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Kingdom urged to sign ban

Global treaty banning the use of cluster munitions will take effect on August 1.

FEWER than 100 days before a landmark treaty banning the use of cluster munitions takes effect, campaigners are set to launch a global effort urging “holdout states” to get on board – and they’re starting today in Cambodia.

“Cluster bombs have caused injuries that cause incredible suffering to some of [Cambodia’s] people,” said Sister Denise Coghlan of Jesuit Refugee Services, who is involved in the campaign organised by the Cluster Munition Coalition. “They need to be party to a treaty that prevents this from happening anywhere else.”

The campaign will also target other holdout states in the region over the next few months, including neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.

However, disarmament advocates say the absence of Cambodia on the list of signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is particularly conspicuous in light of the fact that the government was one of its early backers. The convention – which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and includes land-clearance and stockpile-destruction requirements – will come into effect August 1 after Burkina Faso and Moldova brought the number of ratifying countries to 30 earlier this year, far sooner than many observers had predicted.

‘It takes time’
Officials say they are eager to sign on to the treaty, but that they must thoroughly examine its requirements before they do so.

“It takes time to study how [the treaty] will impact us. It does not take only one or two days to finish,” said Minister of Defence Tea Banh, who added that he could offer no estimate as to how long the process would take. “We are still studying.”

Cluster munitions are large bombs containing hundreds of smaller “bomblets”, which are designed to scatter on impact and explode.

However, many of the millions of individual munitions that were airdropped on Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 did not explode.

There are between 1.3 million and 7.8 million unexploded bomblets remaining in the Kingdom, according to an analysis produced in 2007 by the NGO Handicap International.

Like land mines, the bomblets can lie buried for years before causing severe injury and death when unearthed.

The convention calls on ratifying countries to declare and destroy any stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years and clear contaminated areas within a decade. It also stipulates that countries must offer assistance to survivors.

So far, 106 countries have signed on to the convention, indicating their intention to ratify the treaty.



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