A new airlift--moving thousands of displaced refugees back to their ancestral homes--is helping to cement peace in Laos after more than twenty-five years of conflict.
Nong Xa: LV Village
SV PULL BACK TO GV Leader of Laotian Patriotic Front (LPF) representatives talking to villagers
CU PULL BACK TO SV Men listening
SV PAN Villagers' representative walks forward to LPF representative now seated
CU LPF representative answers
CU PAN Truck past and stops
SVs Refugees and possessions boarding truck (4 shots)
SV Soldier closes tail of truck
LV PAN TO CU Truck past
GV PAN Vientiane Lorry through entrance of air-base
CU Documents TILT UP TO SV Man talking to officials
LV Refugees queueing to board aircraft
SV Same shot
MCU THROUGH AIRCRAFT DOOR as refugees climb into 'plane
SV PAN INT Aircraft during flight
SV ZOOM INTO CU Boy asleep in man's arms
CU Sleeping man PULL BACK TO SV Man looks through 'plane window
GV Phonesavan, Plain of Jars: Aircraft taxiis in and stops at airstrip
SV FROM INTERIOR OF AIRCRAFT THROUGH REAR LOADING DOORS as refugees and possessions are unloaded
GV EXT Goods carried from aircraft and stacked on grass
SV PULL BACK TO GV Group of refugees walk away from aircraft
GV Rear of aircraft as soldier wheels out bicycle
SV ZOOM INTO CU Pathet Lao representative welcoming refugees
GV OVER SHOULDER OF REPRESENTATIVE Large group of refugees in background
Initials BB/1725 EW/CD/BB/1805
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Background: A new airlift--moving thousands of displaced refugees back to their ancestral homes--is helping to cement peace in Laos after more than twenty-five years of conflict.
The operation is being organised and run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), at the request of the Laotian Provisional Government of National Unity headed by Prince Souvanna Phouma. Representatives of the Government and the Lao Patriotic Front (Pathet Lao) are assisting United Nations teams in carrying cut the airlift.
The airlift is considered to be of major importance in the programme of national reconstruction following the Vientiane Peace Agreement of February, 1973, and the Peace Protocol of September, 1973, ending the quarter-century of war between the Government forces of Prince Souvanna Phouma and the Pathet Lao forces of his brother, Prince Souphanouvong.
Revitalisation of Lao's shaky economy is essential for future stability. But this task--a problem for even highly industrialised nations--is especially difficult in Laos, which has the lowest population density of any southeast Asian state. With only 3.25 million inhabitants for an area of 236.800 square kilometres (88,800 square miles), it is crucial that the greatest use be made of all the arable land available in this essentially agricultural economy.
Following the Government's appeal to the UNHCR last June, arrangements were made to begin the airlift operation this year. Mixed teams of Government representatives and Pathet Lao forces accompany UNHCR officials to camps and villages along the banks of the Mekong river, where they explain the operation to the refugees. Emphasis is put on the fact that villagers have complete freedom of choice where they want to settle...but most of them are only too happy to have the chance to return home.
Once at home, the villagers and welcomed by more of the mixed Laotian Government and Pathet Lao teams, and are given aid and assistance in resettlement. By the end of February, more than 12,000 refugees had been returned to their homes, and--as the UNHCR census continues among the villages on the Mekong--it seems likely that several hundred thousand displaced Laotians will be returned to their own villages before the massive airlift ends.