Legacies of the Vietnam War
A team of brave women work to remove an explosive legacy of the Vietnam War from Laos.
Tessa Bunney is a documentary photographer with a particular interest in landscapes and the way they are shaped by human activity.
She is currently based in Vientiane, Laos, where she freelances for non-government organizations as well as working on project titled “Field, Forest and Family” supported by Arts Council England.
Between 1964 and 1973, during the Vietnam War, the United States dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance on Laos, making it, per capita, the most heavily bombed country in the world.
An estimated 30% of these bombs and other explosives failed to detonate – leaving the country with approximately 75 million unexploded items when the war ended.
UCT6 is an all-female clearance team, one of seven in Xieng Khouang province working for Mines Advisory Group, a United Kingdom-based humanitarian organization that aims to reduce the terrible effects mines and other remnants of conflict can have on people even after wars end.
From 2004 to 2012, UCT6 and the other teams organized by MAG destroyed nearly 162,000 bombs and other unexploded ordinance.
The women of UCT6 know the tragedies that unexploded ordnance can unleash. One of them lost her husband when he stepped on a bomb while foraging for food, leaving her with five children to look after by herself.
Another womanfarms on family land that has not yet been cleared. “We don’t have another place to grow rice,” she says.
Text and photographs by Tessa Bunney
Team UTC6 on its way to a clearance site. Deputy team leader Manixia Thor, 25, dressed in green, is responsible for monitoring the team on site.
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