All posts tagged: Channapha Khamvongsa

5 years later: Reflections on Laos, Bombs and the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions

In 2010, I was part of a delegation from Legacies of War that joined 1,200 other participants in Vientiane to attend the first meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It was the most significant international disarmament agreement in decades and it was unexpected – that this dynamic and fast-moving international process, initiated in Norway, and negotiated in Peru, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland and Uganda – would enter the important phase of implementation in Laos. On the one hand, it made perfect sense. Laos was the most affected country per capita by cluster munitions, but on the other hand, Laos was one of the smallest state parties to join the convention, and historically did not play a key role on the world stage. But under the bold leadership of Mr. Saleumxay Kommasith, of the Lao PDR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with support from other governments and civil society members of the Cluster Munitions Coalition, Laos had the honor of hosting the historic gathering. As I joined in the celebration with other …

When the idea of a bomb-free Laos became possible: An interview with Channapha Khamvongsa

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) are explosive weapons that did not explode when they were dropped and still pose a risk of detonation, many decades after they were used or discarded. About one third of Laos remains contaminated with UXO left behind from a Secret War bombing campaign  during the Vietnam War era, including about 80 million cluster munitions. The majority of victims are children, who mistaken them for toy balls. It started with hand drawings from survivors. Black bombies littering the sky. Red markings everywhere. Farmers running across the green fields. These drawings would be the start of what would lead to learning about a lost history and one woman’s passion to advocate what many thought would be the impossible: a bomb-free Laos. “Can you imagine? Being the person below, looking up and watching the sky fall over you?” -Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director of Legacies of War She fights against UXOs. She hearts food more than you and me. And she is an ally for Laos. You know this Lao woman. “Who isn’t her friend? She’s everybody’s best …