25 April 2008

World's Most Cluster-Bombed Region Prepares For Ban Negotiation

Download Press ReleaseThree weeks before major negotiations start in Dublin for an international treaty to ban cluster munitions, Southeast Asian countries have met under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bangkok 24-25 April to share views on the draft treaty and the weapon that has affected their region so severely.The contamination caused by the use of cluster munitions in South East Asia is the most severe and widespread of any region on earth. Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia have dealt with the human, social and economic impacts of cluster munitions for four decades.Cluster munitions with at least 380 million bomblets were scattered across these countries in the Vietnam War and according to the best estimates available at least 115 million of these were left on the ground unexploded and are maiming and killing civilians to this day."These weapons cause unacceptable harm and must be banned"Said Alfredo Lubang, regional representative of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) and member of Nonviolence International in Thailand."Hundreds of millions of bomblets from cluster bombs were dropped decades ago in the Vietnam war, but still continue to kill and maim civilians as they work in the fields or try to lead normal lives"he added.Laos and Cambodia are keen to ensure that other countries do not experience the same problems they have and will be active participants in the ban negotiations in Dublin 19-30 May. Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines have also confirmed that they will be going to Dublin. Other countries in the region, for instance Thailand and Vietnam, are actively considering participation.Cluster bombs have and continue to cause unacceptable harm in the region. The CMC believe it is vital for cluster munition affected countries to be well represented in Dublin. The CMC encourages countries in South East Asia to play an active role in the negotiations."We hope that Vietnam as a severely affected country will join Laos and Cambodia in showing international leadership on this issue. We also hope that Thailand as a stockpiler of cluster munitions will show solidarity with its affected neighbours and work for a ban on these weapons"says Grethe Østern, Co-Chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC).The state representatives at the ICRC meeting agreed that countries in Southeast Asia have a unique historical experience with cluster munitions that should be actively reflected in all multilateral discussions on this issue.The state participants discussed key issues for the Dublin negotiations. Several of them emphasized the urgency of including specific commitments to victim assistance in the future treaty.In particular, there was a strong support among the participants for the idea that user countries should have a special responsibility to help solve the problems they have caused, by funding and assisting activities in the areas of victim assistance and clearance of unexploded bomblets that continue to claim lives every year.For further information please call CMC representatives Grethe Ostern (NPA) on + 47900 78208, James Turton (Austcare) on +66 404114712 , Susan B Walker (ICBL) on +66 8602 44977 (in Bangkok), Daniel Barty on , +61 2 9565 9104, Samantha Bolton +41 79 2392366.