29 August 2012

CMC Campaigner profile #1: Sak Sopheak and Chan Man, Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs

CMC Campaigners Sak Sopheak (left) and Chan Man (right), Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs. Photo Credit: Joe van Troost.(London, 29 August 2012) With less than two weeks to go until the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo next month, the coming days are a key time for Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) campaigners worldwide. At this meeting, hosted and presided over by Norway, countries will come together to advance the efforts being made to universalise the ban treaty and prevent further lives from being ruined by these indiscriminate weapons. In the run up to the meeting, the CMC is profiling the work of some of our global campaigners, who are striving to ensure that governments confirm their attendance and participation in Oslo, and more importantly, that they come prepared to make real progress on the cluster munitions issue. It is now that our call on countries to join and implement the Convention must be heard louder than ever.In Cambodia, the country with the fourth heaviest cluster munition contamination in the world, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor, campaigners Sak Sopheak and Chan Man are currently working to urge their government to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.Cambodia is one of the world’s leading members of the Mine Ban Treaty and has joined the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). But it is yet to take the next step of signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions to outlaw cluster munitions, rid the country of cluster munition contamination and assist communities affected by these weapons. Between 1.9 and 5.8 million cluster munition remnants litter the Cambodian countryside, particularly near the borders with Lao PDR and Thailand, claiming new victims each year. Cambodia has already started to de facto fulfil its obligations but still needs to join the Convention.Chan Man, 25, started working with the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions earlier this year, in April. "I want to help the people who are suffering because of cluster bombs, especially the poor people in the countryside and those with disabilities, like me," he said, adding that the highlight of his time with the campaign so far has been the field visits to people in the countryside that have been injured by cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war, and seeing them receive assistance.For Man’s colleague Sopheak, also 25, who started working with the Cambodia Campaign back in 2010, the highlights are many. "I like it every time a new country joins the Convention on Cluster Munitions! I hope that Cambodia will be the next new country to join." Responsible for the accounting, IT and administrative work for the national campaign, Sopheak is also motivated by the diversity of his workplace. "Every day I see many people with disabilities who work here, some injured by cluster bombs, and I find it inspirational that they can keep on going."It is this motivation that Sopheak and Man want to inspire both in the countries headed to Oslo in September, and in the Cambodian government in particular. Man’s message to his government is "please help to ensure that cluster bombs are not used any more. And accede to the Convention as soon as possible.""Thank you very much for joining the CRPD," says Sopheak after Cambodia’s recent accession to this disability rights convention, "I really want you to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions now, because it’s very important for the Cambodian people. You must take action to help the people who need it the most."With four full days of meetings scheduled, and official delegates preparing to come both from countries that have joined as well as from countries that have not yet joined the Convention, it is a key time for Cambodia to announce steps being taken to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Translating these discussions into concrete action is of utmost importance, and to none more so than the victims of cluster munitions in affected countries such as Cambodia. "I want to ask governments to really support the CCM," says Sopheak, "because I want people to stop dying and getting injured. We can work together for a cluster bomb free world."Sopheak’s words echo the determination of cluster munition survivors the world over carrying on against all odds, and it is this positive attitude we urge all participants to bring to next month’s meeting.