By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
Oct. 22, 2007
We sit near the Nam Phu fountain, eating a snack of fresh yogurt and sweet pumpkin chips with sesame. A man named Khampa takes a seat beside us. He begs us for food, then money. He has traveled to Vientiane from Savannakhet, presumably to make some money. I hand him the bag of pumpkin crisps and he clasps it with his upper arms.
Khampa has no lower arms. His right eye is botched, and he has scars on his neck. His right arm is cut clean, but the left is split in two. We ask him what happened, and he raises his shoulders.
“Pow! American,” he says.
“Leuk la but?” I ask. Was it a bomb?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK,” he says, then continues his story in a quick, long string of Lao that I cannot fully understand. But it’s clear he is one of the country’s thousands of UXO victims, maimed long after the United States stopped pummeling the Laotian landscape with bombs. READ MORE