Tue, Dec 06, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Vietnam seeks US$500m to clear mines

Reuters and AP, HANOI

Vietnam is seeking US$500 million in assistance from domestic and international sources to help clear war-era bombs and mines and reduce the difficulties for its people and land contaminated by unexploded ordnance, officials said yesterday.

Vietnam already has available US$200 million to demine 500,000 hectares in 14 provinces by 2015, or 7.6 percent of the total affected land, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Bui Hong Linh told an international seminar, adding that only 300,000 hectares, or 5 percent, of the contaminated area has been cleared.

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has killed more than 42,000 people and injured more than 62,000 nearly four decades after the war ended, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the gathering.

“The task for the coming time is a difficult one,” Dung said. “The Vietnamese government always appreciates and wishes to continue receiving valuable help and support from the international community to overcome the consequences of bombs and mines left from the war.”

Vietnamese officials named no specific amounts sought from the international community.

The US used about 16 million tonnes of weaponry in the war that ended in 1975, Dung said. The country’s impoverished central region was subject to particularly heavy bombing and mining. The US administration sent troops to back up the former South Vietnam government between 1965 and 1973 in a conflict known as the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese forces took over Saigon, the capital of south, in April 1975, ending the war and reunifying the country.

Experts have estimated it would take hundreds of years to clear up unexploded bombs and mines, which have contaminated a fifth of the total area of Vietnam, the world’s second-largest producer of coffee and the second-biggest rice exporter.

The Southeast Asian country launched a UXO action program last year to raise awareness, apply the latest demining technology and reduce accidents that have hit mostly children and workers.

US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear told the seminar Washington had already provided US$62 million to help survivors of UXO accidents as well as to help Vietnam cope with “this painful legacy.” The US Humanitarian Mine Action Program has provided a further US$37 million since 1989, the US embassy said.

“Our efforts to help Vietnam deal with this difficult problem have helped build the mutual trust and understanding between the US and Vietnam that has allowed our bilateral relationship to flourish,” Shear said.

“The war’s painful legacy, which includes hundreds of thousands of tonnes of bombs and unexploded ordnance, continues to cause painful casualties every day,” Dung said at the UN-sponsored conference on ways to deal with the problem.

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