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NEWS ROUNDUP February 2015

2015 Feb

February 25
UXO Casualties Highlighted on Mine Awareness Day

In a statement released Tuesday to mark Cambodia’s 16th National Mine Awareness Day, Prime Minister Hun Sen warns all Cambodians to be vigilant of an increase in anti-tank mine casualties.
“Mines and UXOs left by the legacy of the Indochina war and internal conflict in Cambodia for three decades not only caused serious tragedy for our people’s lives but also created obstacles to restoring and developing families’ livelihoods,” the statement says. A little more from Cambodia here.

February 24, 2015
Australian fisherman reels in German WWI grenade

Unusual Find – About 2am this morning, Tuesday 24 February 2015, a man fishing off the Applecross Jetty pulled in what appeared to be an unexploded ordnance. Police attended and cordoned off the area and advised the Bomb Response Unit. A little bit more on this odd story from the UPI here.

February 11, 2015
Clearance group finds bombies in southern Laos

The UXO clearance team sponsored by the NGO We Help War Victims found cluster bomblets on a hillside in Laos. Jim Harris, founder of WHWV – and a main character in the book Eternal Harvest – explains why these particular pieces of ordnance have been associated with child fatalities. Do watch the video and see what clearance work looks like: Bombies on Hillside.

February 11, 2015
Borno (Nigeria):147 Unexploded Bombs Recovered

Borno State police command said it recovered 147 cluster bombs in Auno village of Kondunga local government area of the state.
A police commissioner said a combined team of bomb disposal unit, policemen and troops sighted the explosives, recovered and destroyed them in good time without any injury or damage to lives or property. There is a little more on this mysterious story at the National Mirror Online.

February 8, 2015
Unexploded Ordnance Kills Three Herders in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

Three herders were killed when a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated in East Jebel Marra today. A listener told Dabanga that Hamdan Eisa Sa’adallah, Jaber Ahmed Saleh, and Bahreldin Yagoun Hamed were killed, together with five of their camels, in the area of from Saouda, when the explosion occurred*.
He said that the blast was very strong, and “could be heard from far away”. There is just a bit more on this sadly common story from Darfur at All Africa.

February 6, 2015
UXO death: Man killed, wife injured by landmine

An unexploded landmine in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district killed a man digging soil about a kilometre away from his home in Choam Kravien commune’s Thmor Tadok village yesterday morning.
The explosion killed Chan Y, 33, and injured his wife, Ak Sophat, 24, who was also there at the time, said Den Rithy, Choam Kravien commune police chief. Sophat suffered a slight injury to her hips, he added. To read more from Cambodia’s latest province, check out the Phnom Penh Post.

February 4, 2015
Viengxay caves, Laos: where thousands hid from American bombs

In its attempt to stop the communists in Northern Vietnam and Laos gaining ground, the US dropped more bombs on Laos between 1964-73 than has happened anywhere else on earth.
At the beginning of the onslaught just over 50 years ago, Kaysone Phomvihane, head of the Laos communist movement, led his politburo to shelter in what became known as the ‘City of Victory’, hidden in craggy mountains near the Vietnam border.
Today, it is hard to imagine sleepy Viengxay, with its lakes, ladies who lunch and manicured floral borders, under constant bombardment. The rest of this (somewhat incomplete) travel story is over at The Telegraph.

February 2, 2015
Unexploded ordinance a hazard to offshore construction says consultancy

Developers, utilities and asset owners are failing to take account of the risks posed by munitions moving from their recorded positions during the operations and maintenance phases of their projects. That is according to specialist offshore risk consultancy, 6 Alpha Associates.
Prior to installation work, where there is a high risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO), it is common to undertake a specialist geophysical survey to detect it. Unfortunately, the seabed is often littered with debris, much of which can be confused with UXO. The costs of investigating each and every geophysical survey anomaly that resembles UXO (some of which might be, but the vast majority of which will not), is prohibitively expensive. More on this story from the North Sea at Windpower Engineering & Development.

February 1, 2015
Girl Killed by UXO Explosion in Kompong Speu

An 8-year-old girl was killed after a 60-millimetre rocket left over from the government’s fight with the Khmer Rouge exploded in a rice field in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district on Sunday afternoon, the victim’s family and authorities said.
Yong Kea, the mother of Yem Keayi, said that on Sunday morning, a fire broke out at a dam in Trapaing Chor commune. She and her husband went to extinguish the blaze so it wouldn’t damage their rice fields. Their daughter tagged along.
While they tried to put out the flames, they were distracted and didn’t see that Yem was also attempting to help by using a small branch. The rest of this story is at The Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post.

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Pig Stories, Part 1

Free-Range Porkers in a Little Lao Village

By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
May 1, 2010
The Faster Times

This is the first story in a three-part series examining the lives and deaths of Asian pigs.

wanderingpig2-200x300Way in the northeastern reaches of Laos, along Highway 2E leading to Dien Bien Phu (think 1954, France and Vietnam), is a small village called Sophoon. Its people are a mix of the Tai Dam, Tai Daeng and Khmu ethnicities that populate the hills stretching from Vietnam in the east to Burma in the west and China to the north. Their homes are simple, mostly made of thatch and wood, with a few glass windows and concrete foundations. The residents of Sophoon live off the land, growing rice, corn and cassava in their fields and a smattering of fruits and vegetables in their household gardens. They raise chickens, ducks and pigs, all given free rein to cluck, quack and snort their way through the village at whim.

The reason my husband, Jerry, and I spent nine days in Sophoon had little to do with livestock (though my interest always turns to food and its origins, no matter where we are). We were there for the bombs. The undulating hills tracing the east-west highway through Phongsali province are littered with the remnants of the U.S. bombing campaign, which began in 1964, ended in 1973, and pummeled the country with bombing raids averaging once every eight minutes for nine years. Thirty percent of those bombs didn’t explode, and here they lay in the Laotian soil-as volatile today as the day they were dropped. In all the years since, not a single bomb-clearance team had removed a single item of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from Phongsali province until Jim Harris came along. This year, this one American brought one small clearance team to Sophoon and got to work, blowing up bombs.

Jerry and I followed.

We all camped in the local dispensary – slat beds, mosquito nets, cold baths with river water scooped from a basin – and ate the local foods prepared by two young women hired to cook. They worked adjacent the dispensary in a small hut with a flimsy door, frequently flung open by local pigs in search of edible loot. Come meal time, we always had a couple of dogs, a chicken and a farrowof grunting little piglets on the premises. Sometimes a fat mama sow would waddle through with fierce, glaring eyes and milk-filled udders swaying to and fro. READ MORE

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The American Man Who Blows Up Bombs in Laos – Rambling Spoon

By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
Jan. 24, 2010
Rambling Spoon

©2009 Jerry RedfernIn just a few weeks, a very important man will return to Laos. His name is Jim Harris. He’s a retired school principal from rural Wisconsin. He’s the only American working in the field to clear U.S. bombs from the soil in Laos. That’s Jim in the picture above. He’s standing among his boxes and bins full of Lao artifacts, all part of his living museum (currently homeless, aside from this basement storage room) depicting daily life in Laos. READ MORE