July 12, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen has implored NATO and US allies to inhibit the deployment of cluster bombs amid the ongoing armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This plea was issued after military aid packages, containing such weaponry, were reportedly delivered to Ukraine from Washington, DC.
The appeal was disseminated on July 10 via the premier’s Twitter account, referencing the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). This treaty, endorsed by more than 100 states, proscribes the use, storage, manufacture and transfer of cluster munitions during wartime.
“As the Cambodian government’s leader, I urge NATO and specific US allies – UK, Spain, Germany, Canada, all CCM signatories – to inhibit US President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian leader from employing these deadly arms,” he urged.
On July 9, Hun Sen called on the US to discontinue weapon supplies to Ukraine and deter Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from using cluster munitions amid the escalating conflict.
Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, affirmed that the Kingdom’s plea arises from its own bitter encounter with the destruction caused by unexploded ordinance (UXO), cluster bombs and landmines.
Peou underlined that Cambodia’s appeal sends a stark message to the global community, especially Ukraine, which has the power to choose whether to use cluster munitions. These arms, he said, could severely disrupt the country’s peace and stability in the long run.
“Whether it effects change or not, Cambodia’s call is a poignant international political message. Even if it falls on the deaf ears of the superpowers and Ukraine, it brings attention to Cambodia’s past suffering and its hope to shield others from the same fate,” he remarked.
While 123 countries have outlawed munitions under the CCM, 111 are active members, and 12 others are signatories. Yet, powerful nations like the US and Russia are non-signatories to the CCM.
Ly Thuch, first vice-president of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), demonstrated solidarity with Hun Sen’s call in a social media post.
“Being part of the mine action community and a victim of cluster munitions, I echo the prime minister’s appeal,” he declared, underscoring the extensive, indiscriminate damage inflicted by cluster munitions on civilians, especially children, during and after conflicts.
Thuch reminded the world of the protracted wars that raged in Cambodia from the 1960s to the late 1990s, during which mines, UXO and cluster munitions were extensively used. Even today, Cambodia continues its more than 30-year mission to eradicate these dangers, he added.
A report by the CMAA revealed that since 2009, Cambodia has cleared nearly 344sq km of cluster bombs, equivalent to about 2,031 minefields. This extensive operation has benefitted over a million Cambodian citizens.
Hun Sen’s appeal came in response to the US’ announcement that it would provide Ukraine with military aid, including cluster bombs. He urged Biden to consider the persistent harm these weapons inflict during and after wars, referencing Cambodia’s own five-decade struggle with such munitions.
Hun Sen also expressed concerns about the future risks that this aid could pose for Ukraine, especially if the munitions are used in territories occupied by Russia. While acknowledging Cambodia’s limited influence on the global stage, he insisted on the plea, stressing the Ukrainian populace’s potential suffering.
“Although Cambodia is small and lacks significant influence, out of compassion for the Ukrainian people, I beseech both the US and Ukrainian presidents to refrain from deploying cluster munitions. The ultimate victims of this war will be the ordinary people of Ukraine,” he urged.