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Govt holds out on cluster ban

Govt holds out on cluster ban

AS a global convention banning the use of deadly cluster munitions comes into effect, campaigners are pressuring holdout countries, including Cambodia, to sign on.

Yesterday marked the day the Convention on Cluster Munitions became binding international law for the 107 nations that have signed it. The convention bans the use of cluster munitions and obligates signatory nations to eliminate existing stockpiles and clear land contaminated by such weapons.

Cambodian officials, however, continue to say that the government cannot sign the treaty before first determining how it might affect the military.

And because the treaty also demands that signatory nations clear land contaminated by cluster munitions within 10 years, authorities must be certain that goal is feasible before signing, said Leng Sochea, the deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.

“If we sign, it means we bind our hands. We’re studying how much it will cost to remove old cluster munitions and to protect our nation against border violations,” he said.

Cambodia signed on to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty banning land mines, but last year it received a 10-year extension on its obligation to clear contaminated land after acknowledging that the original goal for 2009 was unreachable.

Campaigners are planning a rally today in Siem Reap province to mark the launch of the cluster munitions convention.

Song Kosal, a youth ambassador for the International Campaign to Band Landmines who lost a leg after she stepped on a mine as a child, said more than 1,000 victims would urge the government to sign the treaty.

The victims will “call on the government ... to fulfill the demands of the victims of cluster bombs”, she said.

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