20 October 2008


South East Asian talks open in Lao PDR(Lao PDR, October 20th) South East Asian governments met today in Lao PDR, the most cluster bombed country in the world, to discuss how the new treaty to ban cluster bombs will make a difference on the ground and to rally support for the treaty signing in Oslo on 3 December. “We strongly congratulate the Lao government for the leadership it is showing on this international issue”, says Thomas Nash, Coordinator of the CMC. “Lao helped ensure that assistance to victims was at the heart of the treaty when it was negotiated in Dublin in May.  This will make a real difference to the thousands of people whose lives have been blighted by cluster bombs”.An estimated 383 million cluster bomblets have been scattered across South East Asia, according to an analysis by Handicap International, with 260 million of these being dropped on Lao PDR between 1964 and 1973.   Hundreds of thousands failed to explode on impact, but continue to cause injury and death to innocent people decades after the bombing. “I lost both my arms and my eye after finding a cluster bomb whilst looking for food”, says Ta, a cluster bomb victim from Laos.  “Now I can’t provide for my family and my nine year old son has had to drop out of school”.In May, after a 15 month diplomatic effort led by Norway and known as the “Oslo Process”, 107 countries adopted a comprehensive new international treaty banning cluster bombs and setting strict standards to assist and promote the rights of affected individuals and communities.The Convention on Cluster Munitions, to be signed by over 100 governments in Oslo, on December 3rd,  not only bans the use, transfer, production and stockpiling of cluster bombs, but also contains the strongest ever provisions in international law for clearance of contaminated land and victim assistance.  If signed by cluster bomb affected Cambodia, Lao and Vietnam, aid for victim assistance and cluster bomb clearance in these countries should be considerably boosted."Since 1996, only about 364,000 sub-munitions have been cleared in Laos by UXO LAO . Yet thousands of people have and continue to be maimed or killed by weapons dropped decades ago", says Edwin Faigmane from UXO-Lao.  "There are currently not enough resources to clear this contamination.  The cluster bomb treaty is the only way we can rid Laos of this deadly legacy."A total of six states from South East Asia agreed to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin on 30 May 2008: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Philippines, as well as Australia, Japan and New Zealand.  Thailand, a stockpiler of cluster bombs and Singapore, a producer, did not adopt the Convention in May, but campaigners believe Thailand’s presence at the Laos Conference is a welcome signal for the future.The Laos Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions will run until October 22nd.  It will be attended by around twenty governments.  Cluster Munition Coalition campaigners from Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam will also attend, as well as victims from the region and experts from Handicap International, Human Rights Watch and other NGOs.For more information please contact: (In Laos) English speaker, Natalie Curtis: Laos no: +856 (0)202 598 547: International no: +44(0)7515 575 174(In Laos) English/ French speaker, Thomas Nash: Laos no: +856 (0)20254 7204 (In Laos) Thai speaker, Susan Walker, International Campaign to ban landmines: Laos no: +856 (0)202 547 2054.      Media not already registered for the conference must register through the UNDP here: www.undplao.org/CLUSTERMUNITIONS/mediainfo.phpNotes to Editors:The problem of cluster bombs in South East Asia:According to UXO-Lao, since 1996 only 364,000 sub-munitions have been cleared in Laos by UXO-Lao. According to Handicap International, some 4,837 people are reported to have been killed or injured by cluster munitions, many decades after the bombing ended. Many others have been killed or injured without being recorded. Between 1964-1973, the US military dropped more than 2.4 million tons of bombs on Laos, including around 270 million cluster bomblets.  Overall this was more tonnage than was dropped on Germany and Japan combined during the Second World War.  According to Handicap International:• At least 26 million submunitions were delivered in Cambodia by some 80,000 cluster munitions between 1969 and 1973;• At least 260 million submunitions were delivered in Laos by over 414,000 cluster bombs between 1965 and 1973;• Nearly 97 million submunitions were dropped in Vietnam by over 296,000 cluster munitions between 1965 and 1975.In the Asian region, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand stockpile cluster munitions that are prohibited and will need to be destroyed if they join the Convention.What are cluster bombs?Cluster munitions are large weapons which are deployed from the air and from the ground and release up to hundreds of smaller submunitions. Submunitions released by airdropped cluster bombs are most often called “bomblets,” while those delivered from the ground by artillery or rockets are usually referred to as “grenades.”What’s the problem with this weapon?Air-dropped or ground-launched, they cause two major humanitarian problems and risks to civilians. First, their widespread dispersal means they cannot distinguish between military targets and civilians so the humanitarian impact can be extreme, especially when the weapon is used in or near populated areas. Many submunitions fail to detonate on impact and become de facto antipersonnel mines killing and maiming people long after the conflict has ended. These duds are more lethal than antipersonnel mines; incidents involving submunition duds are much more likely to cause death than injury.Who has used cluster munitions?At least 15 countries have used cluster munitions: Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia (USSR), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, UK, US, and FR Yugoslavia. A small number of non-state armed groups have used the weapon (such as Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006). Billions of submunitions are stockpiled by some 76 countries. A total of 34 states are known to have produced over 210 different types cluster munitions. More than two dozen countries have been affected by the use of cluster munitions including Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Grenada, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Vietnam, as well as Chechnya, Falkland/Malvinas, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Western Sahara.Why is a ban on cluster munitions necessary?Simply put, cluster munitions kill and injure too many civilians. The weapon caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system. Cluster munitions stand out as the weapon that poses the gravest dangers to civilians since antipersonnel mines, which were banned in 1997. Yet there is currently no provision in international law to specifically address problems caused by cluster munitions. Israel’s massive use of the weapon in Lebanon in August 2006 resulted in more than 200 civilian casualties in the year following the ceasefire and served as the catalyst that has propelled governments to attempt to secure a legally-binding international instrument tackling cluster munitions in 2008.What is the Oslo Process?In February 2007, 46 governments met in Oslo to endorse a call by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre to conclude a new legally binding instrument in 2008 that prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians and provide adequate resources to assist survivors and clear contaminated areas. Subsequent International Oslo Process meetings were held in Peru (May 2007), Austria (December 2007), and New Zealand (February 2008). 107 countries negotiated and adopted a treaty that bans cluster bombs and provides assistance to affected communities in May 2008 in Dublin.States that adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (107)Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Zambia.Read the press release here:south-east-asian-talks-open-in-lao-pdr.pdf