Monday, July 30, 2007

Landmine explosion in Vietnam kills 3 children

Source: International Herald Tribune
HANOI, Vietnam: A land mine left over from the 1970s exploded in northern Vietnam, killing three children and wounding six others, two seriously, state media reported Sunday.

The three children, all aged 10, were killed at the scene as they tried to extract scrap metal from the land mine on Friday in Lai Chau province, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said.

Six other children, also the same age, were wounded and two remained in critical condition, the newspaper said.

Read the rest of this article here.

Clear Path International, International Trust Deal offers new hope for landmine, bomb survivors in Vietnam


Source: ThanNien News:

The agreement's first proposal commits ITF to raise $230,000 from among its 27 government and private-sector donors to match the funds Clear Path is raising from the US State Department and US-based private-sector.

ITF's funds would bring CPI's total Vietnam budget for the 2007 - 2008 fiscal year to nearly $500,000, making it possible to provide services to more than 1,700 survivors of accidents caused by landmines and other unexploded ordnances (UXO) in at least four central coast provinces.

ITF's funds would be used to provide direct medical and socio-economic support to survivors and support several projects expanding physical and rehabilitative services available to persons with disabilities in their communities.

Read the rest of this article here.


Clear Path International President, Imbert Matthee (left) signs new agreement to give hope to civilian victims of war with ITF Head of Department for International Relations Sabina Beber Bostjancic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Man Learns to Walk Again After Losing Limbs to Decades-old Bomb in Vietnam

Photo by Rick Gunn

On May 10, 2006 in Que Son district, Quang Nam province Vietnam, a bomb left over from the US-Vietnam war exploded and severley injured two men. One suffered the loss of multiple limbs; the other, after several hours struggling against death at the district hospital waiting for an ambulance to arrive, died in the intensive care unit.

The survivor, Nguyen Dinh Vinh, the eldest of the four siblings, was born in 1982. However, Vinh had been raised by his grandmother since he was only five years old. His parents, who also live in the same village, do farm work to raise the other three children.

In October 2005, Vinh married a farm girl. The grandmother happily accepted a new member to her small house. The young woman took care of farm work, the old woman prepared meals for three while Vinh worked as a brick layer. At Vinh parent�s home, Thi, the next sibling and his parents were the main laborers. The last two siblings were students of secondary school. Life went on with its normal pace for everyone in the family.

Vinh sometimes went to big cities where there was more work available. A full day work�s wage would be VND 50,000 (equivalent to US $3). However, Vinh couldn�t save much. He had to return to the village for his wife was in the late month of pregnancy. There�s not much for him to do at home, but Vinh needed to stay around his wife and prepare for their first child to come. To everyone�s joy, a baby girl was born in late April 2006.

After returning home, Vinh made himself available for any type of work in exchange for cash. On May 10th, 2006, Vinh and his younger brother, Thi were reclaiming farmland in the forest. The two brothers had been hired for several days to work on that plot. The progress was good as they both were young and strong.

The accident occured at about 11:00 a.m when Thi was digging up a tree stump. In close distance, Vinh was bending down, pulling fallen branches away. A loud explosion woke up the quiet forest as Thi�s pick hit the ground. The ordnance was subsurface and thus, nobody knew what it was; but the powerful blast knocked two men down on the ground. Locals, guided by the explosion, arrived at the site and took them to the district hospital. They both were in critical conditions: Three out of four limbs on Vinh were badly crushed. Thi received injuries in his chest and abdomen. At the district hospital, the doctors decided to forward them to provincial hospital as they both need surgery as soon as possible. The next four hours passed in vain as the only ambulance of the district had already dispatched and the only thing they could do was just wait for another ambulance to come up from some 90 kilometers away to pick them up. Despite of his strength and youth, Thi died at the DaNang general hospital at 3 p.m.. He was taken back to the family within the same night.

The family was once again divided. One group stayed home preparing for the funeral, the other went to the hospital to take care of the injured. After 10 days of treatment, Vinh asked the doctors for permit to go back to the district hospital as the family�s money and energy was running out. The request was approved. Vinh stayed another month at the district hospital before release.

In March 2007, Vinh came to the Danang orthopedic and rehabilitation center for having prosthetics made. At the examine room he met Huyen, a CPI�s medical liaison here. The sad story was once again revealed. Vinh was then guided with procedures for reimbursement of expenses of the first treatment and assistance for his rehabs from CPI.

Based on the receipts sent by the family, CPI was able to reimburse all medical expenses for the two brothers along with nutritional and transportation supports as stated by its policy. The total amount for two was VND 5,586,971 (US $349.18). With this assistance, the family was able to pay back what they borrowed from their kind neighbors.

Vinh is now able to walk again. However, with the loss of his left hand, his working capacity is greatly reduced. At the time this narrative is being composed, Vinh stays at home to look after his daughter while his wife spends the morning selling vegetable at the local market and the afternoon on farm work.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Elephants "Learn" to Avoid Land Mines in War-Torn Angola

In the past I have posted about elephant landmine victims on the Thai-Burma border. The article below from National Geographic shows that elephants are learning to avoide minefields... but they are not sure how, exactly.

Ian Whyte is senior researcher at South Africa's flagship Kruger National Park, which has an estimated 13,000 elephants within its boundaries

He said the animals may well be able to develop the ability to avoid mined areas. But exactly how they do it�whether it's by true learning or by an ability to detect the mines somehow�is a matter of conjecture.

"Maybe they are able to smell the mines," Whyte said. "They move about with their trunks right on the ground, and it could be that they pick up the scent in this way.

"But they are also intelligent animals which move in groups. Maybe they learn to avoid places where they see other elephants get blown up."

Read the rest of this article here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Clear Path Burma Site: Landmine death toll rises in Karen state

This news comes from the Clear Path International funded landmines victim clinic at the Mae Tao clinic on the Thai-Burma border.

Souce: Democratic Voice of Burma

Landmine death toll rises in Karen state

Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, August 2004 560
July 05, 2007 (DVB)�The number of people killed by landmines in Karen State has increased dramatically this year as tensions continue between rival Karen rebels, according to staff at the Mae Tao clinic on the Thai-Burma border.

Saw Eh Thamwe, the coordinator of the clinic�s mine victim department, said that the clinic had treated 16 people injured by landmines in June alone and that increased tensions between the Karen National Union and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army were to blame.

�This year has the highest number of land-mine cases due to intensified fighting. in previous years, there were as few as ten landmine cases a year but in the first six months of this year we had 30 cases,� Saw Eh Thamwe said.

Married couple U Pho Htin and Daw La Pyait from Maw Htoo Tha Lae village near Myawaddy were bought to the clinic yesterday after they were injured by a landmine while gathering bamboo shoots in the jungle in the early morning.

�The wife lost both of her legs and her husband has gone blind. Because their wounds were quite serious we have sent them to the Mae Sot hospital with the assistance of the [International Committee of the Red Cross,� Saw Eh Thamwe said.

See photos of our work on the Thai-Burma border here.
See previous blog posts on the Thai-Burma border here.

China clearing landmines on Sino-Vietnamese Border

Source: China View

PINGXIANG, July 15 (Xinhua) -- His heart pounded as rivulets of sweat trickled down his face in the semi-desert heat. Wei Lianhai's hands, moist with perspiration, snipped the wire of a landmine laid in the Friendship Pass area, on the border between China and Vietnam.

"Hurrah!" shouted the 30 soldiers of the demining team of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). "Long live peace!"

The landmine Wei cleared on July 5 marked the end of more than 100 days of demining work, making the Friendship Pass zone a mine-free area.

"We've been working so hard to see this day," Wei said.

First constructed in the Ming Dynasty some 600 years ago, the Friendship Pass is situated in Pingxiang City in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

It has always served as a strategic border defense for the southern frontier of China. It was destroyed by the French invasion forces during the Sino-French war in 1885 and destroyed again by the Japanese during the Second World War.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s at least 10,000 landmines were laid within a three-kilometer radius of the Friendship Pass. The destructive devices were left behind since then.

Read the rest of this article here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reuters: Decade after Diana campaign, few use landmines

From Reuters:

Decade after Diana campaign, few use landmines

Mon Jul 16, 2007 9:31 AM BST
By Peter Apps

LONDON (Reuters) - Ten years after the death of Princess Diana and the first global treaty against antipersonnel landmines, experts say only a handful of rebel groups and perhaps one state dare use what has become a pariah weapon.

note from Clear Path: The one state is the state of Myanmar (Burma). Clear Path funds clinics to assist landmine survivors on the Thai-Burma border. You can read more here.
Landmine clearance agencies say it will likely take another decade to clear probably the world's two most affected countries -- Angola in southern Africa and Cambodia in Southeast Asia -- both the scene of long-running but now ended civil wars. Ongoing conflicts delay clearance in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But fewer are now being laid and many activists have moved on to a campaign against cluster munitions in the aftermath of last year's Lebanon war, which left much of the country's south seeded with small unexploded bomblets.

"There is a global stigma attached to landmines now," said Paul Hannon, executive director of pressure group Mines Action Canada.

Read the rest of the article here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jody Riggs: Burma�s situation is real!

note: Jody Riggs is currently volunteering on the Thai-Burma border with Clear Path International. He sent me this post by email. You can read more of his blog here:

This is not history! That is what continues to ring in my head. My name is Jody Riggs and I am a student prosthetist from Canada. The atrocities that I am reading about and the repercussions that I am witnessing are current events, happening just over those hills and across the Moei or the Salween river in Burma.

The victims of malnutrition, curable diseases, displacement from homes, forced labour, unfair imprisonment, landmine explosions are all around me. This is heart wrenching, though if we don�t keep faith how will these Burmese ethnic groups keep their faith?

Over the past four weeks I have been inspired to keep hoping and to assist in the solution. The work of international volunteers, representatives from various media sources and most importantly the Karen and other ethnic groups themselves do fill small voids but so much more needs to happen.

My life has been changed, my heart hurts each time I contemplate the depth of this situation. There needs to be more international awareness so that change can be brought to Burma. I encourage you to take a minute and look at this news article, my pictures and search topics like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Thai Burma Border Consortium, Free Burma Rangers, Clear Path International.

Choose to be aware�