Sorry, folks. My figure of yesterday was over exaggerate. The true figure is still just as appalling. Since 1974 there have been 20,000 casualties from unexploded cluster bombs – children or farmers.
The Plain of Jars mixes the old with the new. Scattered across hillsides & open countryside over 300 of these stone vessels lie at different angles. They date somewhere betweeen 300BC to 300AD. Their original purpose is in dispute but consensus says that these were, in some way, to do with the death ceremonies of local tribes on the trade route north from Vietnam & Thailand. Bodies may have been stored or ‘processed’ in these stone containers which range from 30 or so centimetres tall to some that are over 4 metres.
This area also saw some of the heaviest US bombing of the war. Large craters, about 4/5 metres across punctuate the ground amongst the Jars. Jars have been split apart by the explosions. For safety, locals hid in caves when the bombs started to fall. Some of the statistics are horrifying. During the Indo-China War, as the Laotians call it, 580,000 bombing missions were flown by the US with 2 million tonnes of mainly cluster bombs dropped. These are designed to kill personnel. Between 1964 & 1973 270 million bombies were dropped on Laos and up to 30% failed to detonate meaning 80 million plus bombies remain undetonated.
Here is the open casing of one cluster bomb. You can see inside some of the small bombies. Most will contain up to 180 tennis balls from hell. The casing splits open and these balls of doom are released spinning through the air. The force of that spin should denonate each one a few metres above the ground releasing 100 or so ball bearings to tear through flesh & organs. If not denonated on their journey to the ground they may have a soft landing in a paddy field or the grasping fingers of as bamboo. There they can wait hidden by foliage or grasping mud until a child picks it up or a farmer makes contact with a hoe. And they are everywhere.
MAG, Mines Advisory Group, are a charity that trains locals to educate villagers & townsfolk to the dangers of handling these horrors and equip local teams to identify and destroy such bombies. Look them up online and help save lives.