Secret War. Bombies. 40 years later.
A year ago today, I stared at the face of hope, humility and strength in the international community. The United Nations gave a spotlight to Laos for one week on the issue of unexploded ordnances. It was the First Meeting of State Parties (1MSP) on the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane. The convention went into effect to “prohibit all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions”.
The United Nations came into town, along with about 100 or so state parties that have signed the convention. It was a grand affair with the opening of a ‘goodbye, bombies’ song, elaborate fashion show and cultural dances from the country’s finest troupe. State officials sat alongside community workers at the same dinner table. Belgian royals to the African country of Burkina Faso attended the international conference.
All the while, the United States, the country I call my home and the country that bombed my home country; did not sign the convention nor was there one single official in sight. There was no major media and many Vientiane locals didn’t understand about the significance of this convening.
Channapha and the team from Legacies of War was on the ground, working hard in talks with embassy officials, engaging delegates with the Tapestry of Hope exhibit and riding around town in a traveling art tuk-tuk. No doubt, we were overwhelmed and ecstatic it was all finally happening.
I’d like to remember this week by sharing a few photos from the convention provided by our co-exhibitor and photographer friend Giovanni Diffidenti, a video of the opening ceremony, and a poem from Lao American writer, Bryan Thao Worra.
A stretch and sprawl of plain and hill
Where stones survive the coldest clouds,
You’re jars and trails and scars
Rebuilding your shattered face
One hammered bullet at a time.
The heart of Laos beats here,
Desperate as a bush-meat market
Of endangered beasts
Hungry for change,
Weaving adversity into opportunity.
You’re a place where
The long-haired goddess of Hope
Is always itching to leave, but she’s
A good daughter who always finds
One more chore she’s needed for,
Who never quite makes it out the door.