Officials have denied that the government had scrapped plans to send a delegation to a meeting of nations that have ratified a convention banning cluster munitions, insisting that a Cambodian delegation would indeed attend.
The meeting, set to begin November 9, will bring together governments, United Nations officials, activists and cluster bomb victims to discuss the merits of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which came into effect in August, but which Cambodia has yet to sign.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that a Cambodian delegation had been planning to attend the meeting all along.
“It will be someone from CMAC,” he said, referring to the Cambodian Mines Action Centre. When asked whether the government had originally declined to attend, he said, “No, what I heard is that Cambodia has committed to sending a delegation to the meeting.”
Chum Bunrong, Secretary General of the Cambodian Mines Action Authority, a separate group, said that CMAA delegates would also attend on behalf of Cambodia, in addition to officials from the Ministry of Defence and Cambodian Mine Action Centre.
“The reason we are late to inform the meeting organisers is because of our technical matter and our misunderstanding of the organisers,” he said, though he would not elaborate.
“According to the plan, our Cambodian delegates will be arriving in Vientiane a day before the meeting takes place. They will attend the entire meeting.”
Change of pace
Last week, Leng Sochea, the CMAA’s deputy secretary general, said Cambodia would not be sending a delegation to the meeting following orders from “high-level” authorities.
The Cluster Munitions Coalition, which is organising the meeting, also said on its website that Cambodia had indicated it would “not be able to participate”.
Conor Fortune, communications and media officer for CMC, confirmed that the Cambodian government has now registered its intention to attend.
“We’re very pleased that Cambodia will take part with some 100 other countries in this key meeting on the most significant humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the last decade,” Fortune said.
Cambodia was instrumental in the drafting of the Cluster Munitions Convention, but has so far declined to sign it.
Denise Coughlan, the director of Jesuit Refugee Services, who will be attending the meeting, said Cambodia should use the meeting as a way of showing its commitment to eradicating cluster bombs.
“After this meeting it will be hard for anyone to use cluster bombs,” she said. “The moral embargo on cluster bombs will be enormous, like it is with land mines.”
She welcomed the presence of a Cambodian delegation, but said she would “still love for Hun Sen or Hor Namhong” to attend the meeting and lend their weight to the issue.
Chum Bunrong said that there were millions of cluster bombs remaining in Cambodia, but would not comment on whether Cambodia would sign the convention.
“We think that the Convention on Cluster Munitions is important, but we will not sign it unless we have clearly considered and studied it,” he said.