Reportage Memory of Indocina’s wars
Region of Xieng Khuang
The war doesn’t end with the end of the war operation or with an armistice. The armies don’t polish up their infamous dirt but they return home and leave alives that can only try to forget. The two secret wars followed each other at the border between Laos and Vietnam up to 1974 have left on the territory not only horrors and death, but a contaminated environment disseminated by UXO (residual war) mines, and craters of the various battles. Time hasn’t be able to eliminate the memory of a secret war fought in the silence,when nobody knew. Poverty has amplified the memory and the heritages of a fact happened 40 years ago. The images I want to show you do not tell about single men but make you know the face of a community that slowly try to make of the war a daily fact, with the consciously. The province of the Xieng Khuang, theater of battles and bombardments is for a big part still inaccesible because it is located out of the few roads and paths which are still infested of mines and unexploded bombs so that even the people who live there can’t cultivate their earth ( mainly economic resource!) and the scarce international funds don’t allow to clear the territory: Let’s think that to polish up one hectare of earth they require them 3000 Us dollar!
In this place, forgotten by the rest of the globe, it is very difficult to live infact for lots of time farmers have had to pick up the UXO to recycle its metal, with all the risks that this involves. In these pictures I would describe an uninhabitable landscape: the zone of “Nong Pet” full of craters where an attack from the mountains perpetrated by the Franco-American army and killed at least 150 soldiers lao-viet, or, the “Ban Tin” area where the trenches and the unexploded brooms mine the access, or the old American aireoport of “Ban Nong” now reduced to a sterile strip of beaten earth. Here, in all these places it is still possible to tastean atmosphere of death, of destruction, and the noises such as the sky tell clashes among factions. The war leaves also so much unused material but in an exhausted economy all can be recycled: the Russian wagons are still a valid mean of transport and pieces of exchange, the steel that is melted or sold by the farmers, or the howitzers that serve as foundations to the houses. Armies do not have respect for the sacred, as in the case of the monastery of “Wat Phia Wat” situated in the old capital “Muang Khoun”, bombed and scorned by the “western iron.” The war leaves always death as in the two mausoleums to Phonsavan. Then, the international community arrives, very later, and in the indifference of the greatest part of the world it tries with sterile means to polish up the territory as in the store of ONU at Phonsavan, but nothing can delete the horror of the history. Only the life and his to revive from the rubbles consoles this place violated by the silence.
All rights reserved © Alessandro Banchelli 2018