ADVOCATES for disarmament are calling on Cambodia to sign and ratify a convention banning cluster bombs before it enters into force in less than two months.
In the middle of a conference in Santiago, Chile, where delegates are discussing the next steps to take with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, several groups are taking particular aim at Cambodia and a handful of other countries for not signing on.
“As a highly affected country, Cambodia knows the devastating effects of cluster munition use on families,” Handicap International said in a statement.
The convention was ratified earlier this year, and its stringent regulations banning the use of cluster bombs and requiring the destruction of stockpiles will come into effect August 1.
Cambodia has so far opted not to sign the convention, despite its being an early and active proponent of the ban.
Leng Sochea, the deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, said the government still plans to sign it eventually, but that officials must first study its implications.
“Cambodia is one of the victims of land mines,” he said.
Defence Minister Tea Banh, meanwhile, said the country needs to ensure that it can protect itself.
“We will sign in the future,” he said. “Now we need to protect our country and our sovereignty first from other countries like Thailand, which has border problems with us.”
Jamie Franklin, country programme manager for the Mines Advisory Group, said he took officials at their word that they are committed to signing the treaty at some point.
But he, too, urged them to do so “as soon as possible”, noting that the first states party meeting scheduled after the treaty comes into force will take place in Laos in November.
“It will certainly be good for the government to sign on to the treaty before the meeting,” he said.
“It would be a good stage ... for the government to seek international support for clearing [cluster munitions].”