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September-October 2010
Vol. 35, No. 5

Cambodia: Efforts to ban cluster bombs

In Cambodia, much effort by groups such as the Jesuit Service is spent to have the government sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Cluster bombs are canisters dropped from an airplane; the bomb opens up to release a cluster of bomblets over a wide area to kill personnel and destroy vehicles. The Cluster Bomb Treaty, created in Dublin in 2008, has 107 signatories, not including the United States. From 1964-73 the U.S. dropped several million tons of cluster bombs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In Laos, 30 percent of the bombs dropped by the U.S. did not explode immediately. For years they recorded that every day at least one person was either killed or injured by unexploded ordnance. An estimated 20,000 civilians have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs in the countries affected by the Vietnam war. The following article was written by Ly Sovanna and published in early August on the website of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN).

The Cambodian government should sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions as these devices continue to kill people, say participants at an event marking the convention becoming international law.

“I want our world free from cluster bombs,” said Youen Sam En from Kratie province in northeastern Cambodia. “All governments should sign this convention, especially countries that produce” these devices, he said.

Sam En, who lost his arms and eyes in 2004 to a cluster bomblet, was one of hundreds who gathered at the Jesuit Refugee Service, Cambodia center in Siem Reap for the Aug. 2 event.

Participants, who included Buddhist monks, NGO representatives, cluster bomb and landmine victims, were celebrating the convention becoming international law the day before.

The convention prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. Cambodia is not among the 108 countries that have signed this convention. Of those that have signed, 38 have ratified it.

The Cambodian government should sign the convention, said Buddhist monk Venerable Loun Sovath.

After decades of civil war, Cambodia still has many landmines and other unexploded ordnance that continue to kill people daily, he said.

The Catholic Church has been very active in the campaign to ban cluster bombs, said Monsignor Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzales, apostolic prefect of Battambang. “I hope Cambodia will sign [the convention] in the future.”

He said the convention becoming international law is “a step toward peace-building.”

Event coordinator Sister Denise Coghlan said she will continue to campaign for Cambodia to sign the convention.

She will do this with the help of the Cambodian Red Cross and also lobby for it at the convention’s First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane Nov. 8-14, she said.

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