When the mind turns to South East Asia and war, Vietnam and Cambodia come quickly to mind.  For most, Laos might be a distant third, or even fourth behind Burma with its recent, infamous generals. But while there might be degrees of misery among the war torn it’s a calculus not easy to make.

Whatever its misery quotient relative to its neighbors, Laos has the unhappy history of being the most bombed country, per capita, in the history of the world,  Carried out by the US Air Force from 1964 to 1973 — ” Laos was hit by an average of one B‑52 bomb-load every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973. U.S. bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the World War II. Of the 260 million bombs that rained down, particularly on Xiangkhouang Province on the Plain of Jars, some 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy.”

While in Vientiane, we visited a organization called COPE [Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise] with six centers in Laos.  Their main work is to provide prosthetics for those injured by UXO (unexploded ordnance) or others who have lost limbs by accident or birth.  A very moving experience.

Mobile of Bomblets at COPE in Vientiane, Laos

The mobile of bomblets, the children’s drawings and the hanging village-made prosthetics — some from bomb casings, some from bamboo– were all powerful images.

The sculpture outside, made of bomb parts halted us in our tracks.

Village Made Prosthetics turned in for Better

All the best


For more on this Legacies of War http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret-war-laos/ and UXO Lao http://www.uxolao.org/ have lots of information