About a hundred landmine and UXO victims, campaigners and ambassadors yesterday took to the water to call on the government to get on board an international cluster bomb ban.
Organizers and victims said the three-hour boat cruise along the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh aimed to put pressure on the government to sign the 2008 UN-sponsored Cluster Munitions Convention ahead of the first meeting of state parties in Laos next week.
Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said the government was in the process of assessing the country’s military capacity before joining the convention. “We need to identify what we have in the warehouse and what we don’t have,” Mr Ratana said, adding that he hoped a CMAC representative would go to Vientiane for the meeting.
Theng Kanha, a 12-year-old girl with a prosthetic leg, called on Cambodia and neighboring countries to sign the treaty that bans the use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions.
Ms Kanha, from Kompong Cham, lost her leg four years ago in an explosion that also injured three others after her father tampered with a UXO. “I would like to ask other parents and children not to play with unexploded ordinance,” she said.
During the first nine months of the year, 174 people were injured and 49 killed by explosive remnants of war and mines, according to a Cambodia Mine/ERW Victims Information System report. Casualties increased by 11.5 percent compared to the same period last year.
Denise Coghlan, head of Jesuit Refugee Services and one of the event’s organizers, said she found it very strange that Cambodia received international aid to clear mines yet turned its nose up at the treaty. “Why are they not joining the moral and legal ban on cluster bombs?” Ms Coghlan asked.
About 1 million people have signed petitions requesting the government to join the convention, she said, adding that campaigners and survivors would take more than 500,000 names to the meeting starting Nov 9.