U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear Conducts First UXO Demolition in Quang Nam as Mines Advisory Group Expands its Work

Oct 15, 2012, 06:00 ET from MAG America

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Mines Advisory Group (MAG) America is excited to announce that MAG has expanded its landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance into Quang Nam province in Vietnam, becoming the first international organization to conduct Humanitarian Mine Action activities there.  First, an advance team of community liaison specialists were sent into Thang Binh district to commence operations in July, and on October 12, 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear had the honor of conducting the first explosion of demolition.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121015/DC92295)  

The community liaison staff are communication specialists that will methodically work through the district, talking to inhabitants, often household by household or in village meetings, and village leaders to find out the most contaminated areas.  They will also educate community members about how MAG works and the timeframe it takes to clear areas.  In the team's first week, it already recorded 27 dangerous items in Tra Doa 1 village.  There were items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that were clearly visible and exposed on the ground, including mortar, rifle grenades, artillery projectiles, and BLU-63 cluster munitions.  

This information was used to prioritize tasks for MAG Vietnam's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, which began clearing in Quang Nam this month.   The commencement event on October 12th, which included the first demolition, also worked to cement cooperation between the U.S. Embassy and U.S. State Department's Office of Weapon's Removal and Abatement, MAG, and the regional authorities in Quang Nam, including the Quang Nam Provincial People's Committee (PPC) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DoFA).   Mr. Dinh Van Thu, Vice Chair Quang Nam PPC, and Mr. Nguyen Hoang Minh, Director Quang Nam DoFA, were both in attendance.  By working closely together all parties can ensure that areas that have the most humanitarian impact are cleared first – this is land that will be used for farming, schools, and infrastructure. 

"UXO poses a physical threat to the health of the local population, generates anxiety, and prevents otherwise productive land use, which hampers social and economic development," said Ambassador Shear.  "In the coming months MAG staff will work closely with provincial authorities and local residents in Quang Nam province. MAG will work to visit every household to locate, mark and safely dispose of UXO."

The Ambassador also visited with a UXO victim and attended a community session where the population was asked about possible UXO in the area to ensure MAG is well connected with the community. 

The UXO in this area remains from the Vietnam War.  Quang Nam is a province on the south central coast of Vietnam that was the site of heavy fighting during the Vietnam War and where many U.S. military bases were located.  The province has a population of 1.5 million, most dependent on agriculture to feed their families and sell crops.  MAG's work in the area is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.     

Over 1,000 people have been injured or killed in Quang Nam since 2004.  Countless more have had their economic opportunities limited as land is not available to expand their fields for agriculture or build roads to other communities to sell goods. 

Vietnam Country Director Portia Stratton describes the most common UXO found in that region, "One of the most dangerous and prevalent UXO we find is the BLU 26, or 'bombies' as they are referred to locally.  These small round submunitions were dropped in bundles of 100 and 1000s, littering the Vietnamese countryside and presenting a particularly dangerous threat to the people who encounter them.  They are very dangerous to move or touch but their shape and size – about the same as a baseball - makes them particularly appealing to children.  MAG Vietnam wants to make sure that it can remove as many of these and other deadly items to help make this legacy of war a distant memory."

"As MAG expands its operations into Quang Nam, it will be a huge stride in providing a country-wide approach to enabling development and growth in this aspiring nation," concludes Jennifer Lachman, Executive Director of MAG America.   

MAG has been working in Quang Tri since 1999 and in Quang Binh since 2002.

From November 1999 to September 2012:

  • MAG has cleared 7,724,030 square meters of land, conducted 61,456 explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) spot tasks
  • Removed and Destroyed 183,932 items of UXO and 2538 landmines
  • More than 2 million people have benefited from MAG's work during this time.

More about MAG
Mines Advisory Group (MAG) America is 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit international organization that saves lives and builds futures through the destruction of weapons in conflict-affected countries that provides funds and builds awareness for MAG International, headquartered in Manchester, U.K.  MAG is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for its work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which culminated in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty – the international agreement that bans anti-personnel landmines, sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention.  Since 1989, MAG has worked in over 35 countries, coordinating with at-risk communities to make their lives safer.  For more information contact Patricia Loria at 202-531-6513 or at patricia.loria@maginternational.org.  Also, review our website at www.magamerica.org.  Additional photos for this release are available upon request.