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Govt delays on bomb ban

The impact of the international cluster munitions ban on Cambodia's defence capabilities must be assessed before the Kingdom can sign on, officials say

{flv}cluster_bombs_med{/flv}

TRACEY SHELTON AND

RICK VALENZUELA

Roger Hess of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation explains two types of

cluster bombs in Cambodia -- a US-made 105mm round that contains 18 M35

grenades and the Russian RBK 250 dispenser, which deploys 42 P-TAB 2.5M

anti-tank submunitions -- Wednesday at Golden West's Harvesting and R&D

facilities at CMAC's training centre in Kampong Chhang.

CAMBODIA has delayed signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions after expressing concerns that the international agreement could affect the country's defence capabilities, officials said Wednesday, adding that the government has not ruled out signing at a later date.

The convention, signed by nearly 50 nations Wednesday at a conference in Oslo, obliges signatories to cease the use of cluster munitions, or to not "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [them] to anyone, directly or indirectly".

It also requires nations to destroy stockpiles within eight years and to clear all contaminated land within a decade.

But Leng Sochea, permanent deputy secretary general at the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA), said the government will delay

signing the treaty while studying its impact on the country's weapons stocks and defense readiness.

"We are not saying we won't sign the convention, but we need more time to discuss it," he said, adding that the study, headed by Defence Minister Tea Banh, would "begin soon".

Thai tensions

Another CMAA official said that in light of the continuing border dispute with Thailand, the country needed time to assess the consequences of signing the treaty.

"We have to be sure [before signing] that the convention does not negatively affect our defence capacity under the current circumstances," said the official, noting that Vietnam and Thailand had also delayed signing the convention.

"We will have discussions soon with different organisations ... to find out the disadvantages and advantages of participating in the cluster bomb ban."

A defence expert who declined to be named said that the decision to delay the signing was a logical response to the refusal of Thailand and Vietnam to do the same.

Thailand, particularly, is known to have cluster bomb stockpiles in "very good" condition, as well as the means to deploy them, the expert said.

You're not going to give up your sword if they don't give up theirs.

"Between two nations that have been enemies for hundreds of years, you're not going to give up your sword if they don't give up theirs," he said. "It's as simple as that."
However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied Cambodia's delay was related to the situation on the Thai border and said that in the interim, the government would continue to observe the treaty's provisions.

"We have to understand exactly what they want in order to carry out and implement [the convention]," he said. "We want to do this correctly."

UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick said by email that the UN Development Program "has supported Cambodia's involvement throughout the two-year Convention on Cluster Munitions negotiation process and stands ready to support the government as a signatory in any way it can".

 (ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TRACEY SHELTON)

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