U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter handed over fifteen new Toyota Landcruisers to the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Program (UXO Lao) during a ceremony in Vientiane on January 12.
The contribution, valued at approximately USD 490,000, included 15 sets of equipment for 15 new UXO Lao Clearance teams that are operating in Savannakhet, Khammouan and Attapeu provinces. These 15 new UXO Lao teams were recruited, trained and deployed in 2017 with financial support of the United States.
The United States is supporting 51 of 96 UXO Lao Survey & Clearance teams, in addition to 3 Non-Technical Survey teams, 3 Regional Quality Management teams, the organization’s provincial offices, and some operational costs of the National Office.
Currently, approximately 600 of UXO Lao’s staff are funded by the United States Government. Approximately 940 additional Lao national staff work fulltime on the U.S.-funded national UXO survey and clearance projects implemented in partnership with the Mines Advisory Group, HALO Trust, and Norwegian People’s Aid.
Sterling International Group, a contractor of the U.S. Department of State, also provides technical advisory support to the Lao PDR National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action and to UXO Lao in the areas of Survey & Clearance Operations, Field Management, Quality Management and Information Management.
Since 1995, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) and U.S. Embassy Vientiane have worked closely with the Government of Laos to invest more than $135 million toward risk education, support for victims of UXO accidents, surveying and clearing of UXO within Laos.
“This program supporting clearance of contaminated land reflects the close partnership between the United States and the Government and people of the Lao PDR for over two decades to address war legacy issues,” said Ambassador Bitter. This new contribution to UXO Lao, she said, “is part of the United States’ commitment of USD 90 million over three years to fund a national cluster munitions survey, in addition to ongoing clearance of UXO.”