THE People’s Democratic Republic of Laos (LPD) is the most bombed country in history, with 600,000 tonnes of Un-Exploded Ordinance (UXO) – bombs which could go off at any minute – still littering its countryside today.
The ‘Secret War’ on Laos was the largest operation ever conducted by the CIA. The period 1963-1973 was the height of the bombing in Laos.
An equivalent of a plane-load of bombs were dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for nine years – a tonne for every person living in Laos at the time.
Yet to this day, hardly anyone knows anything about it. It is the biggest war crime of the Vietnam War and the ancestor of today’s US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Serbia, and everywhere US imperialism and its European and Israeli ‘running dogs’ operate.
American bombers, returning to their CIA bases after blanket bombing Vietnam dumped their unexploded bombs on Laos, as it was unsafe to land still carrying deadly payload.
The poorest areas of Laos were the most heavily bombed and are still contaminated.
Various charitable organisations estimate there are six million unexploded cluster bombs still present in LPD
Cluster bombs, called ‘bombies’ by the Laotians, are weapons which contain approximately 700 smaller explosive sub-munitions each.
American and Israeli scientists designed the bombies to kill as many civilians as possible as well as soldiers.
The ‘bombies’ were dropped to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail, which is not a single trail but rather a road network of supply paths and arteries through Laos and Cambodia, from where liberation soldiers, equipment and village people made their way into south Vietnam hidden from ariel observation by natural and man-made camouflage.
The US subjected large areas to blanket ariel bombardment. It’s records give a figure of two million metric tonnes but eight months of data have gone missing from the official records.
A typical ‘bombie’ is made up of two shells, which open when the bomb is dropped. It explodes just above the ground and submunitions scatter over a wide area, which can be the size of several football fields.
Landlocked and in the middle of SE Asia, Laos borders with Burma and China in the North, Thailand and Cambodia to the West, and Vietnam encases it in the East. 70% of its population are subsistence farmers, and 44% live on less than $1.25 per day.
The Revolutionary Youth League of Viet Nam was founded in 1925 by the young Nguyen Ai Quoc, and was the first Marxist organisation in Indochina. Quoc had been a founding member of the French Communist Party when he was a student in France in 1920. He helped set up the Pathet Laos.
He later became known as Ho Chi Minh and, along with General Giap, routed the French colonialists at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Ho Chi Minh went on to defeat American Imperialism, a victory which marked a turning point in the international fight against Imperialism.
Fearing the spread of communist liberation in South East Asia after the rout of French imperialism, the American CIA set up its own air company, Air America, to carry out covert operations against the Viet Minh.
Key players were the CIA, American pilots and Laotian counter-revolutionaries. The base for the operation was the top secret Long Chen, a remote valley where the CIA built its headquarters in 1962. It was from this base that the American’s conducted their secret war operations.
During the period 1963-1975 the US bombed covertly until US President Lyndon Johnson justified open war by saying on TV that the Viet Minh had bombed a US warship in the gulf of Tonkin.
It was a lie, it never took place.
As the war dragged on, Long Chen became the busiest airbase in the world and a major centre for the global opium and heroin trade.
The cluster bombs used in Laos had a high ‘failure rate’ – 30 per cent did not explode at the time they were dropped.
The cynicism and barbarity of these acts of ‘American democracy’ have left the country indelibly scarred, with at least one child a week being blown to bits, or maimed in a land so encrusted with explosives that huge areas cannot be farmed.
If you climb 1,200 metres above the Plain of Jars into the mountains from which the jars were hewn, you will reach the labyrinth of caves in which the fighters sheltered from US attacks, and tended their wounded.
The caves were the headquarters of the Pathet Laos and for their hospitals and their schools, hidden from the bombers.
Young guide Bun Lee Pongsavagne pointed saying: ‘They teached us in the school after 1994. Don’t touch the “bombies”.
‘If the ball has wings it is for sure the cluster. It’s nearly 100 per cent sure this is an unexploded one.
‘I have seen these a lot. That one if you light a fire, in less than five minutes it will blow up.
‘During the war over 414,000 cluster bombs were dropped, scattering 260 million deadly “bombies”.
‘If “bombies” landed in muddy rice fields or the canisters did not open or the bombers dropped their cargo too close to the ground the bombies might not explode.
‘A farmer working in his field or a curious group of children playing near their home are at risk.’
The explosive in the bombies remains active and can explode if moved, thrown or are unintentionally ignited by a cooking fire built over it or by burning crops in the fields.
They have a high mortality rate and also cause multiple injuries, most often involving the upper body.
On Monday 28 January, 2012 in Tamluang village in Savannakhet province, a group of children made a bonfire in their yard to keep themselves warm from the evening chill.
Unknown to the family, a bomb was buried in the ground under the fire. The heat caused the bomb to detonate – four children died, three were injured.
Three boys, Sack age 12, Chith age 10, and Touk age 10 died instantly from shrapnel wounds. A little girl, Ser aged three, died on the way to the hospital from severe injuries. The three survivors suffered various burns to their legs.
A nightmarish synthesis of total war and colonialism, two of the most deadly manifestations of twentieth and twenty first century imperialist violence, were set in motion in Laos.
The revolutionary peoples of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam defeated the massively armed imperialist powers and sent them fleeing for their lives.
Their revolutionary determination and heroism produced what the imperialists thought was impossible – US, French and world imperialism humbled by small farmers led by revolutionary workers.
Their victory was and is an inspiration to the workers of Greece, Portugal Spain and the UK, US and all of the workers of the capitalist world today.
Their revolutionary victory was decisive.
It paved the way for the completion of the world socialist revolution at the time of the greatest ever crisis of capitalism
Long live the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Their struggle is continued through the European socialist revolution that is now under way, and the American Socialist revolution that is being prepared by the world crisis.