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Child bomb survivors in Laos join international campaign to ban cluster bombs through UNICEF-supported film

© UNICEF LAO PDR 2010/ Namchaythip Souvannavong
Poster of the film

Vientiane – 22 October 2010:   Four young survivors of accidents involving cluster bombs in Lao PDR have added their voices to the growing international campaign to outlaw the weapons.

The survivors -- three boys and one girl -- recount their experiences in a powerful new film produced by UNICEF Lao PDR and Handicap International Belgium which has received its first public screening in the Lao capital, Vientiane.

Produced with funding from the Swiss National Committee for UNICEF, “Surviving the Bombs: Children’s Stories from Laos”, is a 10-minute docudrama designed primarily to raise awareness in rural communities affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO). 

Laos has the unwanted claim of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world – the result of a massive Vietnam war-era bombing campaign by the US military that included an estimated 260 million cluster munitions. Large numbers of the weapons failed to detonate on impact, and remain a potentially lethal hazard if disturbed.
Through the sometimes harrowing testimonies of the UXO survivors, children are warned about the danger of touching or tampering with unexploded munitions, especially cluster bombs (known locally as “bombies”).

© UNICEF LAO PDR 2010/ O'Brien
Latsamy, one of four young UXO survivors profiled in the film.

Speaking at the inaugural screening event, one of the children portrayed in the film, 17 year old Latsamy, said he hoped it’s message would help prevent other children falling victim to UXO accidents. Latsamy was out looking for scrap metal in a field near his home village in the province of Savannakhet when a cluster bomblet exploded, causing him severe injuries, including the loss of an arm and his right eye.

UNICEF Representative Mr. Tim Schaffter hailed the courage of Latsamy and the other young UXO survivors who took part in the film. “You have done wonderful service by telling your stories,” Mr Schaffter said.

Mr. Phoukhieo Chanthasomboune, Director of the Lao PDR’s National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action, welcomed the fact that the film was being launched ahead of the November meeting in Vientiane of the first State Parties’ meeting of signatories to the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention.

The Convention, which entered into force as binding international law earlier this year, bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires the destruction of stockpiles, the clearance of affected land and the provision of assistance to victims and affected communities. To date, 108 countries have signed the treaty and 43 have ratified.

“This film will help delegates at the meeting understand the (UXO) situation in Laos, and mobilize more support for our efforts,” said Mr Chanthasomboune.

Filmmaker Nith Lacroix described some of the challenges involved in working in one of the more undeveloped corners of Laos. For example, a short sequence involving a traditional healer took three days of preparations and the sacrifice of three pigs, Mr Lacroix said.

© UNICEF LAO PDR 2010/ O'Brien
Director of  "Surviving the Bombs",  Nith LeCroix, at the screening of the movie in Vientiane

“The real stars of this film are the children themselves,” he added. “We wrote no script – they told their stories in their own words.”

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information: 

Simon Ingram, Chief of Communication Tel: + 856 20 551 9681
Tabongphet Phouthavong, Communication Specialist Tel + 856 20 551 9682




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