16 November 2009

CMC press release: Bali conference a key opportunity to ban cluster bombs in Asia

As world's most-affected region, Asia-Pacific will benefit from humanitarian treaty(Bali, Indonesia, 16 November 2009) - States in Asia and the Pacific should step up efforts to sign and ratify the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Cluster Munition Coalition said today at a regional conference in Bali to promote universal adherence to the treaty."As the world's most cluster bomb-affected region, the Asia-Pacific stands to gain the most from rapid entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,"said Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition. "All countries in the region should show solidarity with their Afghan and Lao colleagues by following them on board the ban and joining the Convention without delay."The Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively bans cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated land and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and requires assistance to victims and affected communities - a crucial provision that could bring needed humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam, all of which have seen the devastating effects of cluster bombs. A total of 103 governments have signed the Convention since December 2008, of which 24 have ratified. Thirty ratifications are needed for the Convention to enter into force and become binding international law six months later.Twelve of the 40 states in the Asia-Pacific region have signed the Convention: Afghanistan, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, the Philippines, and Samoa. Two states from the region are among the 24 states that have ratified the Convention: Japan and Lao PDR. Only six more ratifications are needed for the Convention to become binding international law.The Cluster Munition Coalition welcomes Indonesia's initiative in convening the regional conference, as well as Lao PDR's leadership in agreeing to host the First Meeting of States Parties, which is expected to take place in late 2010. As a country that has experienced the devastating and long-term effects of cluster munitions, Lao PDR played an integral role in negotiating the Convention.In 1996, Bounmy Vichack unintentionally detonated an unexploded cluster bomblet while digging in the soil in his native Lao PDR, an incident that knocked him unconscious and destroyed his left arm. Villagers brought him to hospital, where he spent the next six weeks recovering. Bounmy now works in his home province helping to rehabilitate other disabled people, especially those injured by cluster munitions."I hope other affected states like Vietnam and Cambodia will sign onto the Convention and that we can raise more awareness about the danger of cluster munitions so that victims can be better supported everywhere,"said Bounmy.In Asia, cluster munitions have been used in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. While Afghanistan has signed and Lao PDR has already ratified, affected states Cambodia and Vietnam have yet to join the Convention. Globally at least 77 countries have stockpiled cluster munitions, of which 12 are in Asia, including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Australia has already destroyed its stocks and Japan is in the process of doing so. The United States, which used cluster munitions on a massive scale during the Vietnam War, has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.