This is the first use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force and became binding international law. The CMC, of which the Jesuit Refugee Service is an active member, condemns any use of cluster munitions, and urges Thailand and Cambodia to immediately accede to the global treaty banning the weapons.
In February and April of this year, CMC members conducted two separate missions in cluster-munition contaminated areas in Cambodia including in Svay Chrum village, Sen Chey village and around the Preah Vihear temple hill. Members found unexploded submunitions, as well as fragmentation damage caused by cluster munitions. Norwegian People’s Aid confirmed that unexploded M42/M46 and M85 type DPICM submunitions have been found.
“These cluster munitions have already robbed two men of their lives, two more have lost their arms and a further five were injured. The area must be cleared immediately to prevent more suffering. Cambodia must make every effort to ensure the safety of civilians”, said Sr Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, who took part in the first mission.
“It’s appalling that any country would resort to using cluster munitions after the international community banned them. Thailand has been a leader in the global ban on antipersonnel mines, and it is unconscionable that it used banned weapons that indiscriminately kill and injure civilians in a similar manner”, said Laura Cheeseman, director of the CMC.
In a meeting on 5 April, the Thai Ambassador to the UN in Geneva confirmed the nation’s use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions. The Ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions “in self-defence” as a response to the alleged heavy use of rocket fire on civilians in Satisuk, the Khun Khan district of Thailand by Cambodian forces.
The ambassador alleged Thailand’s use of cluster munitions were used according to the principles of “necessity and proportionality and were in compliance with the military code of conduct”.
“There are around 5,000 people living in Sen Chey village that are at risk from these unexploded weapons. Thailand must supply information to help clear affected areas and make them safe for civilians to return home”, said Atle Karlsen of Norwegian People’s Aid.
The CMC has urged Thailand to provide detailed information on the results of its inquiry, specifically including the location of all cluster munition strikes. With such information, civilians can be adequately warned of the dangers and steps can be taken to remove submunition remnants, which are as dangerous as landmines.
Cambodia and Thailand are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, both joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and participated in the “Oslo Process” to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions and attended its First Meeting of States Parties in neighbouring Lao PDR in November 2010.
“This conflict should spur both countries to take urgent action to denounce the weapons and join the ban treaty,” said Cheeseman.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010, banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, while requiring states to destroy stockpiles, clear contaminated land and assist victims and affected communities. Of the 108 countries that have signed the Convention since it opened for signature in December 2008, 55 states have already ratified.
For further information contact:
Sr Denise Coghlan, Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia; tel.: +855-124-88950
Both Thailand and Cambodia possess stockpiles of cluster munitions, but little is known about their status or composition. The Cambodian government has in the past cited an ongoing review of its defence and security situation as the reason for a delay in joining the treaty. Thailand has cited concerns over its ability to destroy its stockpile as a roadblock to joining the Convention, as well as security concerns. Thailand announced in 2008 that it had no intention of using the weapons in the future.
Cambodia and Thailand are States Parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and Cambodia will host that treaty’s 11th Meeting of States Parties in November 2011.
Southeast Asia is more heavily contaminated by cluster munitions than any other region after the United States dropped large numbers of cluster bombs on Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.
For more information on cluster bombs see http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/news/?id=3130