Last week Australians with an interest in southeast Asia had to endure the embarrassment of our diplomatically gormless prime minister marking his first visit to Vietnam with an endorsement of the Vietnam war. During New Mandala’s Focus on Laos, it is appropriate to recall the impact of that war on the Lao people. Here is a brief photo essay from Panpilai Kitsudsaeng that points to the constant visual reminders of that dramatic period of Lao history.
The word ‘Laos’ usually encourages thoughts of either a place of traditional culture, or of political and economic challenges. But those with direct experience with Lao people often comment on their wit, adaptability and strong sense of humour.
During the Indochina War more than 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos often with 200-300 air strikes flown per day. My Lao friends mockingly joked that each of them received at least a ton of bombs. These days in Xiengkhuang, the most heavily bombed area, people still make use of the bombs casings as sign poles, clothes line supports or even house decorations.
My Lamet neighbors in Houayxai, Bokeo Province put the casing on the rice barn stilts to protect their rice from the mice and rats which cannot climb the slippery casings.