Cluster Bomb Victims Call on Gov’t To Join Ban

Cambodian cluster bomb victims attending the first states parties meeting for an international ban of the weapons in Vientiane yesterday called for an end to the government’s delay in joining the treaty.

Prum Sopheak Monkol, Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority deputy secretary-general, is participating as an observer at the four-day meeting of more than 100 countries that started on Tuesday.

Cambodia is still assessing how signing the 2008 UN Convention on Cluster Munitions would impact national security and defense, according to a statement delivered yesterday at the meeting by a government representative.

“We stand by the goals of the convention,” it said. “Nevertheless Cambodia needs time to properly assess and prepare itself so that any decision can be made meaningfully.”

Cambodia remains contaminated with cluster munitions remnants from the US war on Indochina during the 1970s, despite having cleared nearly 2 million UXO since 1992, the statement said.

Hoeun Sok, a woman from Kompong Cham province who lost her leg in a cluster bomb explosion, said through a translator that she was trying to meet delegates at the meeting to lobby Cambodia to join the ban. “I am really asking the government to sign the convention,” Ms Sok said by phone.

Sam En, another victim attending the meeting, was blinded and lost an arm while trying to stop his children playing with cluster munitions six years ago in Kratie province. “I hope the Cambodian government signs the treaty…and creates a proper plan for victim assistance,” Mr En said through a translator.

Conor Fortune, media officer for the Cluster Munition Coalition, said that Cambodia, which was a leader in the mine ban treaty, should join the cluster bomb ban as soon as possible. “As an affected country Cambodia stands to gain a lot,” Mr Fortune said.

The landmark meeting showed that the international community was committed to ending the suffering caused by cluster bombs in Southeast Asia, Christine Beerli, vice-president of the International Community of the Red Cross, said in a Tuesday statement.

“The Convention on Cluster Munitions is…a response to communities in Cambodia and Vietnam that have long suffered the effects of these weapons,” Ms Beerli said.

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