02 April 2014

Zambian President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions Visits Most Heavily Affected Country Laos

In his capacity as President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Zambian Minister Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa has paid a visit to Laos.

Laos is the country most heavily contaminated by cluster munition remnants, left over from bombings during the Indochina War of the 1960s and 1970s. During this period the United States dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions. At least 270 million cluster bomblets were dropped as part of the bombing campaign; approximately 80 million failed to detonate.

The Zambian Minister visited Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) member COPE in Laos, an NGO which provides much-needed rehabilitation services to those injured by cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Soksai Sengvongkham, COPE’s Visitor Centre Operations Manager, gave Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa a tour of the centre, during which the Minister stated “Laos is a key nation in the effort to achieve a cluster munition-free world. My visit has proved very eye opening and has renewed commitment to rid the world of this indiscriminate and destructive weapon. Laos, you have our 100% support. Keep up the effort”.

The Minister also visited Xiengkhuang province — one of the provinces most severely affected by cluster munition contamination — to view first-hand the terrible legacy caused by use of this indiscriminate weapon.

According to the Cluster Munition Monitor unexploded submunitions were reported to have caused at least 7,580 casualties in the period 1964–2012, and approximately 2,500 survivors of this indiscriminate weapon live in Laos today. Sadly, every year people continue to fall victim to cluster munitions.

However, a significant effort to clear contaminated land is underway, with financial support from the global community and the clearance efforts of international NGOs such as CMC members NPA, HI and MAG, as well as the national authorities.

Laos was one of the first parties to join the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, and was a former president of the Convention after hosting the First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane in 2010.

During his visit Hon. Wylbur C. Simuusa discussed universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in the region with his Laos government counterparts. Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand have expressed support for the convention and are actively considering acceding to the life-saving ban on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions.