DELEGATES from around the world will descend on Laos this week to discuss an international treaty banning cluster bombs, which continue to ravage the Kingdom after they were dropped by the thousands decades ago.
Once instrumental in drafting the treaty, Cambodia has yet to ratify it, despite being among the countries most severely affected by cluster munitions.
Chan Rotha, Deputy Secretary General of Cambodian Mine Action Authority, said the impact of cluster munitions in the Kingdom made a Cambodian presence at the meeting symbolically important. CMAA deputy secretary general Prum Sopheak Mongkol, who will attend the meeting as an observer, departed for Vientiane yesterday.
“We want to show the world that Cambodians are victimised by American cluster munitions, and that we hate [the bombs] and want them destroyed and gone because they have killed many people”, Chan Rotha said.
Representatives from about 100 countries will attend the four-day summit, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition, an advocacy group. CMC said the meeting “is expected to be a defining moment in the life of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the most significant disarmament treaty in over a decade”.
Country representatives are expected to adopt an “action plan” to implement the agreement at the meeting, which ends on Friday.
Cluster bombs, launched from the ground or dropped from the air, split open before impact to scatter multiple bomblets over a wide area. Many initially fail to explode and can lie hidden for decades.
State parties to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, ratified by 45 countries, must immediately end the use and production of cluster munitions. The agreement went into effect in August, and also requires signatories to provide support to victims, destroy existing stockpiles and clear contaminated land.
The government has cited security concerns in explaining its reluctance to endorse the treaty, noting that regional rival Thailand had yet to sign. It has also voiced concerns about its ability to clear munitions within the prescribed timeline.
Heng Rattana, director general of Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said CMAC had cleared more than 50,000 cluster munitions since 2002. Some 223 people in Cambodia were reported killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war in the first nine months of this year, according to the CMAA.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP