18 years ago, when I was eight, I was digging for bamboo shoots to make soup for my family and my shovel struck a cluster bomb. The explosion resulted in my left hand having to be amputated.

I have been touring the United States with the Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs, Saving Lives Speakers Tour to educate people in the US as to to the remaining bombs in Laos from secret bombings of my country that ended 40 years ago this month, what is being done to address the issue, and what others can do to help survivors like me.

My friend Manixia Thor did a very popular AMA here a few weeks ago as we started the tour. She talked a lot about demining. I can tell you about how it feels to be a survivor of a cluster bomb explosion and what is needed to help people like me. There is a great need.

**** THANKS FOR ALL YOUR GREAT QUESTIONS: this is all I have time for today. Please come see us in DC on the 30th.**

Comments: 613 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

brsmnky007146 karma

What is the current attitude towards the US government and US citizens 40 years after the military action in your country?

ThoummySilamphan312 karma

relations are quite friendly and normal, I have many American friends in Laos and we are focused on the future of our work and how we can solve it together.

kevishere123 karma

What is the most important thing you would like people in the United States to know about cluster bombs in Laos?

ThoummySilamphan176 karma

Victims assistance and awareness about UXO are the top two for me. Many many people do not know the danger that is left in Laos.

ThoummySilamphan165 karma

UXO by the way stands for unexploded ordnance, many of the UXO in Laos are cluster bombs or bombies as we call them

SwagSnail122 karma

What was your initial reaction?

ThoummySilamphan239 karma

After the accident, I was very saddened and depressed, I thought of ending my life, and it became very hard to live mentally and physically without my body being full.

an0nymister96 karma

What changed those feelings?

ThoummySilamphan262 karma

I had a friend that gave me hope and I realized I still had a lot to live for. I started a non-profit called Quality of Life that helps survivors like me find hope like my friend did for me. Find us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/QLACenter


Do you remember much of the explosion when it occurred?

ThoummySilamphan171 karma

When the bombie exploded,I had a "what happen" moment. I couldn't open my eyes. I could hear people around me saying " what happen, what happen" then I was home on my way to the hospital. i remember seeing blood and wanting to see my hand, but my parents wouldn't let me see to shield me and keep saying everything will be ok with you

Aven2ra79 karma

I went to see you at JMU a few days ago. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm wearing the bracelet Manixia put on me too!

ThoummySilamphan61 karma

Thank you for coming out!

thisisfake5553 karma

Is "Thor" a common name in laos? awesome!

ThoummySilamphan71 karma

yes! and Manixia says hi!

WingZero150 karma

I love the name Laos. It sounds so cool. I expect to get down voted.

ThoummySilamphan64 karma

Not from me! Thanks!

space_monkies37 karma

Are you only raising awareness or are you proposing a demining plan? If so what does it consist of? How long would it take?

ThoummySilamphan62 karma

I represent the voice of survivors on the tour and my friend Manixia represents deminers, my primary goal currently is awareness raising for victims assistance because so few people know the history of the bombings and the human toll its taken on the people of Laos.

JoshNarkson27 karma

Was the medical staff at the hospital you were treated at familiar with your type of injuries?

ThoummySilamphan50 karma

I was too young at the time to really understand what type of capacity the medical staff had, I was only 8.

ThoummySilamphan43 karma

but now medical services are better, but definitely need more resources

JakeThePom27 karma

How many UXOs were dropped?

Do you have any idea how many might remain? After so many years of bomb clearing, I would think that a lot of the bombs have been taken care of

ThoummySilamphan50 karma

2 million tons of ordnance remain in the ground by some estimates. Despite years of clearance only 1% has been cleared.

Free_Dumb22 karma

Are their specific known places where bombs are likely to be, or are the bombs in seemingly random places?

ThoummySilamphan24 karma

They cover much of the country. You can read more here: http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/leftover-unexploded-ordnances-uxo/

fashabala19 karma

What does the younger generation think about the situation? I have a friend who emigrated to our country from Laos maybe 5 years ago and I've never heard her mention this, though her mother is still very wary of Americans and never liked her going out with friends.

ThoummySilamphan42 karma

The war was a very long time ago. We have friendly relations with the US. Of course, the bomb situation is very serious and we need to help survivors and clear the bombs that are left. Most people want to know if we are angry. No. That seems like a waste of time when there is so much work to do.

Arehoboth16 karma

to follow the last question, in what relevant and important ways, specifically what type of assistance would be most helpful?

ThoummySilamphan30 karma

Psychosocial support is very important and is an area that is severely limited in Laos. My non-profit Quality of Life Association also aims to help survivors by providing jobs. Currently we are only able to help 10 survivors, and my goal is expand that number because we have over 600 survivors in my province alone. Funding for victims assistance through private donations are also helpful for us to build that capacity.

ThoummySilamphan25 karma

you can also learn more about Quality of Life Association on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/QLACenter?fref=ts

poloisdank12 karma

What has the international community do ne in relation to cluster bombs since the Vietnam War?

ThoummySilamphan20 karma

The international community has responded with funding for bomb removal and victim assistance. The need is very great, however! The good news is that the US government has increased its funding to 9 million in the last year. We hope that this tour will inspire others to help fund assistance and clearance.

freemarket2712 karma

Which country, China or the US, do you think cares more about the welfare of the people of Laos?

ThoummySilamphan37 karma

The Legacies of War tour was funded by the US Dept of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. Hilary Clinton visited Laos when she was Secretary of State and vowed to increase funding to clear bombs and assist victims. As she promised funding has tripled for bomb clearance, risk education and victim assistance. This tour is meant to educate about the need in Laos and raise funding for additional clearance and victim assistance work.

Sev3n12 karma

Have you encountered a group attempting to disarm and remove such bombs? Have you attempted yourself?

ThoummySilamphan21 karma

There are groups now clearing in Loas that are professional organizations like Mines Advisory Group and the HALO Trust. Many people try to defuse bombs to sell the scrap metal. Many people are hurt this way.

blink0r11 karma

Is there anything an average person can do to help you or your foundation? Any kind of volunteering over the internet or anything?

ThoummySilamphan16 karma

The best help is to tell your friends and make a donation and please make a donation at legaciesofwar.org. Please tell your friends!


Where are your favourite places to go and things to see in Laos?

ThoummySilamphan14 karma

Luang Prabrang and Xieng Khoung. In XK the weather is very nice, not so cold, no so hot. LP has many beautiful places, temples, markets, and its very nice

uhwuggawuh7 karma

What is your opinion on the general Vietnam War, and America's involvement in Asia during the Cold War?

Outside of spreading awareness of remaining bombs and mines in Laos as a humanitarian issue, do you consider yourself a politically active and outspoken person?

In a few words, what can the average American do to clear mines and bombs out of countries like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc.?

ThoummySilamphan10 karma

The best thing to do is to donate money to groups helping and ask your friends to help! The war happened a long time ago. It was a confusing time.

mrslavepuppet6 karma

Are there still incidents of people getting hurt or losing their limbs from the cluster bombs?

ThoummySilamphan13 karma

Yes, approximately 100 a year.

zeWoah5 karma

Do you think you can remember the first thing that ran through your mind when it happened?

ThoummySilamphan8 karma

I thought "what happened?" and I could not open my eyes.

Dear_Occupant4 karma

Have you thought about offering any help to the victims of the Boston Marathon attack? I would imagine they would be grateful to talk to someone with your experience. Additionally, it would help bring some awareness to what your group does.

EDIT: I realize that it's gauche to talk about downvotes, but I strongly suspect the downvotes to this comment are coming as a result of a conversation I am having in another unrelated thread. If you are downvoting the suggestion that a guy who lost his fucking left hand from unexploded ordinance might have something therapeutic to say to the Boston Bombing victims because of something completely unrelated to this topic, then may God help your soul.

ThoummySilamphan6 karma

That is a veery good idea. We are heading back to Laos to soon to help, but I wish we could.

jonaas4 karma

What is your ultimate goal- or what, precisely, is it that you hope to accomplish with a tour? You said earlier to raise awareness. But for what? Are you hopeing US citizens will pressure their government to help with clean up? Is this just a way to spread anti-war propaganda? (I apologize if that sounds crass) You clearly feel strongly on the subject, as you should, but the goal of all the effort is eluding me.

ThoummySilamphan13 karma

This is the 40th anniversary of the end of the bombings of my country and we need additional funding for clearance and victim assistance. The goal of this trip is educate people and to raise funding for more clearance and victim assistance efforts.

Yuchiras4 karma

Hi, I don't know if this has been asked, but, in a few sentences, what would you like us to learn about your experience. Do you urge us to do anything?

ThoummySilamphan9 karma

I would like for people to know what happened in Laos and to many people like me. If more people know then maybe more people will help survivors

Mr_Niche3 karma

It sucks that there are places on this planet that are so dangerous because human beings want to kill each other. Do you think something like this would help?

ThoummySilamphan7 karma

No. That design will not help in finding unexploded bombs.

crash943 karma

I know landlines in Cambodia are also a huge danger in the region. Do you discuss that topic along with your talks about Laos?

ThoummySilamphan4 karma

We have focused on the situation in Laos on this trip.

ImOnTheRadio2 karma

I first heard about these unexploded clusterbombs on a Finnish backpacker TV show called "Madventures". I felt really sickened first when I heard that the US even refused to help with the costs of cleaning up the explosives.

ThoummySilamphan18 karma

You can feel better. The US government has assisted with clearance and victim assistance. From the press kit we have for this tour:

"Between 1993 and 2010, the U.S. contributed on average $3.1 million a year, or $51 million total, for UXO clearance, risk education and victim assistance. In April 2010, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment held the first ever hearing on the issue of UXO in Laos, helping to educate members of Congress on the issue and increase support for additional funding for UXO clearance in Laos.

In 2011, U.S. funding for UXO programs began to increase dramatically, first to $5 million, and then to $9 million in 2012."

Brad_Wesley1 karma

How do you know that it was a cluster bomb as opposed to an unexplored regular bomb or other device?

ThoummySilamphan13 karma

If it were anything bigger I would have been killed. The shrapnel from the bomb identified it as a cluster bomb.

Niftymuse_1 karma

I've been studying the Vietnam War in Sixth Form this year and it's truly intriguing - Though we have focused more on the American, (political), side of things more than Vietnamese Civilians. My question is, how much has the effect of the War affected you, 40 years on. You said, initially, you were "sad and depressed", but how is life now compared to then?

ThoummySilamphan3 karma

I was not alive during the war.

kushS0 karma

does america pay retribution to any victims? or do you guys get the cold shoulder from the american government?

ThoummySilamphan8 karma

I have answered this before, but it is an important question. This is a quote form our press kit on the tour: "Between 1993 and 2010, the U.S. contributed on average $3.1 million a year, or $51 million total, for UXO clearance, risk education and victim assistance.

In April 2010, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment held the first ever hearing on the issue of UXO in Laos, helping to educate members of Congress on the issue and increase support for additional funding for UXO clearance in Laos.

In 2011, U.S. funding for UXO programs began to increase dramatically, first to $5 million, and then to $9 million in 2012."

terminusbound0 karma

Who do you blame?

ThoummySilamphan45 karma

I would rather we think "How can we help?".

ColdChalk0 karma

Have you been involved in the war at all?

ThoummySilamphan8 karma

No, the war was over for twenty years when i had my accident. It ended before I was born.

montrer_ses_plaies-3 karma

This post on reddit will be the highest point of your life. The sad truth is that no one really cares about your story. You are a one handed chonger.

ThoummySilamphan2 karma

Well, Google my name and then yours. Let me know how that goes for you.

Eugi-3 karma

My question: Why should we care about this issue?

What happened to you is an undeniable tragedy and one of the many horrors of war, but with so many other international problems vying for our attention I find it hard to understand what your point is.

Moreover, what is the reason Laos is unable to handle this problem by itself? Why travel overseas to drum up support (and, I imagine, money) instead of trying to cause internal change in Laos? Thank you.

ThoummySilamphan4 karma

Lao people are strong people. But this issue is way too big for us to handle alone. More bombs were dropped on Laos that in all of World War 2. It is expensive to do it properly and we can't do it alone.