40-Year-Old American Bombs from the Laotian Secret War Still Cause Two Casualties a Week

Every day, Manixia Thor and her team of 20 women wake up knowing the jobs they have to go to could get them blown to smithereens. Unexploded American cluster bombs could detonate at any moment as they excavate dangerous areas of Laos with their metal detectors. Since the Laotian “Secret War" ended some 40 years ago, millions of these unexploded bombs lay dormant across the country, regularly maiming children and ruining or ending the lives of the thousands who accidentally set them off.

Due to Western involvement in foreign coup d’états, alleged third-party funding of rebel uprisings, and diplomatic meetings behind closed doors, history has seen many wars fought in a way that could be considered secret. Few secret wars, however, laid and continue to lay siege to a native population like the Secret War in Laos—an undeclared state of conflict so brutal that it gave Laos the official title of being history’s most bombed country.

For nine years, from 1964 to 1973, the US government dropped over two million tons of cluster bombs and other heavy artillery on Laos. They did all this to help the Royal Lao Government (RLG) combat the far-left communist rebel group Pathet Lao, whose members were trying to, and eventually succeeded in, overthrowing them and taking control of the country.

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