I am traveling across the United States with Legacies of War on a speakers tour called Voices from Laos.
See our web site here.

On the tour we will be discussing how approximately 100 Laotians a year are still injured and killed by ordnance left over from the secret bombings that ended 40 years ago this week, and raising awareness about the need for more funding for bomb clearance as well as assisting bomb accident survivors.

Our tour was in the news this week with this story.

And on BoingBoing here.

I am traveling with my friend and bomb survivor Thoummy Silamphan who may do his own AMA at another time.

Come see us on tour:

April 3: Launch Reception, New York, New York

April 4: United Nations Headquarters, New York, New York

April 6: Fresno, California

April 7: Berkeley, California

April 8: Merced, California

April 9: Palo Alto, California

April 11: Sacramento, California

April 12: Portland, Oregon

April 16: Seattle, Washington

April 20: Madison, Wisconsin

April 21 & 22: Minneapolis, Minnesota

April 25: Harrisonburg, Virginia

April 30: Washington, DC

Proof here: http://imgur.com/OW4NRC2

I am participating in this AMA via an interpreter.

Wow. So many questions. We have run out of time and can't get to them all, but thank you! Come out and see the tour! Our tour dates are here: http://legaciesofwar.org/voices/events/

Comments: 2178 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

Rossums726 karma

How do the people of Laos feel about the US?

ManixiaThor1021 karma

Thank you for your question! Many people ask this question, relations and feelings towards the US is quite normal. The war happened a long time ago, and the US has been quite helpful with funding for bomb clearance, but more needs to be done.

mariuolo565 karma

How often do accident happen during a bomb removal?

In other words, how dangerous is your job?

ManixiaThor1112 karma

Because we have very many safety measures, we are very safe. We have had no accidents.

PlasteredPlatypus446 karma

I travelled through Laos last summer, and I must say that your country has some of the most beautiful yet inaccessible terrain I've ever seen. How much would this affect the bomb clearance process?

You also have some of the cheeriest locals I've met. Best wishes for you and your cause.

Edit: Spelling

ManixiaThor431 karma

There are places in Laos that will always have bombs because they are too hard to remove. Thank you for your nice words!

baconator0213353 karma

When and why did these bombings occur? Was this part of one of the US's various military conflicts in SE Asia?

Also, your name is awesome. Is it a typical name in Laos?

ManixiaThor599 karma

From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped 2,093,100 tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,344 bombing missions, the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. The code name was Operation Barrel Roll.

RE: my name, thank you! That is very flattering! At least for my first name, its not very common, I think I am the only person with that name that I know of. Thor however is more common, originating from the Hmong. I am half Hmong and Lao.

Crotchfirefly385 karma

Do you like sharing the name "Thor" with the Viking god of thunder?

ManixiaThor852 karma

Interpreter speaking here, we just explained to Manixia what your question meant and she laughed quite a bit. "I didn't realize my name had that significance!"

cobra_210994 karma

Thanks for your answer! You never said why we attacked you, though.

ManixiaThor356 karma

The US bombed Laos to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail used by the North Vietnamese to supply the Viet Cong in the south of Vietnam

Stromovik216 karma

This occured during the Vietnam War.

ManixiaThor194 karma

Yes, it was part of the US Secret War in Laos.

LyingPervert239 karma

Was your family personally affected by the actions of the US?

ManixiaThor383 karma

My uncle was injured by a bomb 15 years ago. Luckily he lived. My friend Thoummy who is on the tour with me lost his hand to a bombie when he was 8 years old.

Davelulz198 karma

This is not a question. Rather a compliment. You quite literally have the most badass name I have ever read.

ManixiaThor145 karma

Thank you!

theycallmecpk177 karma

Thanks for doing what you do, it's people like you that make a difference in the world. What has the US said in regards to leaving so many bombs in your country and not retrieving them?

ManixiaThor293 karma

The U.S. government provides funding for bomb clearance and is also funding the speakers tour I am on now to help Laos.

Mostly_Invisible_Man163 karma

What is the hardest part about leading a bomb clearance team, and does being all women make that better/worse?

ManixiaThor273 karma

The hardest part is lifting the larger bombs, some bombs can be upwards of 500 lbs.

T_HR_OW_AWA_Y119 karma

Im a little confused.. what bombs were being dropped that did not explode on impact? Are they sort of like a mine?

ManixiaThor263 karma

Cluster bombs of that era failed one out of three times to explode on impact. They are still dangerous.

The_Quasi_Legal106 karma

What would you say has been your biggest obstacle in getting support for your program?

(Thank you for everything that you do btw)

ManixiaThor157 karma

I have 20 women on my team. We are working all the time. If we had more money we could fund many many more teams working all the time. We just need funding!

jaotter95 karma

Why is the group all women?

ManixiaThor149 karma

On my team of 20 women we have thirteen mothers. We are a good team because we all have so much in common and understand each other.

tamammothchuk87 karma

How old are your children? Do they understand the importance of what you do and the tragedy of what happened in Laos?

ManixiaThor297 karma

I have one beautiful son. He is 2 years and 5 months old. He is still quite young, so I am not sure if he fully understands what I do. He is still beginning to talk. But he is a large reason why I work to clear bombs, to create a safer future for him to play, work, and live.

JiraiWolf86 karma

Do you ever work with US/EU clearance personnel? I am a U.S.ACE UXO Tech, and it has been my goal to help Laos in their remediation efforts. As far as I've found, most opportunities for expats are in administration or public relations sect. I'm looking to avail my training and skills to directly aid the people of Laos in any way that is needed. I've talked with some former members of UXOLao, all of whom gave me the impression my assistance would be a welcomed boon. Whether it be to assist in training new clearance techs, or to just be another body in the field digging for blu-26s, I'm ready and willing. Do you have any information/guidance for me?

ManixiaThor26 karma

Contacting MAG at MAGAmerica.org would be best.

TerryYockey86 karma

Ask you anything? Okay. SUH BAI DEE BO?

ManixiaThor97 karma

I am well! How are you?

moon211159 karma

I have been working with undetonated bomb victims in Laos and Vietnam, as well as Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. I want to ask you what you know about the incidence of Agent Orange in Laos? Is it a subject of conversation or even prevalent at all? We are looking at how we can/if it is worth expanding our research on AO into Laos.

ManixiaThor47 karma

best to write to [email protected] with that question. Thank you!

Trickyknowsbest49 karma

Are all of the left over bombs visible? If not what tactics do you use in finding and removing these bombs? Also do they just randomly explode?

ManixiaThor91 karma

Sometimes you can see the bombs on the ground and when people see them we hope they call us instead of moving them themselves. We use strong metal detectors to find the bombs underground.

Recall_Coordinator61 karma

Ever find something that isn't a bomb that is equally interesting, like a large chunk of gold bespeckled with rubies?

ManixiaThor136 karma

Yes! we often find military equipment. No gold.

alien640 karma

I have never visited Laos but I have heard many wonderful things about your country.

I don't have a question, but I want to say that what you are doing is wonderful :)

ManixiaThor67 karma

come visit!

zeta323238 karma


ManixiaThor105 karma

Laos was neutral.

viewerdoer33 karma

do you receive any aid from the US to get the job done?

ManixiaThor107 karma

Yes, the US has provided about $47 million dollars in total for bomb clearance and about $9 million this year. Unfortunately only 1% of the 80 million bombies have been cleared.

curveball6032 karma

How does it feel living in an area where war could take you any minute, the constant fear of stepping on a bomb abs that's it it's over?

ManixiaThor79 karma

I think about it a lot. In my job every day I see bombs, so I think about it all the time. I see people burning brush and think "there could be a bomb there". Of course I worry for my son when he gets older playing outside.

tattoo_remover28 karma

What more do you want the US government to do? What will the Laotian government allow?

ManixiaThor56 karma

We hope that this tour will encourage the US to support more clearance and victim assistance organizations.

WatFrog17 karma

How did you get involved in bomb removal, and did you know what you were getting into when you did?

Did you see a government ad and apply for a job, or have you always been involved due to your personal/family history?

ManixiaThor47 karma

I got involved just out of high school I passed a bomb clearance team working on the side of the road and thought it looked interesting.

ruperthackedmyphone17 karma

What do you do with ordinance when you find it?

ManixiaThor50 karma

It depends on the type of bomb that we find. Sometimes we move the bomb and destroy it. Sometimes they are too dangerous to move and we destroy them where they are.

Karosing15 karma

I don't really have any questions but I'd just like to say, regardless of the deconstruction that's happened because of all the bombs and live land mines, your country still remains a beautiful and under appreciated place. I'm adopted and my father was from Laos (that's about all we know) but ever since learning this I've always had this desire to travel there, to meet the people, sample the local cuisine and experience their culture. I'm a big travel junkie and maybe one day, when the chances of stepping on a land mine are alittle slimmer, I might be able to bring myself to visit there. I guess I can ask this; is there anything someone over seas can do to help speed this process of rebuilding along?

ManixiaThor37 karma

Thank you so much for your kind words. Laos is beautiful and please come visit! One thing to do right now is to ask your friends to come see me speak on the tour with Thoummy! Also donation to Legacies of War will make sure that Laos gets the aid it needs in the future.

mikkelchap11 karma

Have you had the chance to work with bomb-sniffing dogs? How effective or time-saving are they compared to other methods?

ManixiaThor13 karma

Not yet!

WhileTrue_10 karma

How does it feel like to have such a badass last name?

ManixiaThor53 karma

I only learned today the significant of my last name in the American context! I guess I'll have to buy a Thor shirt before I head back to Laos!

BagelDave8 karma

Are there any videos of your team removing or destroying bombs? This sounds like fascinating work. Thank you and please stay safe!

ManixiaThor11 karma

Thank you! you can see more on our website at www.legaciesofwar.org/voices.

Also, see www.magamerica.org

stuartiscool6 karma

Having visited Laos Can I just say you have the nicest people in south east Asia. Everyone I met there was lovely. However, I see many westerners come to the country and ruin it. It's turning into a place where people come to get drunk. How do you feel about westerners of today?

ManixiaThor22 karma

I am visiting the USA for the first time. People here have been very nice to me.

ymmij4 karma

if you were to recommend one book about Laos, or somehow reflective of Laos, what would it be?

ManixiaThor4 karma

Another Quiet American by Brett Dakin

Skulldude34934 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA! How have these bombs affected the ecosystem? Do certain areas in Laos remain uninhabited by people in fear of activating explosives?

ManixiaThor6 karma

Yes, there are areas that are not safe to live in. We work in high priority areas to make them safe for families.

coffeemochalover2 karma

I'm so sorry – do you feel like the US is doing a very good job cleaning up its mess?

ManixiaThor5 karma

The US government has spent nearly 50 million to clean up Laos. but we have only cleared 1% of bombs in the ground. More funding is needed.

IcePeten2 karma

So. How are you?

ManixiaThor9 karma

Very good!

CheeseasaurusVex2 karma

Do you feel that Anne Fadiman's "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" gives an accurate history of what occurred in Laos 40+ years ago? (I read it in a medical anthropology course and would be happy to send you a copy if you'd like.)

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!

ManixiaThor2 karma

I have never read this.

burndownchrysler1 karma

Our media in the states does not tell us anything about this. Is any of this intel on wikipedia?

ManixiaThor2 karma

Operation Barrel Roll is on wikipedia (interpreter speaking)

Suquida1 karma

What you do is really cool, but wow, I gotta say, you have an awesome name.

ManixiaThor1 karma

Thank you!

some_random_kaluna1 karma

Do you have a website for individual donations?

ManixiaThor2 karma

yes. Please visit www.legaciesofwar.org

polerawkaveros1 karma

You have a badass last name.

ManixiaThor2 karma

Thank you!

Rukinom1 karma

How many people have mentioned that it's cool that your name is Thor?

ManixiaThor5 karma

a lot.

Beemow1 karma

How does one get involved in something like this? Is there a way we can volunteer?

ManixiaThor3 karma

Yes! come see us on the tour and visit www.legaciesofwar.org to get more involved.