UK Foreign Secretary William Hague meets with cluster bomb campaigners Mike Boddington MBE and Thoummy Silamphan

Thoummy Silamphan, a campaigner and survivor of a cluster bomb accident, met UK Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday morning at the opening of the new British Embassy in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Thoummy thanked Hague for Britain’s support for efforts to deal with the legacy of massive bombardment with cluster munitions in the 1960s and 70s. Thoummy had his hand amputated after having an accident caused by an unexploded submunition going off when he was digging for bamboo shoots.

In Hague’s opening speech he expressed the UK government’s support for Lao PDR in their efforts to tackle the problem of cluster munitions, he said “Every country has challenges it must face, and so does yours, in the areas of economic, social and political development and in confronting the legacy of past conflict, including cluster munitions. But like you, we are very optimistic about the future of Laos.”

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor, the UK contributed over £319,000 towards clearance efforts in Lao PDR in 2010. The UK has signed and ratified the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions that contains obligations on States Parties to provide affected countries with assistance.

The Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Lao) estimates that that the United States dropped more than two million tons of bombs between 1964 and 1973, including more than 270 million submunitions, of which approximately 80 million failed to explode. Around 50,000 casualties have been recorded as a result of unexploded ordnance. Still to this day, unexploded cluster submunitions are commonplace in Lao PDR.

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Links:

UXO Lao: http://www.uxolao.org/

Hague’s speech – UK FCO: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=Speech&id=831011982

Cluster Munition Coalition: www.stopclustermunitions.org

Cluster Munition Monitor: http://www.the-monitor.org/

Handicap International: http://www.handicapinternational.be/en/thoummy-silamphan

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