Today, on Cambodia’s National Mine Awareness Day, we would like to congratulate the Royal Government for the remarkable progress it has made in addressing its land mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) problem. Casualty rates are dropping, the government has integrated mine action into its poverty-eradication strategy and thousands of deminers are working every day throughout the country to make Cambodia free from the threat of land mines and ERW. Cambodian deminers are even bringing their expertise to peacekeeping missions in Africa.
Cambodia now has an opportunity to further demonstrate its dedication to ending the suffering caused by these horrible weapons of war. On February 16, the total number of countries ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions reached 30, triggering its entry into force on August 1, 2010, when the Convention will become binding international law. Since the Convention was opened for signature in December 2008, Cambodia has stated its intention to sign, but it still has not done so. Signing this convention would be concrete proof of Cambodia’s continued commitment to peace and security.
Designed to break open in mid-air and scatter up to hundreds of smaller bombs over wide areas, cluster munitions cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians. Many do not explode on impact, thus continuing to claim the lives and limbs of innocent people long after conflict has ended. In Cambodia, millions of unexploded cluster bombs remain in the ground today – four decades after they were dropped. Children are especially vulnerable as they are often attracted by the toy-like appearance of the bomblets.
Moreover, cluster bombs, along with landmines and other ERW, seriously hinder Cambodia’s development because they prevent the rural poor from safely using land to carry out basic activities such as raising crops and building houses, roads, and schools. They also slow down major infrastructure projects and hamper efforts to preserve the environment.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years, and recognises the rights of individuals and communities affected by the weapon to receive assistance.
Cambodia was a leader throughout the two-year negotiation process to develop the Convention, but has requested more time to study the implications of signing the Convention because it retains cluster munitions stockpiles.
With the Convention’s imminent entry into force, the time to join the global movement to ban cluster munitions and prevent further harm and destruction is now. Since December 2008, 104 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including stockpilers, former users and producers of the weapon, as well as affected countries from every region of the globe. Any future use of these indiscriminate weapons will be stigmatised and generate an international outcry.
Furthermore, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic will host the first meeting of states parties to the convention at the end of this year. This comprehensive international ban on cluster munitions is the most important humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the last decade, and any country’s participation in this meeting as a state party would clearly signify its commitment to these principles.
A decade ago, Cambodia, as one of the countries most affected by land mines, ratified the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, and has become a leader in the international movement to ban land mines. Cambodia has a chance to repeat this success by becoming a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
We urge Cambodia to sign and ratify as soon as possible the Convention on Cluster Munitions to demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful and secure world.
United Nations in Cambodia
Sister Denise Coghlan
Regional programme manager
Norwegian People’s Aid
Handicap International (France
Int’l Campaign to Ban Landmines
Int’l Campaign to Ban Landmines
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