No Rush To Sign Cluster Munition Ban: Gov’t

The government opted not to sign an international treaty to ban cluster munitions Wednesday in part because Cambodia is not a producer of such weapons, Infor­ma­tion Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

More than 90 countries signed an international treaty to ban cluster munitions Wednesday in Oslo, Norway, but despite previous pled­ges to support and sign the treaty, Cam­bodia—which still suffers from cluster munitions dropped dec­ades ago—surprised many by not signing.

“We are not under any pressure…as a nonproducing country,” Khieu Kanharith wrote by e-mail Thursday.

“Due to the fact that Thailand does not sign yet the treaty…we can delay a bit our adhesion to the treaty,” he wrote.

Laos, Indonesia and the Philip­pines signed the treaty, while Thailand and Vietnam did not, ac­cording to information obtained from a UN Web site.

Chau Phirun, director-general of the Defense Ministry’s general department of materials and technical services, said Thursday that the government needs to further study the treaty to see how it would affect the nation’s defense capabilities.

“The treaty bans the use of cluster [munitions] weighing from 20 kg up, and we have some missile launchers that use cluster munitions that weigh more than 20 kg, so we need the time to figure it out,” Chau Phirun said.

He added that Cambodia needs to determine whether it would still be able to use cluster munitions launched from missile launchers as a means of defense in times of war.

Chau Phirun also said the country has stockpiles of cluster munitions weighing 250 kg left over from the 1980s, which Cambodia intends to destroy. Cluster munitions can be fired by artillery and rocket systems or dropped by aircraft, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Human Rights Watch.

Steve Munroe, mine action program manager with the UN De­vel­opment Program, said it is difficult to determine whether Cambodia’s decision to not sign the treaty will affect funding from other countries and organizations for landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance in Cambodia.

“UNDP’s current mine action pro­ject, Clearing for Results, has secure funding through 2010 from Australia, Canada, Spain, UNDP and Adopt-a-Minefield. Individual donors weigh a lot of information when making funding decisions, so it is difficult to predict the impact this will have on external assistance for mine and UXO clearance over the long term,” he wrote in an e-mail sent Thursday.

A spokesman for the Canadian Em­bassy said Cam­bodia’s decision to not sign the ban would not affect such funding. The Australian Em­bassy declined to comment.

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