2014 To Walk the Earth in Safety: East Asia and Pacific
President Obama’s rebalance toward the East Asia and Pacific region is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The Asia-Pacific is home to half of the world’s population, more than half of its gross domestic product, and nearly half its trade. While the region has seen tremendous growth in prosperity, it faces many challenges, including the legacy of ERW from past conflicts.
Explosive remnants of war (ERW) and landmines remain in the region from various armed conflicts since World War II. Much of mainland Southeast Asia’s contamination resulted from the Vietnam War and border disputes. Laos is the world’s most heavily bombed country per capita. In Laos and in other countries in the region, U.S. conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs help return cleared land to residents for development. Released land is free to generate economic growth, improving lives and also expanding consumer capacity. In the Pacific, World War II unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination lingers on many of its islands. U.S. funds in the Pacific support both clearance operations and capacity building to assure that these island nations may safely conduct their own UXO clearance tasks.
The U.S. CWD program has provided more than $258 million in the East Asia and Pacific region toward the clearance of legacy ordnance, risk education, victim assistance, capacity building and the nonproliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Burma (Myanmar) suffers from extensive landmine contamination as a result of decades of internal conflict between the Burmese army and armed ethnic groups, as well as explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination from World War II. While reports indicate a reduction in new mine emplacement, mines are still deployed in ethnic conflict areas. No complete estimate of the extent of contamination exists; however, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor identified hazardous areas on Burma’s borders with Bangladesh and Thailand. The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor also identified 3,349 casualties between 1999 and 2012 from landmine and ERW incidents in Burma, but the total number of casualties is unknown.
The government of Burma has taken steps to permit humanitarian mine action activities, such as the Ministry of Health’s Department of Social Welfare’s development of the national Mine Risk Education Working Group. This group serves as a forum for international nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and national NGOs to report on current or planned activities. However, the Burmese government has delayed establishment of a planned national level institution—the Myanmar Mine Action Center—and official adoption of mine action standards. Current policy is that international NGOs cannot legally conduct survey or clearance activities but may carry out mine risk education and survivor assistance. The Ministry of Health does not distinguish mine and ERW incidents from trauma incidents, and a lack of suitable healthcare infrastructure leaves many victims without access to proper treatment. However, some survivors received assistance through rehabilitation centers in Burma and near the border in Thailand.
Since assistance to Burma began in FY2011, the United States has provided more than $2.2 million for programs that supported victim assistance and risk education services in Burma.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided no additional funds but monitored FY2012 funded programs for mine risk education, capacity building, and victim assistance programs as follows:
• World Education, Inc. continued to provide training and material support to Kayah Prosthetics, a small prosthetics clinic in Kayah State.
• DanChurchAid continued capacity building activities related to mine action with FY2011 funds.
Also in FY2013, the Leahy War Victims Fund of the U.S. Agency for International Development provided more than $1.3 million to support a survivor assistance program, including a disability adviser/victim assistance position in the country, with a view toward further investment in physical rehabilitation activities in the country.
Nearly three decades of armed conflict left Cambodia severely contaminated with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The Khmer Rouge, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), the Vietnamese military, and to a lesser extent, the Thai army, laid extensive minefields during the Indochina wars. These minefields are concentrated in western Cambodia, especially in the dense K-5 mine belt along the border with Thailand. UXO—mostly from U.S. air and artillery strikes during the Vietnam War and land battles fought along the border with Vietnam—contaminate areas in eastern and northeastern Cambodia. While the full extent of contamination is unknown, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor reports that a baseline survey completed in 2012 of Cambodia’s 124 mine-affected districts found a total of 1,915 square kilometers (739 square miles) of contaminated land. In 2013, efforts were made to expand the baseline survey to all contaminated districts.
Since 1995, the United States has invested more than $97 million for landmine clearance and safe UXO disposal, dissemination of munitions risk education to at-risk populations, and provision of survivor assistance programs to UXO survivors and their families.
A HALO deminer training to use a MINEHOUND detector near a temple in Cambodia. [Photo courtesy of HALO]
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $5.8 million to Cambodia as follows:
• The HALO Trust (HALO) conducted two projects in northwest Cambodia. The first, a matching project with Freedom Fields and Rotary International, cleared 240,000 square meters (59 acres). The second cleared approximately 3,480,000 square meters (860 acres) through the deployment of 33 clearance teams.
• Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (Golden West) continued its Explosive Harvesting System (EHS) program, recycling munitions to produce explosive charges in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner. In a joint project funded by PM/WRA and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) program, Golden West implemented Phase 2 of the development of an underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capacity within the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC). This phase mentored, trained, and maintained the underwater demining dive unit of CMAC through their first year as they developed the skills and organizational mechanisms required for independent sustainability.
• Landmine Relief Fund completed small village clearance tasks. Two EOD teams cleared approximately 12 villages.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) continued operations in northwest Cambodia focusing on survey and clearance activities. Funds support the deployment of two community liaison/non-technical survey teams, one mine detection dog team, three Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS) teams, and one battle area clearance team. These teams worked to clear 210,000 square meters (52 acres) of high-priority, high-impact areas and 350,000 square meters (86 acres) of high-priority, medium/low-impact areas. Funds also support the development and field-testing of U.S. DoD Humanitarian Deming Research and Development (HD R&D) technologies, such as HSTAMIDS, for HMA activities.
• Spirit of Soccer continued mine risk education (MRE) through soccer programs in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pailin, and Pursat provinces. Funds support the dissemination of MRE messages to more than 30,000 children and adults .
• Sterling Global developed Cambodian national capacity through support of CMAC and RCAF. CMAC’s Demining Unit 5 deployed in eastern Cambodia. RCAF delivered surplus munitions to the EHS and destroyed excess small arms and light weapons.
In FY2013, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed military EOD teams to southern Cambodia to conduct explosive remnants of war disposal training. This training included first-responder medical training with emphasis on blast trauma injuries. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid appropriation funded travel, supplies, equipment, and service costs totaling $424,000.
Also in FY2013, the DoD HD R&D Program provided $987,000 in funds and new technology to support mine action assistance in Cambodia. Cambodia continued operations in FY2013 using previously provided technology valued at $4 million.
With funding and support from the U.S. DOS and the DoD HD R&D Program, HALO and MAG continued their operations with and evaluations of the dual-sensor Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS) in manual mine clearance of densely cluttered minefields. In partnership with the HD R&D Program, MAG and HALO have cleared 6.4 million square meters (2.5 square miles) of land and detected 24,000 anti-personnel mines with HSTAMIDS. HSTAMIDS has accurately discriminated 12.5 million detections as metallic clutter, saving 10–15 minutes of excavation time for each. The HD R&D Program continued an evaluation with HALO of a second dual sensor handheld detector, Minehound. To date, Minehound has cleared over 470,000 square meters (116 acres) of land and found 464 anti-personnel mines.
The HD R&D Program initiated a combined evaluation of the Scout and Scorpion UXO detection systems with MAG in live battle area clearance sites to provide deminers with accurate, real-time mapping and marking of targets for follow-up clearance. Scout is a vehicle-towed electromagnetic induction (EMI) array for detecting and marking UXO. Scorpion is a cart-mounted dual sensor detector using EMI and magnetometer sensors to detect shallow and deep buried UXO. The Scout and Scorpion systems assist in conducting technical survey of large suspect areas and allow deminers to focus on high risk and highly contaminated areas.
In primary mechanical mine and vegetation clearance, the HD R&D Program continued operational field evaluations with HALO and MAG of the Badger tracked excavator, the Storm steep slope excavator, the Nemesis skid-steer, and the Rex small tracked excavator. Together, the technologies have cleared 955,000 square meters (236 acres) of vegetation and suspected hazardous soil, finding 1,771 mines and items of UXO.
Additionally, in FY2013, the Leahy War Victims Fund of the U.S. Agency for International Development provided $600,000 to the International Center, which provides oversight to the Veteran’s International Cambodia rehabilitation project. The funds supported physical rehabilitation programs, including prosthetics, orthotics and mobility aids, in three centers in Cambodia: Kien Khleang in Phnom Penh and two centers outside of the capital, one in Kratie and one in Prey Veng. One objective of the funding is to focus on sustainability and to hand the project over to the Cambodia government.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world as a result of the Indochina wars of the 1960s and 1970s. While landmines were laid in Laos during this period, unexploded ordnance (UXO) such as cluster munitions remnants (called “bombies” in Laos) represent a far greater threat to the population and account for the bulk of contamination. UXO, mostly of U.S. origin, remain in the majority of the country’s 18 provinces. Population growth in rural areas and other socioeconomic factors has increased demands to return land to productive use, leading to a greater risk of death and injury. A clear picture of the contamination that remains in Laos does not currently exist because a national survey has not been conducted. International nongovernmental partner Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) developed a unique survey methodology that is evidence-based and focused on identifying and mapping cluster munitions strikes. Such a survey can provide a baseline on what remains to be cleared, and a way to prioritize tasks.
A female deminer carrying her equipment walks near an ancient temple in Laos. [Photo courtesy of Sean Sutton/MAG]
Since 1995, the U.S. Government has invested more than $71 million in Laos for clearance and safe disposal of UXO, dissemination of munitions risk education to at-risk populations, and provision of survivor assistance programs to UXO survivors and their families.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $9 million to the following programs in Laos:
• The HALO Trust provided five UXO clearance teams to survey and clear UXO from 51 hectares (126 acres) in the Savannakhet province. Funds support enhanced survey procedures for more efficient use of clearance assets, and combined explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and risk education services aimed at conducting EOD tasks and delivering risk education to more than 3,000 people.
• Health Leadership International improved medical diagnostic capabilities and competencies of district-level medical personnel and medical education in UXO-affected districts in Laos. The organization delivered five portable ultrasound machines to hospitals for use in the program.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) operated five survey and clearance teams in Xieng Khouang province for 12 months. The teams cleared approximately 25 million square meters (9.6 square miles) of land.
• NPA continued their evidence-based survey of 30 villages in Sekong province, supported the supervision of UXO survey and clearance efforts through UXO Lao, and provided managerial support to the National Regulatory Authority.
• Sterling Global provided support to the UXO sector in Laos through technical advisers. Funds also supported the supervision of UXO survey and clearance efforts through UXO Lao and provided managerial support to the National Regulatory Authority.
• Spirit of Soccer provided risk education for school-aged children through soccer coaching activities and sports, specifically in Xieng Khouang province.
Members of a Cleared Ground Demining battle area clearance team transport a recovered aerial bomb dropped by the Japanese during World War II. The bomb was buried on a beach on Peleliu, Palau. [Photo by Dave Hardison/State Dept. Image]
• World Education Inc. supported an improved integrated victim assistance program in Xieng Khouang province, providing trauma-care training capacity for Lao medical trainers, developing a national first-aid curriculum, and delivering risk education in 200 primary schools. Funds also supported medical assistance to victims in other provinces, as well as the expansion of the Voices of Laos Speaker Tour to five additional cities.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) of both Japanese and U.S. origin from World War II affects Marshall Islands. Despite large-scale clearance efforts in the 1950s, UXO contamination remains on some of the nation’s atolls, particularly Mili and Maloelap.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $250,000 to Golden West Humanitarian Foundation to survey and clear surface UXO on Maloelap and Mili Atolls and buried munitions caches on Mili Atoll.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from World War II (WWII) contaminates Palau, an island nation. As a result of fierce fighting between American and Japanese forces in late 1944, the island of Peleliu contains the majority of the contamination. However, UXO from WWII can be found throughout the nation’s many islands.
Since 2009, the U.S. Government has invested $424,890 for conventional weapons destruction and battle area clearance (BAC) efforts in Palau, including BAC along Bloody Nose Ridge in Peleliu and UXO spot task removal.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $189,890 to the nonprofit Cleared Ground Demining for BAC of priority areas in Peleliu and UXO spot clearance tasks on the main islands of Babelthuap and Koror.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining from World War II (WWII) still impact Solomon Islands. Since 2011, the United States has provided more than $1.8 million to support explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and clearance in Solomon Islands.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $560,000 to Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (Golden West) to continue EOD training for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force’s (RSIPF) EOD team. Golden West trained some members of the RSIPF to EOD Level II and others to Level III. The team also performed UXO spot tasks on Guadalcanal and assisted Operation Render Safe, the annual Australian-led Pacific regional UXO removal exercise in other areas of Solomon Islands.
Also in FY2013, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program provided $35,000 to support mine action assistance in Solomon Islands. Solomon Islands continued using previously provided technology in FY2013 valued at $325,000.
HD R&D continued an evaluation of the Badger, an armored excavator, in Solomon Islands with Golden West on the island of Guadalcanal, where U.S. and Japanese forces fought in WWII. The Badger has a suite of attachments for removing thick, mature tropical vegetation and deeply buried UXO and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO). It provides access to EOD teams to locate and clear UXO/AXO at Hells Point. The UXO/AXO found at Hells Point have long been a source of “fish bomb” material that endangers local populations and destroys fishing grounds. The Badger has cleared 512,000 square meters (126.5 acres) of extremely dense jungle vegetation in difficult terrain and found 4,247 pieces of UXO/AXO.
Explosive remnants of war (ERW) contaminate virtually all of Vietnam as a result of 30 years of conflict extending from World War II through the Vietnam War. The most heavily contaminated provinces are in the central region and along the former demilitarized zone and include the Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, and Quang Tri provinces. Parts of southern Vietnam and areas around the border with China remain mined. In 2012, there were 73 reported landmine and ERW casualties, a significant increase from the 31 reported in 2011. Most international nongovernmental organizations believe this is due to an increase in accident reporting. The Vietnamese government executes the majority of landmine and ERW clearance through its military clearance operator, Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal (BOMICEN). A 2013 presidential decree to establish a civilian Vietnam National Mine Action Center clearly illustrates Vietnam’s effort to bring increased transparency to its mine action program.
From FY1993 to FY2013, the United States invested more than $70.4 million in Vietnam for clearance and the safe disposal of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), improving the lives of victims of landmine/UXO accidents, improving access to land and infrastructure, and supporting the development of conventional weapons destruction (CWD) capacity.
In FY2013, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $4.5 million to Vietnam for the following programs:
• Catholic Relief Services (CRS) expanded upon previous funding to further integrate mine risk education (MRE) materials into primary school curricula in Quang Binh, Quang Nam, and Quang Tri provinces. CRS trained more than 9,800 teachers in MRE integration guidelines, reaching 147,000 students in at-risk communities.
• Clear Path International provided support to survivors of landmine/UXO accidents and their families throughout Vietnam. Customized to each beneficiary, this assistance included medical support, vocational training, and education.
• Golden West Humanitarian Foundation improved CWD capacity in Vietnam, specifically through training and technology transfer to BOMICEN.
• The International Center – Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation provided technical assistance to strengthen the capacity for the executive office of the national mine action program, Vietnam Bomb and Mine Action Center, and BOMICEN.
• MAG (Mines Advisory Group) provided survey and clearance of landmines/UXO as well as community liaison services in Quang Binh, Quang Nam, and Quang Tri provinces in central Vietnam. MAG deployed three community liaison teams and a total of 10 mine action teams over two phases. These teams conducted explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) spot tasks in 46 villages, benefiting more than 37,000 people.
• Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) provided capacity development support to Project RENEW, including technical support to the UXO education museum in Quang Tri province and the mobile prosthetics workshop. NPA also completed the development of a provincial mine action database in Quang Tri province and supported annual running costs.
• PeaceTrees Vietnam conducted EOD spot tasks in Quang Tri province through the deployment of two survey and clearance teams. Funds also supported a matching project that relocated a village found in a high-risk flood zone to a safe location and cleared the former village land of contamination.
In FY2013, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed USPACOM Humanitarian Mine Action office personnel and military explosive ordnance disposal operators to conduct conventional munitions stockpile assessments and training. Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid appropriation provided funding totaling $420,000. Also in FY2013, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program provided $51,000 to support mine action assistance in Vietnam. Vietnam continued operations in FY2013 using previously provided technology valued at $300,000.
In partnership with MAG, HD R&D continued an operational field evaluation of vegetation cutters, cutting 250,000 square meters (61.8 acres) of vegetation. The vegetation cutters provide critical access in densely vegetated areas to manual clearance teams. Additionally, in partnership with Project RENEW, NPA evaluated an armored excavator in area-preparation and clearance roles.
Thailand. Since 1993, the United States has provided more than $12.9 million to support explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and clearance in Thailand.
In FY2013, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program provided $1.2 million in new technology to support mine action assistance in Thailand. Thailand continued operations in FY2013 with previously provided technology valued at $400,000.
HD R&D partnered with the Thailand Mine Action Center to begin an evaluation of the Mini MineWolf, an earth tilling system capable of clearing anti-personnel (AP) and anti-tank (AT) landmines. The Mini MineWolf is currently opening access lanes for manual deminers and conducting technical survey of large areas of suspected minefields. To date, the Mini MineWolf has cleared 52,000 square meters (12.8 acres) and encountered 250 AT and AP mines and pieces of unexploded ordnance. Evaluations continued on other demining equipment, including the small Wolverine Vegetation Cutter and Beaver Mini-excavator.