I must admit that I had mixed feelings when I see pictures of bomb shells in Laos. A feeling of a guilty person, for up until my mid 30s I never knew what happened in part of my mother’s land. How ignorant is that? And yet a feeling of at last I have opened my eyes. I have listened carefully and think about the stories that people shared with me and try to understand what happened to them.

I was a Lao city girl born and brought up in Vientiane and for the whole time I didn’t even know there was a war in northern Laos and along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

I felt very embassed to learn later that tens of thousands of families had suffered from the so called “secret war in Laos”. The houses that had been destroyed; the land that had been destroyed; the suffering from losses of family members; the land mines and bombs that are still taking hundreds of lives and making thousands disabled.

I just want to say that there were many ignorant Lao (and non-Lao) people like me that did not know about this war. Yet it is not too late to wake up. For me to know about this really opened my eyes. And it changed my life.

For the first time in my life I flew to Siangkhuang, to the north of Vientiane, in January 2002. Just before descending I saw big holes in the ground below. Many holes in the ground of the Siangkhuang plateau. Someone who sat next to me told me that they were bomb craters. And there was hardly any trees, just bare dirt on the ground.

When you leave the city in Laos, it is quite normal to see piles of bomb shells along the road. (Perhaps there won’t be many left soon – the Chinese are buying them and taking them to China!).

I for one have a better understanding of my mother’s land. I want to be one of the voices for those who suffered from the war. There is no winner in any war.

My friend took me to one of the caves where many people were killed when a B52 dropped a bomb. There was nearly 200 villagers and a few soldiers in there.