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Oncha Phonethavon | Lao PDR

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

"I am not afraid."

Oncha had just finished her studies when she heard that people were getting hired as

deminers. “It was a fabulous opportunity to have an exciting and useful job”, the 20-year old says. She works in a team that helps to clear her native Houaphan province from explosive ordnance.

© P. Jérôme / HI

Everyone here knows someone who has died or survived such an accident, but survival depends on the exploitation of the land. In villages without electricity, families live in near autarky thanks to hunting, fishing and farming, so they go to their fields every day with fear in their stomachs. That’s why Oncha is so enthusiastic.

“I love my job. It’s important to do this job because people really suffer from the presence of these weapons in the soil. A lot of Laotian land hasn’t yet been cleared. It needs to be made safe so that there is no more risk to people!"

Every evening, when the explosive remnants found are destroyed in a final explosion,

she feels very happy.

“With every bomb we destroy, I know that nobody will get injured or die any more, and that makes me happy.”

The work as a deminer is not an easy task: heavily equipped and working in hot and humid

conditions, demining is a physically demanding task. For many hours a day, Oncha patiently scans long strips of land with her metal detector. Oncha followed a very demanding training for one year to become a deminer.

“I’m not afraid. It’s true that there’s a risk, but I know my job and the safety procedures. If I follow them correctly, everything goes well,” she says.

“We want to give back to the farmers their fields as quickly as possible. Their lives change because of us. That’s why I’m very proud of my work!“ she concludes.
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