Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nam Bak

Nam Bak was the site of some pretty big battles during the war. It is at a T-junction of national highway 13 (north to south) and a highway that runs to the Vietnam border near Dien Bien Phu.

An 8 hectare site on the outskirts of Nam Bak is being cleared in advance of a village expansion. Some bombies, but lots of land service ammunition (anything fired from the ground). Mortars, rockets, grenades, etc.

Someone's front yard, home to a 105 mm mortar buried about 10 cm below the ground. Their cook fire was about 3 meters away. Fire can cause UXO to explode if it heats up too much.

Lots of UXO is deemed safe enough to move to a special detonation site. It allows them to destroy the UXO without danger to surrounding houses, etc. We visited the site where they had collected a bunch of different land ordnance for destruction. Bombies are generally deemed too unstable and thus are destroyed where they are found.

They place them in the site, set a c-4 charge, clear the area and BANG! They are gone. A few of us stayed near (but a safe distance) to blow the cache while others went to a nearby hill to watch. I didn't get to see it, but certainly heard it as we were quite close (but again, safe in a cave around the backside of a small karst). Walking back, we found hot, sharp shrapnel between us and the site.

We were led by the UXO Lao National Program Director, the LP Provincial Director, Deputy Director, and others, as well as some international Technical Assistants, including our friend John Dingley, third from right.

Nice last trip, including a bit of free time Monday late afternoon when we hired a boat and headed up to Muang Ngoi where we bought some beer and headed back to Nong Khiaw. While there, a villager noticed John's UXO Lao shirt and reported a 500 lb bomb that some kids found about 2 KM north of town.


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