NZ to give $1.1 million for cluster bomb clearance in Laos

  • Georgina te Heuheu
Disarmament and Arms Control

New Zealand will provide $1.1 million to the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic to help clear unexploded cluster munitions left in the north-east of the country, Disarmament and Arms Control Minister, Georgina te Heuheu, announced today.

"More than thirty years after the end of the conflict in Indochina, cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnance continue to kill or injure people almost every day in Laos," Georgina te Heuheu said.

"A quarter of all the villages in Laos are affected by the presence of unexploded cluster munitions - posing a real threat to people's livelihoods and wellbeing and holding the entire country back from development.

"Cluster munitions are an indiscriminate and inhumane weapon; they pose a grave risk to civilians, and in particular children, long after conflict has ended.

"The funding announced today will be used to clear unexploded ordnance in the north-eastern Xieng Khuoang province (the famous Plain of Jars) where New Zealand has already been involved in local development projects including cluster munitions clearance. 

"The clearance work will build on earlier efforts to make the region safer for villagers and develop their economic development opportunities, including tourism.

Minister te Heuheu is currently in Laos leading New Zealand's delegation to the First Meeting of States Parties to the global Convention on Cluster Munitions.  Thirty six states are known to be affected by cluster munitions and 85 states stockpile them. Worldwide stocks are estimated to amount to 860 million bomblets.

"New Zealand has been at the forefront of international efforts to ban cluster munitions.  We will continue to play a strong role in making this Treaty effective," Mrs te Heuheu said.  "Our contribution in Laos is a practical demonstration of this commitment."

While in Laos the Minister will visit cluster munitions clearance operations in the affected Xieng Khuoang province.