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NZ pledges $11.5m for Laos bomb clean up

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/09/2016 Karen Sweeney

New Zealand technology will be used in Laos to help save up to 50 people a year who are killed or lose limbs to unexploded bombs, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

After meeting with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith during his first visit to the landlocked Asian nation, Mr Key announced the government would spend $11.5 million to continue clearing up Vietnam War era munitions.

Laos is the world's most bombed country on a per capita basis and around a third of the bombs - about 80 million - dropped did not go off.

Trials of New Zealand technology which melts unexploded ordnances, rather than requiring them to be dug up or exploded, is included in the funds.

The money is part of a two decade long ongoing agreement between the two nations, and others. The United States this week pledged $90 million over three years.

"There's a lot of work to go on here. To put a bit of perspective on it, if we carry on collectively as a group of countries and NGOs the current clean up rate I think it would take 80 years to deal," Mr Key said.

The Prime Minister will get a chance to see what work is being done when he visits an unexploded ordnance facility outside Vientiane later on Thursday.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing an Air Services Agreement which is hoped will improve travel opportunities between the nations.

"About 5000 New Zealanders a year, we think, come to Laos ... increasingly we're seeing young New Zealanders come and spend time over here so we think that will grow over time," he said.

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