Two-month motorcycle journey on Ho Chi Minh trail with a pineapple in hand raises awareness
Robert Kinnear and his trusty Minsk motorcycle.
A two-month, 7,000-kilometre motorbike journey on the Ho Chi Minh trail to mobilise support for UXO cleanup efforts, concluded in Phnom Penh this week.
The awareness campaign, Project Pineapple, was masterminded by Robert Kinnear, a 59-year-old Scotsman who covered the distance with a pineapple in hand on a Soviet-era Minsk motorcycle.
Setting off from Luang Prabang, Project Pineapple called at Hanoi on March 19 to commemorate the invasion of Iraq, Ho Chin Minh on April 30 for the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war and at Vientiene on April 7 for international Bomb Awareness Day.
Rounded, brightly coloured and often featuring leaf-like fins, BLU 26 antipersonnel submunitions, more commonly known as cluster bombs or UXOs, were nicknamed "pineapples" by the American troops who laid them in the Vietnam War.
Between the years 1969 and 1973, the US dropped around 260 million of these deadly fruit on Vietnam and neighbouring countries, including 80,000 on Cambodia, of which around 76 million remain active today.
Handicap International estimates that 98 percent of cluster bomb victims have been civilians - 27 percent of them children - with an average of 10 children killed each month over the past 33 years.
Robert Kinnear was undertaking engineering work in the remote villages of Southern Laos, the county's most densely bombed region, when he tuned on his shortwave radio and heard the BBC announcing that the first bombs were being dropped on Iraq.
"Here I was, walking through the crap of 35 years earlier, seeing kids and adults who were having their limbs blown off by it, and now they were doing it again," he said.
A self-confessed political-animal, Kinnear aims to both assist locals, "the guys who have least, but deserve most", as well as lobby some of the world's most powerful states, among them China, Russia and the US, to sign The Convention on Cluster Munitions, forged in Oslo in December 2008.
"I've always been politically motivated and I like to describe what happened with UXOs as a carpet of bombs that was swept under the carpet," he said.
While he may be selling his Minsk in Cambodia, Kinnear will continue to publicise his cause through his blog, which has now received more than 16,000 hits.
To find out more about Project Pineapple, visit project pineapple.blogspot.com or email [email protected]