Archive for ‘U.S. Humen Aid’

July 11, 2012

On Visit to Laos, Clinton Is Reminded of Vietnam War

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July 11, 2012


Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday visited with Phongsavath Souliyalat, who lost his forearms and sight from a blast of an unexploded bomb.

VIENTIANE, Laos – Traveling in Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday made a brief stop in Laos, the first visit by an American secretary of state in 57 years and one that was marked by the enduring legacy of the Vietnam War.

At an artificial limb center, Mrs. Clinton met a 19-year-old who lost his forearms and eyesight when a bomb, dropped by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War and unexploded for decades, finally blew up three year ago.

The young man, Phongsavath Sonilya, gesticulated with his arm stumps as he explained to Mrs. Clinton that more than 30 years after the end of the war, more still had to be done to stop the use of cluster bombs and to support victims of those still lying unexploded in the countryside. The United States has not signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs.

The four-hour visit by Mrs. Clinton to Laos provided other reminders of the Vietnam War.

The government is run by the Communist Party, and five of the nine members of the Politburo, including the Prime Minister, Thongsing Thammavong, who met with Mrs. Clinton, are veterans of the Pathet Lao guerrilla group that supported North Vietnam against the United States. Until 1975, Vientiane, the capital, had a strong American influence. After Saigon fell, more than 1,200 Americans were evacuated from Laos when the Pathet Lao backed by the Soviet Union took power.

Now Laos is closely aligned with China, its biggest benefactor by far with investments of more than $4 billion in mining, hydropower and agriculture. The Chinese built many of the main buildings in the relaxed tropical capital, and are now constructing a new convention center with 50 villas for a European-Asian summit in November, a meeting that excludes the United States.

Mrs. Clinton’s visit, in keeping with the understated nature of the people, was quite subtle. When Secretary of State John Foster Dulles came here in 1955, he tried to persuade the Lao royal family to drop their neutrality in the Cold War and join the American camp. Mrs. Clinton did not attempt anything as brazen as mentioning China, though the import of her visit – to seek warmer relations between the United States and Laos – was quite clear.

There was no news conference with the Prime Minister, but a carefully worded statement negotiated by both sides that noted the upcoming entry of Laos into the World Trade Organization, and co-operation between the United States and Laos on environmental protection.

After the meeting with the prime minister, the State Department said that Laos had decided to suspend the construction of the Xayaburi dam, a project being built by Thailand to send electricity to Thailand.

Neighboring countries have complained that the dam would upset the flow of the Mekong River, the main waterway of Southeast Asia.

At the center that provides artificial limbs, known as the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, Mrs. Clinton viewed a map embedded with red dots that showed where bombs were dropped along the Ho Chi Minh trail and on the Plain of Jars. There were more than 580,000 bombing missions by the United States Air Force, making Laos the most heavily bombed country on a per capita basis, the text said.

More than 30 percent of the bombs remained unexploded, leaving Laos with a deadly problem in rural areas that persists until today.

Each bomb contained about 600 bomblets, and in recent years 100 people have been killed by unexploded ordinance, 40 percent of them children.

Rural people often scavenge for the bombs, believing the metal has value. Young children think they are toys, said Soksai Sengvongkham, the operations manager of the visitors center. As she toured the center, Mrs. Clinton asked several times why more sophisticated technology could not be used to find the bombs, which are currently located by workers with metal detectors.

There was evidence, too, of the low cost nature of some of the home-made limbs that farmers put together using bamboo, metal tubes from bombs, and wood, while they awaited more professional limbs.

After the visit to the center, Mrs. Clinton said it was “a painful reminder of the Vietnam War era.”

“The international community will join us in our efforts to bring this legacy of the Vietnam War to a safe end,” she said.

From Laos, Mrs. Clinton flew to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, for the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations.


July 10, 2012

Disarmament activists and former US ambassadors are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase US aid to Laos

US urged to hike Laos bomb-clearing aid

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‎By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON – Disarmament activists and former US ambassadors are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase US aid to Laos to clear millions of tonnes of unexploded ordinance (UXO) left by US bombers on its territory during the Indochina War during her brief visit to the country Wednesday. The visit, scheduled to last only a few hours on a hectic eight-nation tour by Clinton designed in part to underline the Barack Obama administration’s “pivot” from the Middle East to Asia, will nonetheless be historic. No sitting US secretary of state has visited Laos since 1955.

Sources here said Clinton is considering a US$100 million aid commitment to support bomb-clearing efforts over a 10-year period. Such a commitment would more than double the nearly $47 million Washington has provided in UXO assistance since 1997 when it first began funding UXO programs in Laos.

“While Secretary Clinton’s visit celebrates a promising future for US-Lao relations,” said Ambassador Douglas Hartwick, who served as Washington’s envoy in Vientiane from 2001 to 2004, “I hope she also affirms to the Lao people America’s steadfast commitment to help Laos and the international community to resolve this legacy once and for all by clearing Lao land of deadly bombs.”

Hartwick was one of six former ambassadors to Laos who last year publicly urged Clinton to travel to Laos and adopt the 10-year, $100 million UXO proposal – originally put forward by a Washington-based organization, Legacies of War – on her way from last year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Administration policymakers, however, evidently decided to put off the trip until this year’s regional summit in Cambodia, Laos’s next-door neighbor.

Over the past year, Washington has intensified its courtship of China’s southern neighbors, notably Myanmar, with which relations have improved dramatically since Clinton’s visit there – also the first by a secretary of state since 1955 – last December. Before arriving in Phnom Penh late Wednesday, she spent Tuesday in Hanoi before traveling on to Vientiane.

Between 1964 and 1973, more than 2.5 million tonnes of US munitions were dropped on Laos – more than was dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War II – making what was then the poorest country in Southeast Asia the most heavily bombed nation per capita in history.

With some 2.5 million inhabitants at the time, an average of one tonne of bombs was dropped for every man, woman and child in Laos.

Up to 30% of the bombs failed to detonate. Their remnants not only cause several hundred casualties a year, but also effectively prevent Laotian farmers from cultivating hundreds of thousands of hectares of fertile land.

Some 20,000 people have been killed or maimed by UXO over the past 40 years, according to Legacies of War. An estimated one-third of Lao land is still littered with the deadly ordinance.

Unlike with Vietnam and Cambodia, Washington never severed diplomatic relations with the communist government that eventually took power in 1975. It nonetheless took 17 years – until 1992 – for the US, whose top priority initially was to account for the nearly 600 US servicemen killed or missing in action in Laos, to fully normalize ties. Normal trade relations were formalized only seven years ago.

Washington first provided funding for UXO clearance in 1997 under president Bill Clinton and maintained aid at an average annual rate of about $2.6 million. In 2009, it rose to $3.5 million and then to $5 million in 2010. Led by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, Congress approved $9 million for this year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended that $10 million be approved for 2013, but that amount could be a harder sell in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Proponents of the aid are hoping that a public commitment by Clinton will enhance the chances for Congressional approval for the $10 million and a longer-term commitment which they believe will be necessary to leverage additional resources from other donor countries and agencies.

“The people who continue to suffer from the bombings are ordinary Lao villagers,” said Channapha Khamvongsa, Legacies’ executive director. “We are hopeful that after witnessing the human impact of UXO in Laos first-hand, the secretary will re-affirm the US commitment to helping Laos solve this problem once and for all.”

The challenge remains formidable. While more than 1 million UXO are estimated to have been destroyed or cleared to date, it is believed that nearly 80 million are still scattered across the country.

“UXO/mine action is the absolute pre-condition for the socio-economic development of [Laos],” according to a two-year-old study by the UN Development Programme, which has worked with the government of Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong to develop a plan to focus clearance efforts on high-priority areas.

“[E]conomic opportunities in tourism, hydroelectric power, mining, forestry and many other areas of activity considered main engines of growth for the Lao [Peoples Democratic Republic] are restricted, complicated and made more expensive,” according to the UNDP, which has estimated the funding needs to significantly reduce the UXO problem in Laos at $30 million a year sustained over a 10-year period.

While the US is the single largest donor to the UXO program, others, notably Japan, the European Commission, Ireland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Australia, as well as UN agencies, have also contributed to the program.

Led chiefly by the UXO funding, Washington’s total bilateral aid program to Laos has grown from to $12 million for the current year from about $5 million in 2007. In addition to the $9 million for the UXO program, Washington has focused aid on the health sector and counter-narcotics.

In a related development on Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Clinton to halt all aid to the Somsanga drug detention center until the Lao government conducts a full and independent investigation into human-rights abuses allegedly committed against detainees there, including children.

In March, 12 UN agencies also called for Somsanga and other drug detention centers in Laos to be closed.

“The Lao government and the US State Department claim that Somsanga is a modern healthcare center,” said Joe Amon, HRW’s health and human-rights director. “But a decade of US funding hasn’t changed the fact that it’s a brutal and inhumane detention center where the Lao government puts undesirable’ people.”

Jim Lobe‘s blog on US foreign policy can be read at

October 28, 2011

US bolsters UXO clearance in Xieng Khuang, Khammuan

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The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) Laos and the United States Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement are continuing their history of successful partnership in Xieng Khuang and Khammuan provinces with a new 12 month unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance project worth US$1.4 million.

Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun ( left ) and Mr David Horrocks shake hands after signing the MOU.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) and MAG Laos was signed yesterday in Vientiane.

NRA Director Mr Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun and MAG Country Director Mr David Horrocks jointly signed the document witnessed by US Ambassador to Laos Ms Karen Stewart and officials from the two provinces and MAG.

The project will be carried out in Phaxay, Khoun, Thathom and Nonghaet districts of Xieng Khuang province, as well as Ghommalath, Mahaxay and Bualapha districts of Khammuan province, focusing on conducting a survey for prioritisation of UXO clearance to support socio-economic development activities.

The project has built upon the success of previous projects funded by the Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Partnerships with numerous development organisations will enable MAG Laos to ensure that these clearance outputs become development outcomes.

MAG is a British non-government organisation which started operations in Laos in 1994. MAG operations in Laos are highly recognised by the Lao government.

“Since the beginning of its operations in the country, MAG Laos has been working hard to liaise with donors for funding to support its UXO clearance activities which benefit local communities, reduce injuries and deaths from dangerous UXO. In the same way UXO clearance enables local communities to access more safe land,” said Mr Phoukieo at the signing ceremony.

Since 1996, funding from the US government to support UXO clearance in Laos has reached US$30 million.

Mr Phoukhieo, represen-ting the NRA and the Lao government, expressed gratitude and thanks to the US government for its support of socio-economic development in Laos.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Mr Horrocks said extensive UXO spread across a wide swathe of the country not only poses a risk to people carrying out normal activities such as farming, but also prevents or delays development activities and indeed adds to their cost.

Through the work of five UXO clearance teams, significant amounts of contaminated land will be cleared of UXO, he said, adding that, ultimately, the project will contribute to the Lao government’s poverty eradication strategy and Millennium Development Goal No. 9.

Ms Stewart expressed her hope that the MOU would help to ensure the continuation of vital clearance work and activities that will allow Lao children to attend school in a safe environment, return land to communities for agriculture and other economic development, and allow construction of infrastructure such as better road access to healthcare facilities.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update October 28, 2011)

August 9, 2011

Senators is calling for an end to tens of millions of annual U.S. development aid to China

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A bipartisan group of senators is calling for an end to tens of millions of annual U.S. development aid to China, saying there are more needy countries than the world’s second-largest economy, which has trillions in foreign reserves.

The eight Democrats and four Republicans made their appeal Thursday to a Senate appropriations committee that must approve foreign aid funding for the fiscal year starting in October.

They urge an end to all development aid for China other than for Tibetans and for promoting human rights.

They say since 2001, the U.S. has provided more than $275 million in direct assistance to China, such as for expanding Internet access and improving public transportation.

The U.S. is scrambling to cut spending to narrow its deficit.


Tester: End U.S. taxpayer-funded aid to China Tester: End U.S. taxpayer-funded aid to China

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Aug 04, 2011 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) —

Senator says China can handle its own problems

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today told Congressional leaders that it is time to stop sending American taxpayer money to China.

Since 2001, the United States has provided more than $275 million in foreign aid to China

In a bipartisan letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester and several of his Senate colleagues said that China does not need assistance in light of its recent economic performance, adding that “the annual assistance we are currently providing to China could be better utilized.”

“China’s now got the resources to take care of its own problems,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We don’t need to be sending precious resources to China when we’ve got our own health and education needs here. That’s not a smart use of taxpayer dollars and I won’t support it.”

The Obama Administration sought millions for HIV/AIDS prevention and a Chinese government-restricted Peace Corps program in its proposed 2012 budget.

Tester’s letter noted that both the United Kingdom and Australia have announced that they will no longer provide foreign aid to China.

“Our present situation demands that we take an especially hard look at where our foreign aid goes, exactly how it’s used, and who benefits from it,” Tester said, noting that China competes for American jobs and even has its own foreign aid program.

Tester’s letter to the Appropriations Committee appears below and online HERE


Dear Senator Inouye and Senator Cochran:

As you consider Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills, we are writing to urge the committee to re-evaluate the level of direct foreign assistance the United States provides to China. Even as China has grown to become the world’s second-largest economy, since 2001 the United States has provided more than $275 million in development assistance to China. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, U.S. agencies from across the government provided more than $65 million in grants to China. China also continues to benefit from billions of dollars in development programs and infrastructure loans provided through multilateral institutions like the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank to which the United States is among the largest financial contributors.

We continue to believe foreign aid is a critical tool to promote both our foreign policy and our values, but given current fiscal realities at home, we need to be smarter and more strategic in allocating our resources. Several of our allies and partners have come to the same conclusion this year, with both the United Kingdom and Australia announcing that they will no longer provide direct foreign assistance to China. In view of China’s economic rise, it is clear that, with the exception of programs targeted specifically to Tibet or promote respect for human rights and democracy in China, the annual assistance we are currently providing to China could be better utilized in countries with greater need and vastly smaller resources.

Indeed, in recent years China has launched its own multi-billion dollar foreign assistance program to rival our own, prompting Secretary Clinton to testify before Congress in March of this year that, “we are in a direct competition for influence with China.” In spite of this, the administration continues to seek millions in aid for U.S. assistance programs in China, including:

* $7 million for HIV/AIDS prevention in China, more than for Thailand, Laos, and Burma combined. These funds are in addition to the $940 million China already has received from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

* $4.7 million for a Peace Corps volunteer program in China that is restricted by the Chinese government to teaching English to university students. Funding for this program has more than tripled since 2001 and now exceeds programs in countries of demonstrably greater need, such as Cambodia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.

* Continued access to Trade & Development Agency grants for projects ranging from improving broadband access in China’s rural areas, to expanding the Guangzhou metro rail systems, to training Chinese government officials in anti-monopoly law. While the Trade & Development Agency plays an important role in linking U.S. business to export opportunities abroad, with bilateral trade in excess of $459 billion last year, this program could be better directed to identifying new markets in emerging economies for U.S. businesses.

With more than $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and a double digit economic growth rate, China certainly has the financial resources to forego assistance from multilateral development organizations, which crowds out investment in higher-need countries, and to care for its citizens without relying on U.S. assistance. As the committee reviews current appropriations bills, we would request that in FY2012 you end all U.S. aid to China, other than programs that assist the people of Tibet or promote respect for human rights and democracy in China, and direct our representatives at international organizations to work to end multilateral aid to China, including by directing those representatives to oppose all such aid. Thank you for your consideration of this request.



Jon Tester, et al


Contact: Aaron Murphy (406) 252-0550 or Andrea Helling (202) 228-0371

Copyright (C) 2011 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc

March 28, 2011

US extends condolences to Myanmar quake victims



WASHINGTON — The United States expressed condolences to Myanmar on Friday over the loss of life and damage caused by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck near its border with Laos and Thailand.

Myanmar state television said 74 people were killed and 114 injured in the quake, which leveled hundreds of homes in towns and villages near the epicenter.

“On behalf of President (Barack) Obama and the people of the United States, I offer our sincere condolences for the loss of life and damage caused by the earthquake in Burma, near the borders with Thailand and Laos,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, using the former name of Myanmar.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy,” she said.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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