Monday, January 03, 2011

Deadly Weapons: Remnants of All Wars

How Deadly Weapons Continue to Rule Daily Life

Tread carefully In Xieng Khouang, a mother steadies her son as he walks along a rusted bomb casing. Arantxa Cedillo for TIME

Dec. 31, 2010 - At the Vienthong primary school in Laos' Xieng Khouang province, six students take out hand puppets made from clothing scraps and colored felt. Their audience — a class of around 15 children ages 3 to 5 — sits in a semicircle in a darkened classroom as the young puppeteers begin the show.

The puppet theater starts with an old man — indicated by the gray yarn of his hair — asking three child puppets to collect scrap metal. The children discuss the proposition, a dangerous one in Laos, where such a task often requires coming across decades-old explosives. Having learned about the risks in school, the puppets refuse and teach the man about the perils of gathering metal by breaking into song: "There are many types of unexploded ordnance/ It is very hard to guess where they are/ If you find one, please run away."

The lyrics are much catchier in Lao, and this isn't the first time the audience has heard the tune. The Vienthong school has twice-monthly classes on the dangers of submunitions, known locally as "bombies." Each lesson begins and ends with the "bombie song." {continued}

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