Phonsavan - Plain of Jars

Right: Plain of Jars Site 2

Phonsavan in northern Laos is notable for the mysterious Plain of Jars, stone age relics of which little is known though they do appear to have been some sort of funerary device. The area is also known as one of the most heavily bombed places on Earth. During America's "secret war", Xieng Khuang Province came in for some pretty severe treatment. The jars sites are liberally sprinkled with bomb craters and it is not unusual to see bomb casings used as fence posts, decorative elements or seed planters around the district.

site two

Xieng Khuang is probably the most heavily bombarded place on earth. Indeed Laos as a whole is per capita just that. During the Vietnam war (which incidentally the Vietnamese call the "American War") America dropped a plane load of bombs every 8 minutes for the entire nine years of the war, roughly a ton of bombs for every Lao living in the country at the time, costing the American taxpayer about 2 million dollars a day. The Plain of Jars is liberally dotted with bomb craters as American foreign policy approached a level akin to international vandalism. After The Lao had managed to form a coalition of the royalists communists and neutral factions a convention in Geneva ratified the whole deal yet within months the CIA were in there arming the Hmongs against the Communists, all rubber stamped by JFK. The Hmongs incidentally only really had one cash crop, which was opium, useful for the CIA when it came to funding some of their other covert operations. Both the Americans and the Vietnamese continued to supply their mates (America supporting the Lao Royalists, while secretly arming the Hmongs, as the Viet Minh supported the Pathet Lao (Lao communists)). When the Ho Chi Minh trail opened up through eastern Laos the bombings intensified of course, all in contravention of international treaties and all behind the backs of the American public until 1970.


Left: Bomb Casing, Phonsavan

Various hotels and restaurants in town display bomb casings and in someplaces they are used as fence posts. Some however try to dismantle the bombs to sell for scrap, an activity which often has tragic consequences.

A British company called M.A.G. is involved in clearing up remaining uxo (unexploded ordinance) and have a small office in town with informative displays. They also show a couple of documentaries in the evenings and for a minimum $10 donation you get a t-shirt.

One curious display in the M.A.G. office was of couple of pages from a "South Vietnamese National Front for Liberation" propaganda leaflet encouraging G.I.s to defect.