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Groups demand an end to cluster bombs

Groups demand an end to cluster bombs

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Children are most often the victims of cluster munitions, which are mistaken for toys or harmless pieces of scrap metal, say supporters of international ban

Photo by: Christopher Shay

Man Hoeung, 10, and Sophan Rittay, 8, demonstrate how they handle live munitions in Kratie province’s Thom village.

CHILDREN are most often the victims of cluster bombs, millions of which still litter the countryside, officials said Thursday, the final day of an awareness-raising tour through the eastern part of the Kingdom that remains largely infested by the deadly explosive devices.

"Most of the victims from such weapons are children because they think these weapons are toys," Khem Sophoan, the director general at the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said as the Ban Bus tour, organised by the UN Development Program and several aid orgnisations, wrapped up in Phnom Penh.

Cluster munitions - bombs that break into multiple smaller explosives that often fail to detonate, leave hazardous explosives behind - ones that are often mistaken for scrap metal or children's playthings.

The tour, part of an international effort to ban cluster bombs, aimed to collect at least 400 signatures from Cambodians in Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces, two of the areas most affected by the munitions.

The petition will be presented in December in Norway, at the formal signing of a global cluster bomb ban.

Cambodia has sent representatives to every international conference about the ban, and on Thursday Sam Sotha, the secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, reconfirmed that Cambodia would sign the ban.

Douglas Broderick, the UN's resident coordinator, said: "By giving a good example in terms of land mines and awareness, we can have other countries duplicate it to build momentum in this global campaign."

The Ban Bus collected stories from bomb victims around Cambodia to share with the international community, and aid groups and victims hope the world will listen.

"The one clear resounding message coming from the people is that cluster munitions cause unacceptable harm to civilians," Broderick said.

Victims often said they felt empowered to know that others might not suffer in the same way.

"The ban on cluster munitions is not just important to my family, but other children around the world. I feel proud. I feel happy because the campaign prevents kids from being in danger," said Yoeun Sam En, who was blinded and lost both arms in a cluster bomb explosion.

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