President Obama’s Visit to Laos

Last week, thanks to President Obama, the “Secret War in Laos” is a little less secret. President Obama is the first U.S. President to visit Laos. The purpose of this historic visit was to attend a summit meeting of Southeast Asian countries.


The U.S. has a connection to Laos that is rarely brought to light. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped millions of cluster bombs on Laos, more than we have dropped on any other nation. In the years since the war ended, over 20,000 people have been injured or killed from these bombs, which are littered across the country’s farmlands (  The President acknowledged our obligation to help with the removal of the unexploded ordnances and promised to increase funding to help with that effort.

The White House has posted a video with highlights from the visit:

PBS’s Deadly Legacy is an excellent window into the impact on this small landlocked country of five decades worth of unexploded bombs:

President Obama addressed the realities of the Vietnam War (or any war): “Villages and entire valleys were obliterated. Countless civilians were killed. The conflict was another reminder that, whatever the cause, whatever our intentions, war inflicts a wrenching toll, especially on innocent men, women, and children.” ( The legacies of war are painful and long-lasting, but a starting step in reconciling with the past and moving forward is for countries/leaders to publicly acknowledge and apologize for mistakes and/or lack of action before, during, and following the war years.

We are glad that the media has focused on bringing this very serious problem of “bombies” to light. The increased funding could definitely help save lives. Perhaps at some point in the future, another presidential visit to Laos will result in discussions and media coverage on what happened to the Hmong and Mien after the U.S. exited from Laos at the close of the Vietnam War. A new resource we will be adding to the Time of Remembrance website is a short documentary produced by California State University, Chico’s, Cultural Anthropology Department: StoryThreads:

With this fall marking the close of the HmongStory40 celebrations, we anticipate more communities will document their stories from the Secret War – and, in the process, celebrate the contributions of Laotian refugees to our nation. We are proud to showcase these stories of coming to America on the TOR website.

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