Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015

Vietnam is neither a State Party nor a signatory to 1997 Mine Ban Treaty nor the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Recommendations for action

  • Vietnam should provide an assessment of mine contamination.
  • Vietnam should accelerate survey of contaminated areas in its most heavily affected provinces to better define the extent of contamination.
  • Vietnam should accelerate development of a national database, making data available to operators on a timely basis.
  • Vietnam should report comprehensively on the results of survey and clearance by all operators, national and international. 


Cluster munition contamination

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is heavily contaminated by cluster munition remnants but the extent is not known. The United States (US) dropped 413,130 tons of submunitions over Vietnam between 1965 and 1973, striking 55 provinces and cities, including Haiphong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Vinh. Vietnam’s Military Engineering Command has recorded finding 15 types of US-made submunitions.[1] Most submunition types used by the US were air-dropped, but artillery-delivered submunitions were also used in central Quang Binh and provinces to the south of it.[2] 

The Military Engineering Command says it has encountered substantial amounts of cluster munitions abandoned by the US military, notably at or around old US air bases, including eight underground bunkers found in 2009, one reportedly covering an area of 4,000m2 and containing some 25 tons of munitions.[3] 

Mine contamination 

Vietnam’s mine problem is small compared with its other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination but the extent is unknown. Most mines were left by conflicts in the 1970s with neighboring Cambodia and China and affect areas close to its borders with those countries.[4] Some mines have also been found around former US military installations.[5]

Vietnam cleared an area up to 1km deep along its northern border under an agreement with China, but areas further inland from the border are still contaminated with mines emplaced by the military of both countries. Since 2004, military engineers have reportedly cleared around 95km² of contaminated land in the northern provinces of Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lang Son, and Quang Ninh bordering China under a project known as “Programme 120,” destroying mainly Type 72, K58, and PPM-2 antipersonnel mines.[6]

Cambodian border areas were affected by randomly placed mines reflecting the more irregular nature of the fighting there,[7] but Engineering Command reported in 2013 that the problem had been eliminated.[8] Many ports and river deltas were mined extensively during the war that were not completely cleared when it ended, and some sea mines have been found on the coast.[9]

Program Management

Vietnam’s mine action program is undergoing a period of transition, from military management to civilian oversight. A Prime Minister’s Decision in 2006 assigned the Ministry of National Defense to oversee mine action at the national level with clearance undertaken by the Army Engineering Corps of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN).[10] Until recently, BOMICEN, part of the Ministry of National Defense, acted as a central coordinating body for clearance and survey by national operators.[11]

In 2013, Vietnam announced a Prime Minister’s decision to establish a national mine action center (VNMAC) to strengthen the direction of mine action and provide a focal point for mine action operations.[12] VNMAC was given responsibility to propose policy, draw up plans, serve as the focal point for international cooperation, lead fundraising, and “to preside over” mine action information management. It is also responsible for organizing and implementing quality assurance.[13] The government appointed VNMAC’s director and two deputy directors in 2014 and the center became officially operational in February 2015.[14] 

Strategic planning 

Vietnam’s National Mine Action Plan for 2013−2015 released in May 2013 called for clearance of 1,000km² of ERW contamination a year to support socioeconomic development, giving priority to provinces with the highest levels of contamination and casualties. Implementation, however, was dependent on mobilizing substantial additional financial resources. Engineering Command estimated that to achieve the target it would have needed at least double the actual number of clearance teams.[15] It set no targets for antipersonnel mine clearance.

VNMAC reported that priorities for 2015−2016 included drafting and issuing a decree on mine action, fundraising for VNMAC’s headquarters, developing a national database, conducting mine action in Ha Tinh province using Japanese funding, and developing and implementing mine action in Vietnam’s most contaminated provinces.[16]


Most clearance in Vietnam is conducted by the Army Engineering Corps, whose officials have previously reported operating some 250 mine/unexploded ordinance (UXO) clearance teams, including the teams of approximately 50 military companies.[17]

Four international humanitarian operators conducted clearance in Vietnam in 2014: APOPO, Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and PeaceTrees Vietnam. Germany brought in APOPO at the start of 2014 to take over the program previously managed by SODI, but Germany stopped its funding in September 2014 and the program closed.[18] International operators are required to register with the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee to work in Vietnam but must negotiate agreements to operate separately with the authorities of each province. 

Land Release 

No land release data was received for 2014. BOMICEN reported that army engineers released about 450km2 in 2012[19] and VNMAC reported about 1,000km2 of clearance in 2013.[20]

The four international operators worked in the central provinces of Quang Tri, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, and Thua Thien Hue. Gaps in data prevent year-on-year comparison of the operating results but the amount of land cleared by international operators appears to have declined in 2014 while the number of submunitions destroyed appears to have increased. Mine clearance was incidental to their battle area clearance (BAC) projects. 

NPA shifted from BAC to applying its Cluster Munition Remnant Survey (CMRS) in Quang Tri and Hue, where it surveyed 27.9km2 of land in 2014, identifying confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) totaling 5.7km2. The remaining 22.2km2 was not “released” but recorded as “processed.” NPA undertook only small clearance tasks at the request of local authorities but the number of items destroyed in its roving explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations also increased sharply.[21] 

MAG, the largest of the four international operators with a total of 171 staff, reported releasing land through clearance of battle and mined areas, as well as conducting more than 12,000 spot/roving EOD tasks. In early 2014 in Quang Tri, it started a pilot project to clear confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) identified by NPA’s CMRS teams and later added the project as a core component of its operations, reducing the number of spot tasks and increasing area clearance. Clearance of Quang Tri CHAs accounted for 1.57km2 of the cluster munition-affected land it cleared in 2014 and for 1,075 of the submunitions it destroyed.[22]

Both MAG and NPA adjusted team deployments in 2014. MAG ended operations in Quang Nam province while raising its numbers in Quang Binh and Quang Tri, and NPA stood down non-technical survey staff in Hue because of funding shortfalls.

APOPO’s management of the former SODI operation in Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue provinces lasted only nine months until the program’s closure at the end of September.[23] PeaceTrees Vietnam, undertaking mine action to support community-building program in Quang Tri province, cleared some 93,500m2 of land in 2014, destroying 5,330 items of UXO.[24] 

International NGO clearance in 2014[25]


Cluster munition area cleared (km2)

BAC (km2)

Roving tasks

Submunitions destroyed

Other UXO destroyed

Antipersonnel mines destroyed






















PeaceTrees Vietnam














Note: N/R = Not Reported

The Ministry of Defense launched a two-year project to clear a 6.6km2 area of mines and ERW in Cao Bang and Lang Son provinces, starting in November 2013 and expected to continue into 2015. Army engineers reportedly cleared about 1km2 in 2013 but the Ministry of Defense has not released results for that program or any other mine clearance projects in Vietnam in 2014.[26]

[1] “Vietnam mine/ERW (including cluster munitions) contamination, impacts and clearance requirements,” Presentation by Sr. Col. Phan Duc Tuan, Deputy Commander, Military Engineering Command, People’s Army of Vietnam (PVAN), in Geneva, 30 June 2011.

[2] Handicap International, Fatal Footprint, the Global Human Impact of Cluster Munitions (Brussels, 2006), p. 15.

[3] Interview with Sr. Col. Phan Duc Tuan, PAVN, in Geneva, 30 June 2011.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Landmine Action, Explosive remnants of war and mines other than anti-personnel mines, London, March 2005, p. 181.

[6] Information provided by Sr. Col. Phan Duc Tuan, PAVN, in email received from Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), Hanoi, 24 September 2012; and in interview in Geneva, 30 June 2011.

[7] Interview with Sr. Col. Phan Duc Tuan, PAVN, in Geneva, 30 June 2011.

[8] Interview with Sr. Col. Nguyen Thanh Ban, Head of Bomb and Mine Department, Engineering Command, Hanoi, 18 June 2013.

[9] Landmine Action, Explosive remnants of war and mines other than anti-personnel mines, London, March 2005, p. 181.

[10] Prime Minister’s Decision No. 96/2006/QD-TTg, 4 May 2006.

[11] Email from Col. Nguyen Trong Dac, Ministry of National Defense, 6 August 2006.

[12] Interview with Maj. Gen. Pham Quang Xuan, Director, VNMAC, in Geneva, 31 March 2014.

[13] Prime Minister’s Decision 319/QD-TTg, 4 March 2014.

[14] Information provided by Do Van Nhan, Deputy Director General, VNMAC, received by email from Vietnam VVAF, 19 June 2015.

[15] Prime Minister’s Decision No. 738/QD-TTg, 13 May 2013; and interview with Sr. Col. Nguyen Thanh Ban, Engineering Command, Hanoi, 18 June 2013.

[16] Information provided by Do Van Nhan, VNMAC, received by email from VVAF, 19 June 2015.

[17] Interview with Sr. Col. Nguyen Thanh Ban, Engineering Command, Hanoi, 18 June 2013; and email from Executive Office of the National Steering Committee, 6 August 2012.

[18] Email from TeKimiti Gilbert, Head of Mine Action, APOPO, 16 June 2015.

[19] Interview with Sr. Col. Nguyen Thanh Ban, Engineering Command, Hanoi, 18 June 2013.

[20] Interview with Maj. Gen. Pham Quang Xuan, VNMAC, in Geneva, 31 March 2014.

[21] Emails from Gus Guthrie, Programme Manager, NPA, Hanoi, 9 June 2015, and 23 June 2015.

[22] Emails from Portia Stratton, Country Director, MAG, 13 May 2015, and 30 June 2015.

[23] Email from TeKimiti Gilbert, APOPO, 16 June 2015.

[24] PeaceTrees Vietnam, “Annual Report 2014,” undated but 2015.

[25] Data for January to September 2014, received by email from TeKimiti Gilbert, APOPO, 16 June 2015; emails from Portia Stratton, MAG, 13 May 2015, and 30 June 2015; and from Gus Guthrie, NPA, 9 June 2015, and 23 June 2015; and PeaceTrees Vietnam, “Annual Report 2014,” undated but 2015.

[26] T. Van, “Bomb and mine clearance starts in Cao Bang and Lao Song starts,” VNMAC website, 13 March 2014.