the eve of the passing into force of the Cluster Munitions Convention,
Cambodian-based Jesuit Fr Enrique Figaredo has called on the Australian
government to ratify the historic agreement, which prohibits all use,
stockpiling, production and transfer of the insidious and destructive weapons.
Australia is a signatory to the convention, it cannot become a state party to
it until it ratifies, accepts, approves or accesses the convention. The
convention will become binding international law when it enters into force on 1
August 2010. The first meeting of states parties will take place in Vientiane,
Laos, from 8 - 12 November 2010.
its success as part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines - which was
a joint winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize - Jesuit Service Cambodia (JSC) has
been instrumental in lobbying for the banning of cluster munitions. Landmine
survivor and anti-weapons campaigner with JSC, Tun Channareth, says that
cluster bombs, which are particularly prevalent in the tiny country of Laos,
inflict terrible injuries on the people who mistakenly pick them up.
the people in Laos, they find some steel to collect and sell at the market.
Every house has a metal detector to detect steel under the ground. [Cluster
bombs] sink into the soil - two or three or five centimetres into the ground.
After that, if children or men or women touch it, it blows up and they will
lose some part of the body or they will die. They pick something up thinking it
is steel to sell at the market but it's actually a cluster bomb. They dig, then
they touch to pick it up. When they do it blows up.'
countries such as Laos and Cambodia, whose rural areas are defined by
tight-knit, subsistence village units, cluster bombs can destroy whole
families, says Channareth.
one family has eight members, and if one person is injured by cluster
munitions, another seven members lose hope. They must sell everything they have
and use it for the survival - medicine, hospital treatment - of the person who
is injured. Most of them have lost both arms, both eyes.'
munitions are large bombs which disperse thousands of smaller 'bomblets' over a
wide area. Whilst bomblets are designed to explode before or upon impact, this
doesn't always occur, and unexploded ordinances can lie buried and dormant for
decades. And although advocates like Channareth conduct tireless education
campaigns about the dangers of cluster munitions, too often the demands of
daily life - tilling the soil, searching for scrap metal - outweigh the
prospective dangers faced by villagers.
now they know [the dangers] very well, especially in Vietnam, Cambodia and
Laos. But the very important thing is our daily life, what we can eat.'
those countries that have signed the convention, says Channareth, there are
those who 'still use, still have stockpiles, still promote cluster munitions. I
want every country to disperse stockpiles, to give more support for the
clearing of munitions, and no more use, no more production.'
lost his legs in a landmine explosion in 1982, Channareth knows the agony that
comes with such brutal and life-changing injury.
when I meet the people who suffered from landmines or war or cluster munitions,
I try to go closer to them, because we are brothers and sisters. We are
travelling in the same boat. Mostly they live in the dark, they don't know any
more. If they have no family, how can they live? So I must go close to them and
try to find the best way to promote them, give hope, give life and a future to
Find out how to lobby the Australian
government to ratify the convention or to take further action here http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/take-action/government/
By Catherine Marshall
Pictured: Channareth (Photo Catherine Marshall).