Making our way down to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, we weren’t quite sure what to expect but with a population of only around 240,000 people it has a very easy going vibe that we were happily drawn to. We also figured that while we were there we’d apply for longer tourist visa for Thailand that could only be done outside of Thailand. This gave us a couple days to explore this quiet capital and enjoy some chill time along the beautiful riverside promenade.
We visited the COPE visitor centre in Vientiane with a very brief understanding of what it was about but after spending a couple hours in the exhibits and movie rooms I walked out of there with deep sense of sadness for what happened in Laos all those years ago.
So I did a little more research to try find out a bit more about why Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history!
A brief description of their organisation as taken from the COPE website;
“Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, otherwise known as COPE, is a locally run non-profit organisation working with the Centre of Medical Rehabilitation (CMR), Lao Ministry of Health and four provincial rehabilitation centres in an innovative partnership to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services for Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) survivors and other people with disabilities across Lao PDR.
COPE and CMR together are currently the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos.”
When they mention Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) they mean the little bombs or sub-munitions (bombies) that are packed together into larger bombs that make up Cluster Bombs. UXOs also include unexploded large bombs, rockets, grenades, artillery munitions, mortars and land-mines but it’s the bombies that are the real problem. Roughly 30% of the bombies in every cluster bomb don’t explode on impact and embed themselves into the ground which, years later, can still explode if someone stands on it, knocks it or lights a fire near to it.