Photographer's Note

The Secret War
This photo needs context – please read the note.
Until the overthrow of the royal family in 1975 Laos was a monarchy. In 1950 a Vietnamese supported communist movement was started, which became known as the Pathet Lao. Over time they gained more support and power and, supplied by the USSR, they made their base in Xieng Kuang, holding control of most of Northern and Eastern Laos. US president JF Kennedy threatened to intervene to prevent communist takeover of Laos. To try and prevent this, in 1962 the Geneva Accord recognized Laos’ neutrality and specifically forbade foreign intervention into Lao affairs.
However, in direct contravention of the Geneva Accord, between 1964 and 1973, during the Vietnam War (or American War to Southeast Asians), Laos became the most bombed country on earth. The CIA organised air force officers turned civilians, to fly bombing missions primarily over Northeast Laos, Xieng Kuang in particular. The war was so secret that not only did most of the rest of the world not know about it, but American Congress was kept in ignorance. In any communications the location was referred to as “The Other Theatre”. In 1968 when US President Lyndon Johnson halted bombing in Vietnam, the increased availability of air power served to increase the bombing missions over Laos, and in 1970 US President Nixon authorised the use of the much larger B-52 bombers. By 1973 the average rate of bombing was one planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. In weight that amounted to 1.9 million metric tonnes of bombs, which equates to ½ tonne for every man, woman and child living in Laos. It cost the US taxpayers US$2 million per day and they didn’t even know about it.
Most information is from our guide – Pet, and confirmed by the Lonely Planet. For more information just google “secret war”.

Day 9
The original capital of Xieng Kuang province was Xieng Kuang town. It was practically razed to the ground during the Secret War, so in 1975 the capital was moved to Phonsavan. Now old Xieng Kuang is being re-built and re-named Muang Khoun. This photo is of the bombed ruins of Wat Phia Wat in Muang Khoun. The Rules of Engagement that had to be adhered to during the Vietnam War forbade bombing in Vietnam within 500m of a temple or hospital. These rules were ignored in Laos; this temple is one of the results. I don’t know the history of this Buddha Image; whether or not it was in this Wat pre-war, but ironically, the position is the one where Buddha is appealing for help from the Earth Goddess to save him from the evil Mara. There are 2 WSs to supplement this information

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Additional Photos by Kath Featherstone (feather) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7646 W: 399 N: 14391] (51130)
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