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


Key developments since March 1999: Five internationally funded landmine/UXO programs are underway, with several new projects started in 1999 and 2000. Vietnamese officials have confirmed continuing production of antipersonnel mines, but have also said Vietnam “will never export” mines.

Mine Ban Policy

Vietnam has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and appears to have no intention of doing so in the near future. However, the past several years have seen an apparent thawing in Vietnam’s policy and attitudes towards landmines, to the point where one official could tell an international forum in early 1999 that Vietnam’s acceptance of the treaty is “a matter of time, not of principle.”[1]

Queen Noor of Jordan visited Vietnam in October 1999 and spoke to high-ranking government officials in support of the Mine Ban Treaty.[2] Chuck Searcy of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), who coordinated the queen’s visit, said, “Three years ago, this level of discussion in the government would have been unthinkable.... This is a window of opportunity for more cooperation. I hope the door will soon be open much wider.”[3]

Until recently, the People’s Army of Vietnam exercised complete control over mine policy. That position is now in flux, as various government ministries are involved in different aspects of landmine use, clearance, and survivor assistance. Improved relations with neighboring countries have weakened the greatest military justifications for Vietnamese mine use. Efforts are underway to create a government steering committee on landmines or a national mine action center that would carry out a cohesive national policy.[4]

An internal Ministry of Foreign Affairs document provided to Landmine Monitor states that Vietnam did not sign the Mine Ban Treaty for reasons including the policies of other countries and because “mines are a type of defensive weapon that we still need.”[5] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs views the Ottawa process as “an important effort aimed at preventing the use of mines. But it is still not a comprehensive way to deal with all angles of this multifaceted problem.” The government “supports working to restrict the use of antipersonnel mines and condemns the indiscriminate use of mines to massacre civilians.” However, the ban treaty “does not yet adequately consider the various defensive security needs of different countries.” At present, Vietnam prefers to let other non-signatories take the lead in “reducing the pressure” to sign the treaty, while “simultaneously making use of technical assistance and funding for clearing mines and assisting mine victims.”[6] Although Vietnam has not acceded to the treaty, it continues to examine and consider it closely.[7]

Vietnam did not participate as an observer in the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo in May 1999. It has attended at least one of the ban treaty intersessional meetings in Geneva – on mine clearance in September 1999. Vietnam was one of 20 nations to abstain on the vote on the December 1999 UN General Assembly resolution in support of the Mine Ban Treaty.

Vietnam signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1981, although it has never ratified. Vietnam did not attend the First Annual Conference of States Parties to CCW Amended Protocol II (Landmines) in Geneva in December 1999. Vietnam is a member of the Conference on Disarmament.

Given the sensitivity of the issue, the NGOs who make up the Landmines Working Group in Hanoi have chosen to focus largely on demining, mine education, and victim assistance, rather than mine ban advocacy.[8]


A Ministry of Defense official confirmed in March 2000 that Vietnam continues to produce mines, a policy that comes under the purview of the ministry’s Institute for the Study of Weapons Production. No further details were available.[9] The only mine confirmed by external sources to have been produced in the 1990s is the “apple mine,” actually a recycled version of the BLU-24 bomblet dropped by the U.S. during the Vietnam War.[10] Vietnam produced many types of antipersonnel mines in the past, mostly copies of U.S., Chinese, and Soviet mines.[11]


According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Vietnam never has exported and never will export mines.”[12] This statement may be technically correct if “export” excludes Vietnam’s extensive and well documented mine use in Cambodia during its 1979-1990 occupation. There is no evidence that Vietnam has transferred mines to Cambodia since the early 1990s at the latest.[13] The MOFA statement that it “never will export mines” is the most explicit policy statement on this subject of which Landmine Monitor is aware.

Ministry of Trade guidelines formally prohibit the import or export of all types of “weapons, ammunition, explosives, [and] military technical equipment.”[14] Despite these prohibitions, there is an active illegal trade in war-era explosives, with smuggling to China, Cambodia, and elsewhere. Ethnic groups in Burma report finding Vietnamese-made copies of U.S. M-14 mines on the Thai-Burma border. These mines are trafficked by private Thai middlemen to the border from Cambodia or from Vietnam itself.[15] There are also unconfirmed reports of Vietnamese-made mines found in Angola.[16]

Stockpiling and Destruction

The size and content of Vietnam’s stockpile of antipersonnel is not known. The Ministry of Defense Mine Technology Center is in charge of destroying stocks of “tens of thousands” of pre-1975 U.S. and Vietnamese mines that are no longer safe to keep. In 2000, the army plans to destroy 2,000 tons alone.[17] Usable mines and other explosives are presumably kept or “recycled.”


There is no evidence of any new use of mines in Vietnam. The army last laid mines in significant numbers during border conflicts with Cambodia and China in the late 1970s and during Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia from 1979 to 1990.

Vietnam reserves the right to use mines “for defensive purposes” due to the “specific circumstances” of national security. “Mines continue to be a low-cost and effective defensive weapon...that must not be lacking to carry out the right of legitimate self-defense.”[18] Vietnam’s current improved relations with its neighbors would appear to make renewed use improbable for the foreseeable future.

The Landmine/UXO Problem

Vietnam remains heavily contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). According to the Ministry of Defense, antipersonnel mines account for only 2-3% of the debris, and only in limited areas. UXO makes up 97-98% of the total, scattered throughout “all 61 provinces and major cities.”[19] For this reason, the figure of 3.5 million mines (as distinct from UXO) remaining in Vietnam, cited by the U.S. State Department and United Nations, vastly understates the true extent of the problem.[20] Among the UXO, U.S. 40mm M-79 grenades and BLU 26/36 cluster bombs or “bombies” are held to be the most deadly and are responsible for a significant number, if not the majority, of recent casualties.[21] The Vietnamese term for landmines, bom-min, specifically includes these types of UXO as well.

Vietnamese government sources claim that “at least 5%” of Vietnamese territory has been affected by mines and UXO, or a total of 16,478 km² (5,932 square miles).[22] Bui Minh Tam, director of the Mine Technology Center in Hanoi, estimates that 350,000 tons of bom-min remain hidden in Vietnam, more than 2% of the wartime total.[23]

Quang Tri province, which surrounds the former DMZ, is often assumed to be the most affected region in the country.[24] This is not necessarily the case, as no comprehensive survey has yet been carried out. Quang Tri is certainly badly affected, but other provinces are as well, particularly in border areas.

Large numbers of mines remain in northern and southern provinces from the border conflicts with China and Cambodia in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Vietnamese army is believed to possess reasonably complete records of the location of known minefields, but this information is not publicly available. Many U.S. Army records also remain classified or difficult to access as well. None of these records include UXO and remote-delivered mines, which according to American veterans were used heavily around the former Khe Sanh combat base and DMZ.[25] Certain areas that were heavily bombed, for example Cu Chi district outside Ho Chi Minh City or the road between Hanoi and the port of Haiphong, contain much higher concentrations of UXO than elsewhere. But bombs and shells can turn up anywhere.

UXO contamination is particularly high around military bases, near the former DMZ, and along roads that suffered heavy U.S. bombardment. The most heavily affected provinces in the south are reportedly Bien Hoa, Dong Nai and Binh Phuoc, all lying north or east of Ho Chi Minh City.[26] During construction of a bridge in north-central Quang Binh province in March 2000, army engineers uncovered 700 small fragmentation bombs and “thousands” of other UXO in a single site near the start of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The captain of the army demining unit at the site told reporters that the area has “the largest density of UXO in Vietnam.”[27]

Surveys and Assessment

No nationwide survey has been conducted. Vietnamese officials are aware of the necessity of clearer information before larger-scale clearance can take place. Quang Tri province’s proposal for a new “Mines Awareness Program,” actually a comprehensive pilot mine action strategy, calls for a Level I survey to be conducted in at least one district.[28] The Ministry of Defense Mine Technology Center has expressed interest in conducting a national survey, but it has no budget to carry it out and is unable as a military institute to receive foreign funding.[29]

Mine Action Funding

Nationally, the Ministry of Defense estimates that complete clearance would take at least ten years, at a cost ranging anywhere from $4-15 billion.[30] The Vietnamese Government claims to have spent “hundreds of billions of dong each year” (approximately $10-50 million) on military demining since the end of the war.[31] At present, there is no line-item allocation in the national budget for mine and UXO clearance, although certain government officials are working to change this. Ministry of Defense officials claim to be limited by a lack of funding.[32]

A central government policy governing use of mine action funds is still in the process of formation; at present, funds are available for “socio-economic development” only.[33] When mines or UXO are discovered during construction projects, the construction company covers the cost of clearance. In order to open new economic zones along the Chinese border, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has a “small” budget for demining in six northern provinces.[34] Vietnam’s fledgling local NGO (or semi-GO) sector has not yet been active in landmine work. Nor has Vietnam provided funds for mine action in Cambodia, despite its extensive past involvement in mine laying there.

Since 1997, and in a few cases earlier, international NGOs and bilateral donors working in Vietnam have provided assistance to demining efforts and mine/UXO victims. Official policy “encourages making use of all sources of foreign funding in order to help in [mine clearance].... Naturally, because of economic conditions, the budget for this work is still limited.”[35] Vu Xuan Hong, director of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO), says, “Vietnam is able to receive certain [types of] assistance like equipment, funding to demine ourselves, technical training, and assistance to victims.”[36] However, mine and UXO action must be carried out “according to our internal strengths.”[37]

VUFO and its sub-department, the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), are the contact agencies in the government for NGOs interested in landmine and UXO work. Bilateral aid is handled through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense,[38] with the frequent involvement of MPI. All NGO and bilateral donor projects must be approved by the central government, in what can be a time-consuming and difficult process.

Four internationally funded mine/UXO programs are currently underway in central Vietnam’s Quang Tri province, as well as one in neighboring Thua Thien-Hue. In all cases, projects are carried out in cooperation with the provincial government, or People’s Committee, with the support of national-level authorities. Quang Tri’s in-kind contributions, while not officially listed in project budgets, have been substantial. The first assistance to Quang Tri, including metal detectors and other technical equipment, was provided from 1994-98 by members of the Landmine Working Group in Hanoi. Working group members have also published books and pamphlets for public education.

The Berlin-based NGO, SODI (Solidaritaetsdienst), has carried out demining and resettlement projects in Quang Tri since 1996, predominantly funded by the German Foreign Ministry. SODI works in cooperation with a professional clearance company from the former East Germany, GERBERA, on a nonprofit basis. Total funding from 1996-99 has been $850,000; an expansion is planned.[39]

PeaceTrees Vietnam, a project of the US-based Earthstewards Network that “plants trees where mines used to be,” also began work in Quang Tri in 1996. A Landmines Education Center outside the provincial capital of Dong Ha opened in September 1998. Total funding has been $595,000 through the end of 1999. PeaceTrees’s UXO clearance is carried out in cooperation with UXB International, an American clearance company. In December 1999, PeaceTrees Vietnam received a $1.5 million grant from the Freeman Foundation over a three-year period to clear an area of thirteen hectares around the education center.[40]

The British NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Quang Tri Province in December 1998 and has been operational since January 1999, with funding of $1million provided by the Danish Government (Danida). These funds covered a period of January 1999 - July 2000. MAG, in cooperation with the Provincial Peoples' Committee, is preparing a 3 year proposal for expansion of an estimated $4 million. There has been confirmed funding of $1.5 million from the Freeman Foundation.[41] MAG’s program includes demining as well as environmental rehabilitation activities.

A small German NGO, Potsdam Kommunikation e.V., received its first funding of $77,000 in 1999 for surveying and UXO removal in Thua Thien-Hue province. As with SODI, the project operates in partnership with GERBERA. In 2000, the German Foreign Ministry granted an additional DM 450,000 ($225,000) to the project.[42]

The Humanitarian Demining Information Center at James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA, U.S.) operated a Mines Awareness Program (JMU-MAP) for children in Quang Tri from February 1999 through March 2000. JMU-MAP originally worked in partnership with PeaceTrees, then continued to operate separately, with a U.S. government-funded budget of $485,000 granted in May 1999.[43] At present, extension of the program has not been funded.

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen offered to provide clearance equipment to Vietnam during his March 2000 visit, a suggestion that seems to have been well received by Hanoi.[44] However, the details of the arrangement have yet to be finalized. The U.S. State Department’s follow-up offer of approximately $750,000 in deep-detection equipment and training still requires the approval of Vietnamese authorities.[45] The State Department’s Humanitarian Demining Program has expressed interest in working in Vietnam on several occasions. A spring 1999 assessment mission to discuss possible types of assistance was inconclusive.[46]

Mine/UXO Clearance

The People’s Army of Vietnam conducts almost all organized mine and UXO clearance. From 1975-1985, clearance focused on heavily populated areas and agricultural land. A senior Quang Tri official says, “We paid a lot of attention to bom-min in the one and a half years or so right after reunification.... There were forty clearance teams and 2000 participants.”[47] Postwar clearance was, however, fairly superficial, dealing only with explosive material at a depth of less than one foot (30 cm).[48] Clearance campaigns started up again from 1991 to 1998, according to government sources. Some 15-20% of explosives left by the war have been cleared, accounting for 7-8% of the country’s total land area.[49]

Recent military clearance has been undertaken along the Chinese border and to make way for new infrastructure projects as necessary. In the northeastern border province of Lang Son, one army battalion reports clearance of 400 hectares of minefields since 1991, preparing for the resettlement of over 2,000 people.[50]

The rapid expansion of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City has led to new construction in previously affected areas. Army sapper units are contracted on a per-job basis to remove the explosives. On occasion, foreign investors and NGOs have also paid the army to clear land. During the 1999 construction of a motorcycle factory in Hai Duong, the Ford Motor Corporation reportedly paid $60,000 for clearance of six hectares—a much cheaper rate than afforded by international demining organizations.[51] Oxfam Hong Kong paid local militia $14,000 to clear a four-hectare reservoir site during an environmental rehabilitation project in Quang Tri in 1998-9. The operation was completely manual, with safety procedures minimal to nonexistent.[52]

At present, civilians who discover a mine or bomb are expected to inform the local military, who then come to remove or clear the site. However, the response time is often unacceptably slow. Newspapers have reported numerous accounts of residents of various provinces finding explosives, waiting as long as seven months for a clearance team, then attempting to dispose of the materials themselves.[53]

Alternatively, residents call on the numerous scrap collectors and do-it-yourself deminers in the central provinces. Hoang Anh Quyet of Quang Tri’s Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs claims there have been up to 4,000 people in his province alone engaging in their own clearance activities since the 1980s.[54] Civilian “wildcat deminers” form a virtual second army in the most affected areas.

The clearance being undertaken in Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue is mostly around former US/South Vietnamese military sites. MAG has been working in Gio Linh District, Quang-Tri Province since January 1999. 40 local civilian deminers have been trained, beginning clearance operations in July 1999. MAG's operations are closely linked in support of the provincial development plan; MAG works closely with the Provincial People's Committee, the local authority in charge of administration and development. MAG cooperates with a number of other NGOs which are working on and with the land cleared by MAG: Plan International – a housing construction program; Peace Trees Vietnam- mine awareness and replanting; and Oxfam Hong Kong- agricultural development. To date, MAG has cleared over 60 housing and garden plots handing them back to the families that own the land. This equates to approximately 40 hectares of safe land. Eighty-seven mines and 2,714 items of UXO have been destroyed.[55]

GERBERA, under contracts with SODI and Potsdam Kommunikation, works in Cam Lo district and at Ai Tu in Trieu Phong district. It has cleared seventy-seven hectares of land and plans to clear forty-eight hectares in 2000. UXB, under contracts for PeaceTrees, is clearing around the former U.S. Marine logistics base in Dong Ha. It has cleared ten hectares of land and plans to clear thirteen hectares in 2000.[56]

In each case, the provincial People’s Committee suggested the site, or offered several sites out of which one was clearly the most in need of clearance. Recently, provincial officials have taken representatives of each of the international groups to proposed new sites, including Vinh Linh district in the former DMZ and around Khe Sanh.[57] The provincial government has submitted proposals to several other international NGOs for additional demining work, but no agreements have yet been reached.[58]

Both MAG and UXB have proposed establishment of mobile detection (EOD) and clearance teams in Quang Tri. The concept has also received the endorsement of provincial authorities. The teams would respond to UXO incidents and suspected minefields anywhere in the province, reported through the provincial Mines Awareness Program.[59]

Coordination of Mine/UXO Action

There is no body responsible for coordinating mine action operations, although there is substantial interest in forming one. The central government has appointed VUFO to form a master plan,[60] but there is no progress reported as yet. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official says he would welcome NGO support for the establishment of a Mine Action Center.[61] Any decision to set up a “VMAC” will have to come directly from the Prime Minister.[62] In a sign of significant movement on the issue, PACCOM agreed in March to Oxfam Hong Kong’s proposal for a study tour to mine action centers in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Nine representatives of PACCOM, the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Committee on NGO Affairs, and the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Public Security took part in the two-week trip. Officials are particularly interested in raising and sharing funds, rehabilitation and resettlement activities, and improving relations among international donors and local partners.[63]

Plans to hold a high-level meeting on landmines and UXO have been underway for at least three years, but have not yet been approved by the central government. According to Nguyen Van Kien of PACCOM, “This seminar will provide an opportunity for discussion among Vietnamese agencies and NGOs to find suitable partners for working in the areas of landmines and UXO.”[64]

International mine action organizations in Quang Tri hope that their project steering committees, which include local, provincial and army officials, would continue to operate after the conclusion of existing projects, possibly combining into a provincial mine action committee. The province’s proposed Mines Awareness Program contains a structure that officials hope can become a nationwide model: “If we work well, the [central] government will allow others to develop regional centers, not just in our province.”[65] Vietnam’s bureaucratic system, however, restricts the province’s freedom to move ahead of central government policy.

Planning of Mine/UXO Action

A national mine and UXO clearance plan, similarly, is currently under discussion in the Vietnamese government. Vu Xuan Hong of VUFO claims that “Vietnam has a plan for demining south of the 17th Parallel,”[66] that is in the former South. It is unclear what implications this has for the north of the country. The difficulty of coordinating activities across many ministries and in some cases competing bureaucracies appears to be the major obstacle to faster action.

Quang Tri province is reportedly in the process of developing its own clearance plan.[67] A de facto plan appears to exist already, as witnessed by the way that the province has distributed international clearance projects around the province. The memorandum of understanding signed between the Quang Tri People’s Committee, James Madison University, and PeaceTrees contains the goal of “developing a Mine Action Master Plan to determine priorities of Landmine/UXO assessment and clearance activity for the province and to focus Mine Awareness Education as a primary goal....”[68] Other provinces would like to follow suit, but are waiting for central government direction and observing the progress in Quang Tri.[69]

Reconstruction & Development of Cleared Areas

According to the Land Law, agricultural land allocation in rural Vietnam is carried out by the commune or village on the basis of family size and need. Land that is cleared by the military is turned over to local authorities, who then decide how best to use it. Hong Xuan Khang, chair of one Quang Tri commune, says that his community has 170 hectares of arable land, or 15% of the district total, that are currently unusable because of mines and UXO.[70] If local farmers can enjoy full use of the land, a significant obstacle to poverty would be overcome.[71]

In existing clearance programs in Quang Tri, the province and districts have identified intended beneficiaries for resettlement once clearance is complete. SODI has resettled fifty-four families since 1998 on a cleared military base site in Cam Lo, many of them the children or relatives of families who lived there prior to the war.[72] An additional hundred families whose villages were destroyed by a landslide will be resettled in 2000 on SODI’s Ai Tu site.[73]

MAG works in coordination with district authorities, Plan International and Oxfam Hong Kong on post-clearance development.[74] Of a planned 155 hectares to be cleared, one hundred will be used by the province as agricultural resettlement sites. During the approval process for MAG’s project, Oxfam Hong Kong signed a memorandum of understanding to assist in development in cleared areas, a provision that was necessary for the project to begin.[75] The Vietnamese government places a high priority on redevelopment and has supported and fostered partnerships among clearance agencies and development NGOs.

Mine/UXO Awareness Education

Awareness programs are encouraged by Vietnamese authorities and have been carried out mostly on the local or provincial levels. Mass organizations such as the Women’s Union or Committee for the Care and Protection of Children (CPCC) are particularly appropriate to carry out mine and UXO education, as they have levels of membership reaching into every commune and village.[76] Radio and television stations have produced reports on the danger and effects of explosives: for example, a half-hour prime time television documentary, “Mines and UXO in the Eyes of Children,” aired on Quang Tri provincial television for two nights in January 2000. The documentary Vi cuoc song binh yen (“For a Peaceful Life,” English version released as Deadly Debris), a valuable source of data and interview footage in its own right, was shown on national television in 1999.

Government officials and NGO staff who have attended mine conferences in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mozambique and elsewhere return with resources that are widely distributed and copied. In one case, JMU’s Mine Awareness Program hired a local artist to adapt Cambodian materials to look more Vietnamese. In cooperation with the Quang Tri House for Children, JMU-MAP held a poster competition on “Keeping families safe from mines and UXO” in August 1999, with impressive results that have been distributed on calendars and notebooks. UNICEF’s Mine Awareness Guidelines are understood and widely applied by the provincial People’s Committee, especially the importance of making materials appropriate to the local cultural context.[77] The People’s Committee is working on a standardized curriculum for mine and UXO education, with contributions from international organizations.[78]

The Danaan Perry Landmine Education Center in Quang Tri is the first center of its kind in the country and contains displays and pictures relating to mine awareness. The center has been used as a base for PeaceTrees’s tree-planting projects, using a mixture of American and Vietnamese volunteers. However, it has up to now been used only sporadically for education programs. JMU-MAP has conducted training courses for forty Women’s Union and Committee for the Care and Protection of Children members, who will return and teach mine awareness in their home villages. A survey carried out in fall 1999 by JMU-MAP and the provincial Women’s Union assessed mine and UXO awareness, casualties and socio-economic impact. Although the survey results are said to be complete, the province has not yet released them publicly.[79]

Quang Tri’s proposed provincial Mines Awareness Program would continue many of the activities of the James Madison project, as well as integrating detection, clearance, and rehabilitation activities into a cohesive structure. Target goals are reducing accidents through outreach and education; evaluating effects of mines and UXO on people’s livelihoods, especially women and children; supporting victims; and updating information and statistics. Mobile teams, including education, clearance and medical components, would travel to schools and communities to carry out training programs.[80] If successful, this would be the first coordinated program of its kind in Vietnam.

Landmine/UXO Casualties

In the first nationwide survey on mine and UXO casualties since the end of the war, the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) reported in September 1999 that 38,248 people have been killed and 64,064 injured through May 1998 (out of a total population of 78 million).[81] The U.S. State Department estimates 180 casualties per month.[82] Officials agree that the actual numbers may be much higher than reported as many accidents, especially when death is immediate, are not counted. According to one member of the Quang Tri People’s Committee, “The number of victims is higher still in reality because the provincial authorities do not have enough money to spend on detailed investigation.”[83]

More detailed surveys have been carried out in Quang Tri province, although the data is often contradictory. Provincial authorities report a total of 5,035 deaths and 6,824 injuries due to mines and UXO dating from the end of the war.[84] Hong Xuan Khang, a commune chairperson in Gio Linh district, says that out of 6,300 commune residents, 271 have died and 544 been wounded by mines and UXO since 1975[85]--a 13% casualty rate. In one single village, where MAG is currently preparing resettlement sites, there have been 87 reported mine accidents since the end of the war.[86] Neighboring Cam Lo district, site of several large former U.S. bases, claims 54 deaths and 262 injuries out of a population of 41,335 (0.8%).[87]

According to one limited survey of amputees, mine-caused injuries peaked during 1975-77, remained stable through the 1980s, and were reduced to half in the 1990s.[88] Data collected by the Quang Tri Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs shows consistently declining casualty figures since 1991. The department’s director concludes that fewer mines and UXO are being found on the ground surface, and thus assistance to existing victims should be a higher priority for the province than further clearance.[89]

There is not adequate data to determine whether there has, in fact, been any reduction in casualties. Mine incidents continue to be reported with frequency in the Vietnamese press: one article in December 1999 cited figures of 63 accidents in the preceding three months, killing 78 and injuring 138. Examples came from at least twelve provinces in all areas of the country.[90] A survey of five national and provincial newspapers over a one-month period from March to April 2000 found eleven mine and UXO deaths reported in southern Vietnam (Mekong Delta and Central Highlands), including eight children and three scrap collectors.

Quang Tri officials and Handicap International estimate that more than half of casualties occur to scrap dealers searching for explosives.[91] Most injuries are classified as accidental or work-related. Adult men, most in their twenties or thirties, make up 85% of amputees.

Of 281 amputees receiving prostheses at the Quang Tri provincial hospital from 1994 to 1997, 78% had war-related injuries, 40% of which occurred since 1975. Antipersonnel mines, rather than UXO, accounted for the majority of injuries, but larger shells and bombs are of course more likely to kill their victims rather than maim them.[92]

Little is known regarding the casualty rate among Vietnamese military deminers. Given the near-universal lack of international standard safety equipment, deaths and injuries are likely relatively high. For instance, at least two or three, and probably more, workers were killed in 1999 during construction of the road from Quang Tri to the Laotian border.[93] Thirty-seven soldiers were reported killed during demining along Vietnam’s northern border from 1991-98.[94]

Ministry of Health officials variously estimate the total number of people with disabilities in Vietnam between 3.5 and 5 million, or 4-7% of the population, with approximately 30% of the total due to war-related injuries. 70% of people with disabilities are in need of rehabilitative services, and 80% have below average living standards.[95] No national-level baseline survey has yet been conducted. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates the total number of amputees in Vietnam at 60,000 or 1 per 1,200. ICRC’s rehabilitation program in Ho Chi Minh City, the first in Vietnam, fitted 15,000 people with prostheses from 1989-99.[96]

Survivor Assistance

Vietnam’s medical system is relatively effective for a poor developing country, with 90% of people having access to health care.[97] Government-run health stations exist down to the commune and village level, but outreach beyond commune centers is often a problem. In the past health care was provided virtually free of charge, but under a market economy patients are expected to cover the costs of an increasing amount of treatment. The quality of care available in major cities has improved substantially for those who can afford it, while market reforms have left many areas of the countryside behind. Rehabilitation and reintegration programs are typically conducted at provincial hospitals and in cities. In addition to seventeen government-run rehabilitation centers and fifty-four provincial hospitals, there are eighty “sanatoriums” throughout the country that provide physiotherapy.[98]

The International Committee of the Red Cross opened a rehabilitation center in Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 with the cooperation of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). During the 1990s, prosthetic technology was introduced to other provincial capitals around the country. Since 1995, the ICRC presence has increasingly been taken over by non-governmental organizations, many following the Red Cross model, and expanded nationwide.[99]

Nineteen international organizations currently conduct disability-related programs in Vietnam; of these, fifteen assist people with physical disabilities.[100] In 1998, state-run and non-governmental workshops combined to produce nearly 23,000 orthopaedic devices, including 13,500 prosthetic limbs. Despite these varied efforts, demand for limbs by amputees outstrips supply by more than two to one.[101]

Total disability project funding over the period 1997-2001 is $17.3 million, with most funding coming from USAID and the European Union.[102] If mine victims make up an estimated 15% of the total disabled population in Vietnam, then $2.6 million of this funding can also be said to be mine-related.[103]

In addition to these efforts, several NGOs and international donors are engaged in community development work in mine-affected areas. Oxfam Hong Kong first became interested in landmines through working in two districts in Quang Tri in the early 1990s where mines and UXO were a great obstacle to development; other NGOs had similar experiences.[104] Oxfam is now coordinating with MAG’s demining project on community development activities.

Disability Policy and Practice

Vietnam’s 1992 Constitution provides that “[t]he State should develop and consistently manage health-care-for-people activities, mobilizing and organizing social forces—in the direction of prevention.”[105] National ordinance 06-L/CTN on Disabled Persons, adopted in July 1998, gives persons with disabilities the right to an education, adequate health care and job opportunities. People who became disabled during the war are given preferential treatment, as are identified victims of dioxin poisoning (Agent Orange).[106] In February 2000, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai announced an allowance of 48,000-84,000 dong ($3.50-6) per month would be paid to disabled children of war veterans affected by toxic chemicals.[107] Postwar mine victims do not yet receive this assistance, nor do veterans of the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) or their children.

There is presently no national coordination body for disability issues. MOLISA is the lead agency dealing with mine victims; the Ministry of Education and Training and Ministry of Health are also involved, as are mass organizations such as the Committee for the Care and Protection of Children, the Fatherland Front, Veterans’ Association, and Vietnam Women’s Union. Among NGOs, a Disability Forum meets regularly at the VUFO-NGO Resource Center in Hanoi.


[1] Don Tuan Phong of the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), speaking at the Forum on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 26-29 January 1999.
[2] “Queen Noor sees war legacy first hand,” Viet Nam News, 18 October 1999.
[3] Interview with Chuck Searcy, VVAF, Hanoi, 3 January 2000.
[4] Interviews with members of a Vietnamese government study tour to mine action centers in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, 14 April 2000.
[5] Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), “Van de Min sat thuong” (The Question of Antipersonnel Mines), internal document provided to Landmine Monitor-Vietnam, 2 March 2000.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.; Oxfam Hong Kong interviews with members of the government mine action study tour group, 21 April 2000.
[8] Landmine Working Group, Joint Goals Statement, March 1998. Active members of the group include Catholic Relief Services, Handicap International, Oxfam Hong Kong, PeaceTrees Vietnam, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, and VVAF.
[9] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, Hanoi, 15 March 2000.
[10] Stephen D. Biddle, “Landmines in Asia,” paper presented at the Phnom Penh Landmines Conference, 1995.
[11] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 513-514. See also, Human Rights Watch, Landmines: A Deadly Legacy (Human Rights Watch: New York, 1993), p. 54, 102.
[12] MOFA, “Van de Min sat thuong.”
[13] Landmines: A Deadly Legacy, pp. 103-4; Paul Davies, War of the Mines (Pluto Press, 1994), pp. 13-19, 44.
[14] Viet Nam News, 7 January 2000.
[15] Communication from Landmine Monitor-Burma researcher, 15 February 2000.
[16] Interview with Roger Hess, UXB International, 30 March 2000.
[17] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, 15 March 2000; Oxfam Hong Kong interview, 20 April 2000.
[18] MOFA, “Van de Min sat thuong.”
[19] Le Huy Hoang, Bui Minh Tam and Le Van Trung, “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges,” paper presented at the International Forum on Demining and Victim Assistance, Phnom Penh, 26-28 October 1998. (Unclear whether this refers to total tonnage or total numbers.)
[20] U.S. State Department, Hidden Killers, September 1998, p. A-3, citing UN database.
[21] Communication from Roger Hess, UXB International, 7 March 2000; similar information presented in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen (“For a Peaceful Life”; English version released as Deadly Debris), a documentary film produced by Nguyen Luong Duc and Vu Le My, Hanoi, 1999.
[22] Hoang, Tam and Trung, “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[23] Cited in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen; identical data presented in “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[24] Quang Tri military authorities estimate over 225 million total mines and UXO remaining in the province, while the UN database estimates more than 58,000 mines and UXO. Quang Tri People’s Committee, “General Introduction About Quang Tri Province,” March 2000. The editor of the document concedes that “it is not sure the figures in the statistics are accurate,” but this is the most recent data.
[25] Interviews with U.S. veterans, tour guides and provincial officials, Quang Tri, 12-13 January 2000.
[26] Interviews with Bui Minh Tam, Director, Ministry of Defense Mine Technology Center, Hanoi, 15 March 2000, and Chuck Searcy, VVAF, 3 January 2000.
[27] Thanh Nien (Youth) daily newspaper, 27 March 2000, p.5; Huw Watkin, “Help Needed to Clear Bombed Road Route,” South China Morning Post, 24 March 2000; “Unexploded Bombs Found in Xuan Son Ferry Area,” Lao Dong (Labor) daily newspaper, 22 March 2000, p.1.
[28] Quang Tri People’s Committee, Proposal for a Mines Awareness Program, March 2000; UXB International, Mobile Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team Proposal.
[29] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, 15 March 2000.
[30] Cited in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen; Hoang, Tam and Trung, “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[31] Hoang, Tam and Trung, “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[32] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, 15 March 2000; “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[33] Oxfam Hong Kong telephone interview with Vu Xuan Hong (Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations), Hanoi, 27 April 1999.
[34] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, 15 March 2000.
[35] PACCOM, “Bao cao mot so Van de lien quan den Bom min va Vat lieu chua no” (Report on Some Questions Concerning Landmines and Unexploded Materials), October 1999.
[36] Oxfam Hong Kong telephone interview, 27 April 1999.
[37] PACCOM, “Bao cao mot so Van de...”
[38] Oxfam Hong Kong, Landmines Advocacy Strategy 1999.
[39] Interviews with provincial and district-level officials, Quang Tri, 12-14 January 2000; Viet Nam News, 2 February 1999.
[40] Figures provided to Landmine Monitor by Imbert Matthee (PeaceTrees Managing Director), 7 March 2000.
[41] Information provided by Nick Proudman, MAG Program Manager, Quang Tri, 12 January 2000 and Tim Carstairs, MAG Communications Director, 28 July 2000.
[42] Communication to Landmine Monitor from Lutz Vogt (Potsdam Kommunikation chairman), 17 March 2000.
[43] Calvin Trice, “Land Mine Center Receives Grant,” Richmond Times Dispatch, 21 June 1999.
[44] Paul Richter, “Cohen Begins Vietnam Visit, Pushes for Relations Between Militaries,” Los Angeles Times, 14 March 2000; “US should do more to help overcome war legacy,” Viet Nam News, 14 March 2000, p.1.
[45] Jan Scruggs (Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation) and Bui The Giang (Communist Party External Relations Department), speaking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Corporate Council delegation seminar, Hanoi, 25 April 2000.
[46] Interview with Chuck Searcy, VVAF, 3 January 2000.
[47] Interview with Hoang Anh Quyet, Director, Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs, Quang Tri, 31 March 2000.
[48] Ministry of Defense officials, quoted in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen.
[49] Hoang, Tam and Trung, “Vietnam: Demining Activities and Challenges.”
[50] Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People’s Army) daily newspaper, 28 March 2000, p. 2.
[51] Interview with Chuck Searcy, VVAF, 3 January 2000.
[52] Interview with Tran Thanh Binh (Oxfam Hong Kong), 19 April 2000.
[53] For example, Thanh Nien, 20 March 2000, p. 15; Phu Yen newspaper, 21 March 2000, p. 4; Tien Phong (Pioneer), 8 April 2000, p. 10.
[54] Interview with Hoang Anh Quyet, Quang Tri, 31 March 2000.
[55] Interviews with MAG staff, January-February 2000; MAG Quarterly Progress Report, 30 September 1999, and email from Tim Carstairs, MAG Communications Director, 28 July 2000.
[56] Interviews with GERBERA and UXB staff, January-February 2000.
[57] Interviews with MAG, GERBERA and UXB staff, January-February 2000.
[58] Quang Tri People’s Committee, Proposals for Demining in Cam Lo and Gio Linh Districts, 1997-99.
[59] MAG Vietnam, “Community Level Mine Action” (discussion paper), March 2000; UXB International, Mobile EOD Team proposal; Quang Tri People’s Committee, Proposal for a Mines Awareness Program.
[60] Oxfam Hong Kong telephone interview with Vu Xuan Hong (VUFO), 27 April 1999.
[61] Oxfam Hong Kong telephone interview with Le Huy Hoang, 22 June 1999.
[62] Interview with Bui Minh Tam, 15 March 2000.
[63] PACCOM, “Issues of Interest to the Vietnamese Delegation on Studytour to UXO Centers in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia” (discussion paper), 12 April 2000; interviews with study tour participants, 14 April 2000.
[64] Working Notes from the Landmines, UXO and Agent Orange Sectoral Group, Forum on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Phnom Penh, 26-29 January 1999.
[65] Interview with Nguyen Duc Quang, Quang Tri External Relations Department, 22 February 2000.
[66] Oxfam Hong Kong interview, 27 April 1999.
[67] Interviews with Hoang Dang Mai, Quang Tri Province External Relations Department, and other current and former provincial officials, 12-17 January 2000.
[68] “Memorandum of Understanding between Foreign Relations Department, Provincial People’s Committee of Quang Tri, and James Madison University & Peace Trees Vietnam for a Landmine Awareness Project,” February 1999.
[69] Interviews with international NGOs and Quang Tri officials, January-February 2000.
[70] Cited in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen.
[71] Monan, Landmines and Underdevelopment, gives many case studies and anecdotal evidence to support this point.
[72] Interview with Wolfram Schwope (GERBERA), 23 February 2000.
[73] Nong nghiep Viet Nam (Vietnamese Agriculture) magazine, 1 March 2000, p. 2.
[74] Interview with Nick Proudman, MAG, 23 February 2000.
[75] Interview with Tran Thanh Binh, Oxfam Hong Kong, 21 February 2000.
[76] Interviews with Mark Pirie, JMU-MAP, 14 January and 23 February 2000.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Interview with Nguyen Duc Quang, Quang Tri External Relations Department, 22 February 2000.
[79] Interview with Mark Pirie, JMU-MAP, 14 January 2000.
[80] Quang Tri People’s Committee, Proposal for a Mines Awareness Program, March 2000.
[81] “Leftover Ordnance In Vietnam Deadly,” San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 September 1999; “Explosive legacy of war kills more than 38,000,” South China Morning Post, 24 December 1999
[82] U.S. State Department, Hidden Killers, 1998.
[83] Cited in Jim Monan, The Impact of Landmines on Children.
[84] Quang Tri Statistical Office data collected by MAG, 1999.
[85] Cited in Vi Cuoc song Binh yen.
[86] Gio Linh People’s Committee Annual Report, 1999.
[87] Quang Tri People’s Committee, Proposal for Demining in Cam Lo District, 1997.
[88] Handicap International, prosthetic survey from the Dong Ha (Quang Tri) clinic, November 1997. PACCOM cites statistics of 22,000 casualties in 1976 and 1977 alone.
[89] Quang Tri People’s Committee, “General Introduction about Quang Tri”; Landmine Monitor interview with Hoang Anh Quyet (DOLISA), 31 March 2000.
[90] Pham Khuong, “Nhung noi dau dai dang” (Prolonged Suffering), Cong An Nhan Dan (People’s Police) daily newspaper, 20 December 1999.
[91] Handicap International, Analysis of November 1997 Prosthetic Survey; interview with Hoang Anh Quyet, 31 March 2000.
[92] Ibid.
[93] Huw Watkin, “Help Needed to Clear Bombed Road Route,” South China Morning Post, 24 March 2000; telephone interview with Chuck Searcy, Hanoi, 21 April 2000.
[94] Associated Press, “25 Years Later, Vietnam’s Deadly Legacy of War,” Baltimore Sun, 27 April 2000.
[95] Le Ngoc Trung, Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu and Dr. Nguyen Xuan Nghien, speaking at the Workshop on Rehabilitation and Reintegration of People with Mobility Impairments and Other Disabilities, Hanoi, 23-25 March 1998.
[96] International Committee of the Red Cross, “Briefing Paper on Cooperation Between MOLISA and ICRC on [the] Orthopaedic Programme In Vietnam,” October 1999; ICRC Mines Overview, 1996.
[97] UNDP, Human Development Report 1998.
[98] Thomas T. Kane, Disability in Vietnam in the 1990s: A Meta-Analysis of the Data, U.S. Agency for International Development, October 1999, pp. 47-49.
[99] ICRC Briefing Paper, October 1999.
[100] Those organizations are: AIFO (Italy); Catholic Relief Services (U.S.); DED (Germany); Handicap International (Belgium); Health Volunteers Overseas (U.S.); MCNV (Netherlands); POWER (UK); Prosthetics Outreach Foundation (U.S.); Rädda Barnen (Sweden); Save the Children Fund (UK); VIETCOT (Germany); Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (U.S.); Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (U.S.); World Concern (U.S.); World Vision (U.S.).
[101] Kane, Disability in Vietnam, p. 51.
[102] Health Volunteers Overseas, Disabilities Programs—Vietnam 1999.
[103] A 1994-95 Disability Survey by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) found 19.1% of disabilities to be war-related; in Handicap International’s 1997 survey of post-1975 amputees, 72% were caused by mines.
[104] Monan, Landmines and Underdevelopment.
[105] Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Article 39.
[106] “Ordinance on preferential treatment of revolutionary activists, fallen heroes...” etc.; Disability ordinance, Articles 2-3. Official Gazette of the National Assembly, No. 28, 10 October 1998.
[107] “Fund for Agent Orange victims mobilises VND10 billion,” Viet Nam News, 29 February 2000; “’Toxin’ Children get government help,” Viet Nam News, 1 March 2000.