. [38] The Lao Disabled Peoples Association is an adjunct of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. It’s constitution has yet to be approved by the Ministry, but it is active and has recruited 300 members in Vientiane Municipality, Vientiane Province, and Bolikhamxay Province. The National Committee for Disabled Persons (NCDP) was established in 1995.

There is no standard follow-up for amputees receiving prostheses from the six centers functioning in Laos.[39] On the other hand, the COPE program serves a wide range of areas, provides upper-limb prostheses and has regular, six-monthly follow-up evaluations.

HI is training eleven local physiotherapists in Vientiane Hospital.[40] The Ministry of Health does not officially recognize physiotherapy, nor do individual doctors or the population at large. Such recognition would be a big step for NGOs wishing to help victims as it would enable them to approach more easily victims and the whole of the population affected by mines.[41]

The World Rehabilitation Fund works to establish an integrated approach to physical and psycological rehabilitation, and to provide alternative livlihoods for for mine victims. Civilian victims of mines and UXO do not receive socio-economic assistance from the government, although military victims receive some assistance. The COPE program refunds all travel and accommodation costs for all persons attending any of its five centers, and all devices are provided free of any charge.


[1] Jim Monan, Curse of the Bombies: A Case Study of Saravan Province, Laos (Hong Kong: Oxfam Hong Kong, 1998), p. 14.
[2] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[3] Handicap International, Living with UXO: Final Report National Survey on the Socio-Economic Impact of UXO in Lao PDR, 1997, p. 7.
[4] Kieko Matteson and Robert Perkinson, “The Remnants of War: The deadly legacy of America's air war in Laos,” Boston Review, undated, circulated on icblmedia@egroups.com, 30 March 2000. Can be found at http://bostonreview.mit.edu:80/BR25.1/matteson.html.
[5] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[6] Statement by H.E. Mr. Alounkèo Kittikhoun, Ambassador of Lao PDR to the United Nations, to the UN General Assembly, New York, 17 November 1998.
[7] A figure of 1,015 is cited in Daniel Lovering, “Laos Faces decades of unexploded bombs,” Globe, Paksong, Laos, 11 June 2000. See also “Laos sees new lease of life,” Issues, 7 March 2000.
[8] UXO Lao, “Progress Summary Report, 1 January-31 December 1999.” Also, UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000. The total included just 2,176 mines and 86,917 UXO.
[9] UXO Lao, “Progress Summary Report, March 2000.”
[10] Information on MAG’s activities in Laos provided to Landmine Monitor via email from Tim Carstairs, MAG Communications Director, 28 July 2000
[11] Handicap International Laos, “Annual Report,” 1999; with additional information provided by UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[12] Handicap International Activity Report 1999.
[13] UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Information from Milsearch, 1998.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Handicap International, Living with UXO, 1997.
[19] Kieko Matteson and Robert Perkinson, “The Remnants of War: The deadly legacy of America's air war in Laos.”
[20] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[21] Ibid., U.S. military technical assistance ended in September 1999.
[22] UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[23] UXO Lao, “Progress Summary Report, 1 January-31 December 1999.”
[24] UXO Lao, “Progress Summary Report, March 2000.”
[25] UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[26] Lao National UXO Program, UXO Lao, Work Plan 2000, Vientiane, Lao PDR, March 2000. Also, UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[27] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[28] UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[29] U.S. Department of State, “FY 2000 NADR Project Status.” UXO Lao indicates the U.S. provided $2.5 million in 1999 in clearance equipment and training support. UXO Lao communication to Handicap International. 15 June 2000.
[30] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[31] UXO Lao, Nigel Orr, email response to Landmine Monitor, 18 July 2000.
[32] Lao National UXO Program, UXO Lao, Work Plan 2000, pp. 28-30, Vientiane, Lao PDR, March 2000.
[33] UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[34] UXO Lao, “Summary Report of UXO Accidents, 1 January-31 May 2000” and UXO Lao letter to Landmine Monitor, 15 June 2000.
[35] Handicap International, Living with UXO, p. 28.
[36] Kieko Matteson and Robert Perkinson, “The Remnants of War: The deadly legacy of America's air war in Laos.”
[37] HI, Living with UXO, p. 25.
[38] Information on the COPE program provided to Landmine Monitor via email by Mike Boddington, POWER, 31 July 2000.
[39] Amy Talbott, Landmine Survivors Network, “Landmine/UXO victim assistance in the Lao PDR—General overview,” Vientiane, February 1998.
[40] Handicap International Activity Report 1999.
[41] Handicap International Internal Report, Brussels, Belgium, March 2000.