Monday, October 24, 2011

Laos News Week In Review

In an LA Times blog, Best of the Web, they highlight Mediastorm's Surviving the Peace:
"Mediastorm’s latest production is a character-driven piece of advocacy journalism that looks at Laos, a country ravaged by bombing during the Vietnam war and held in a state of limbo by unexploded ordnance that peppers the fields of Laos. Even though war was never declared on Laos, over 2 million tons of munitions were dropped on Laos by U.S. bombers looking to disrupt North Vietnamese supply routes. Decades later the aftermath of the bombings still affect much of Laos. Every year a few people die and fertile farmland is left undeveloped."

Surviving the Peace is a good profile of the work of the Mines Advisory Group and worth checking out. A short 5 minute version is available, but if you get a chance, see the whole thing.

Speaking of crops:

Truth-Out.Org featured an article "It's Time to Compensate the Victims: Looking Back at Vietnam and Agent Orange," which also addresses the less commonly discussed issue of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants used in Southeast Asia, including Laos, that has caused cancer, birth defects, and devastated rebuilding efforts for decades due to American chemical warfare.

According to the China Daily the China-ASEAN fund invests $50m in Laos potash plant. Potash is an essential resource for agriculture and food production. Composed of potassium chloride, it is a critical fertilizer that provides a nutrient vital to the creation of protein and growing many nations' most important crops such as corn, wheat, soybeans, potatoes, and hay.

Simply put, potash gives farmers the edge required to grow the best crops and deliver the greatest yield per acre. Potash plays a vital role in making sure that agricultural land is as productive as it can be. The U.S. imports approximately 85 percent of its potash. And now, Laos is shipping it out and exporting it to other countries to use to improve foreign crops.

One more chapter closed from the war this week:

A Pittsburgh veteran's remains were returned after 42 years since he was shot down in Laos. Air Force Capt. Thomas E. Clark, 28, of Emporium, was shot down on Feb. 8, 1969, over Laos as he was attacking an anti-aircraft artillery position. Three other American pilots on the same mission in Laos did not see a parachute or any other signs of Clark. The U.S. Air Force posthumously promoted him to the rank of major. In 1991 and 1992, teams from Laos and the U.S. identified the crash site. In 2009, investigators recovered human remains there, and recently concluded they were Clark's. Clark's remains were in a flag-draped casket met by an Air Force honor Guard and several relatives.

In Indiana, the Journal Gazette ran a story "Love Waited 40 Years" that begins with a Marine facing death on the Laotian border during the Vietnam War.

This week, the BBC has provided an updated profile on Laos, including a timeline, facts, and a photoessay. And in the spirit of Halloween, we also present the April Fool's joke in 2005 claiming the BBC had run an article about zombies on the Lao/Cambodian border.

AsiaOne featured a story that the President of Laos has urged citizens to get measles and rubella shots. "The nationwide vaccination programme will run from November 1 to December 6, with the aim of wiping out measles and rubella in Laos by 2012." 

Asia One also featured a story regarding Laos donating money to assist Thailand's flood victims in a symbolic gesture. Laos, too, is dealing with flooding issues in what has been considered the worst flooding in a decade.

Voice of America has a brief article that the European Economic Crisis is now affecting developing countries such as Laos: "Many developing countries live or die economically on the strength of their exports. Whether it is workers in India making auto parts, or those developing software, coffee plantation workers in Laos, or carpet weavers in Egypt - all have one thing in common. Their most important buyers are people in Europe and other developed regions."

A Buffalo man from Laos has plead guilty to a bribery charge and faces 15 years in jail. According to the paper, he wanted "to pass two other Laotians on an English language proficiency exam to help them obtain U. S. citizenship. Sengchanh Sengsavath, 48, and Joe Phouthavongsa, 49, also of Rochester, were accused of bribing undercover law enforcement agents who they thought were immigration officers. Phouthavongsa pleaded guilty Sept. 20, and told U. S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, “I thought it was like my country, where you can buy anything.”

And finally, National Public Radio provided a recipe for chicken laap. Not as good as mae makes it, but go figure. This was part of a larger article on the influence of the French on Southeast Asian cuisine and has some notes on the effect of the French on Lao cooking.

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