Thailand and Cambodia should join global treaty banning cluster munitions
(Geneva) April 6, 2011 — Based on two separate on-site investigations, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) has concluded that Thailand used cluster munitions on Cambodian territory during the February 2011 border conflict. Thai officials confirmed the use of cluster munitions in a meeting with the CMC on April 5, 2011.
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 condemns any use of cluster munitions, and urges Thailand and Cambodia to immediately commit to no future use and to accede to the global treaty banning the weapons.
“It’s appalling that any country would resort to using cluster munitions after the international community banned them,” said Laura Cheeseman, director of the CMC. “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.”
In a meeting on April 5, the Thai Ambassador to the UN in Geneva confirmed Thai use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions. The Ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions “in self-defense,” using the principles of “necessity, proportionality and in compliance with the military code of conduct.” He alleged heavy use of rocket fire by Cambodian forces against civilian targets in Satisuk, in the Khun Khan district of Thailand.
In February and April of this year, CMC members conducted two separate missions to cluster munition contaminated areas in Cambodia including in Svay Chrum Village, Sen Chey Village and around the Preah Vihear temple hill, and witnessed unexploded submunitions and fragmentation damage caused by cluster munitions. Norwegian People’s Aid confirmed that unexploded M42/M46 and M85 type DPICM submunitions have been found.
Atle Karlsen of Norwegian People’s Aid said, “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.”
Sister Denise Coghlan, of Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia and a CMC leader who took part in the first research mission said, “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.”
The CMC has urged Thailand to provide detailed information on the results of its inquiry, including the location of all cluster munition strikes, so that civilians can be adequately warned of the dangers and to assist the effective and efficient clearance of submunition remnants, which pose dangers like landmines. The CMC is also calling on Cambodia to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and as interim steps commit to no use, make known the types and quantity of cluster munitions in its stockpile and start destruction.
Cambodia and Thailand are not among the 108 countries that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions but each has joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Both countries participated in the “Oslo Process” to negotiate the Convention on Cluster Munitions and attended its First Meeting of States Parties in neighboring 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 countries have already ratified.