14 March 2007


(Phnom Penh, 14 March 2007) – On the eve of the first regional forum on cluster munitions in Southeast Asia, Cambodia announced support for banning cluster munitions. Cambodia’s declaration comes three weeks after the launch in Oslo of a process to negotiate a new international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable humanitarian harm.Governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are gathering tomorrow, 15 March, at the first regional forum on the issue in Southeast Asia. The forum will take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, sponsored by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).“Cambodia supports this Oslo appeal to ban cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and will become an active participant in the process,” said Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the closing of a regional conference on mine action on 14 March. This is the first time Cambodia has publicly endorsed the new international process aimed at rapid negotiation of a binding treaty on cluster munitions.“Cluster munitions have been killing and injuring people in Cambodia and neighbouring Lao and Vietnam for decades” said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the CMC. “This announcement shows that countries in this region can play a leading role in the new international process to prohibit these weapons and the end the suffering they cause.” Southeast Asia is severely affected by the use of cluster munitions. Millions of unexploded “bomblets” continue to maim and kill people in Cambodia, Lao, and Vietnam today, decades after they were used. Of the 46 governments that agreed to the Oslo Declaration on 23 February to conclude a new international treaty on cluster munitions in 2008, Indonesia was the only one from Southeast Asia. “By holding the Regional Forum in Cambodia, a country affected by cluster munitions, we want to draw attention to the scope of the problem in Southeast Asia and the urgent need to find a solution,” said Denise Coghlan, Coordinator of the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines. “It is essential that Cambodia joins the process at the very beginning. The new treaty is likely to result in increased international assistance for the victims of cluster munitions, and for clearance of cluster munitions, so the countries of the region stand to benefit greatly.” Cluster munitions are weapons dropped from aircraft or shot out of artillery and ground rocket systems that can disperse hundreds of smaller submunitions (sometimes called bomblets or bombies). They pose unacceptable dangers to civilians at the time of attack because they spread indiscriminately over wide areas. They also pose an unacceptable long term threat to civilians because many of the submunitions fail to detonate on impact, and remain scattered on the ground like landmines, ready to kill and maim when disturbed or handled. Reports from humanitarian organizations have shown that civilians make up the vast majority of the victims of cluster bombs and children make up a high percentage in many countries. “Ten years after successfully negotiating the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the international community again has a chance to prohibit a weapon that kills and injures far too many civilians. We call on all states to join the new cluster munition treaty process without delay,” said Stan Brabant of Handicap International, a leader of the CMC and ICBL. Notes for Editors:The Regional Forum: Taking Action on Cluster Munitions will be held on 15 March, 8:30-16:00 at Imperial Garden Villa & Hotel in downtown Phnom Penh, 315 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.