Last Updated: 12 August 2014

Cluster Munition Ban Policy


The Kingdom of Cambodia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

In April 2014, Cambodia repeated a statement that it first made at the convention’s Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2013 that “the lack of clearly defined definition of cluster munitions” in the Convention on Cluster Munitions requires that “a much more vigorous study among key national technical stakeholders must be made to explore technical matters and to seek a possible consensus.” Cambodia said that accession to the convention “shall be considered once it concludes all relevant assessments.”[1]

Cambodia has acknowledged the “meetings and workshops [that] have been continuously conducted by concerned national agencies to understand substance and discuss provisions” of the convention as well as the “documents and materials” provided. The “confusion” over what constitutes a cluster munition appears to stem less from a lack of understanding of the definition contained in Article 2 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and more with lack of clarity over its stockpiled munitions (see Stockpiling section).

Cambodia was an early, prominent, and influential supporter of the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It hosted the first regional forum on cluster munitions in Southeast Asia, in Phnom Penh in March 2007. Cambodia advocated strongly for the most comprehensive and immediate ban possible and joined in the consensus adoption of the convention at the conclusion of the Dublin negotiations in May 2008. Yet, despite Cambodia’s extensive and positive leadership role, it attended the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo on 3 December 2008 only as an observer and did not sign, stating that it needed more time to study the security implications of joining.[2]

Throughout 2009 and 2010, Cambodia cited several reasons, mostly security-related, for not joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[3] Cambodia’s position on accession to the convention showed signs of change in 2011 after Thailand fired cluster munitions into Cambodian territory on the border near Preah Vihear temple, killing two men and injuring seven.[4] Cambodia first indicated it was assessing the impact of joining in September 2011, at the time stating, “We sincerely hope that the ultimate signing is just…a matter of time.”[5]

Yet at meetings in 2012, government representatives repeated that “Cambodia is still assessing the impact of signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions on its defense capability and the ability to comply with all obligations.”[6] In September 2013, a government official said the assessment is believed to be the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense.[7]

The Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs undertook a number of actions in 2013 and the first half of 2014 to promote Cambodia’s accession to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Its representative Tun Channareth, ICBL Ambassador, raised the need for Cambodia’s accession with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting in Phnom Penh on 10 December 2013.

Despite not joining, Cambodia has participated in every meeting of States Parties of the convention as an observer, including the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in Lusaka, Zambia in September 2013, as well as every round of intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva, including in April 2014.

In April 2014, Cambodia strongly condemned reports of new use of cluster munitions in South Sudan.[8]

Cambodia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, and transfer

Cambodia is not known to have used, produced, or exported cluster munitions. In June 2011, it stated, “Despite being confronted and threatened by forces, so far we have refrained from employing cluster munitions in our response.”[9]


The size and precise content of Cambodia’s stockpile of cluster munitions is not known. In December 2008, a Ministry of Defense official said that Cambodia has “some missile launchers that use cluster munitions that weigh more than 20 kg” and said there were also stockpiles of cluster munitions weighing 250kg left over from the 1980s that Cambodia intends to destroy.[10] Weapons with submunitions that weigh more than 20kg each are not defined as cluster munitions by the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are not prohibited.[11]

According to standard international reference publications, Cambodia also possesses BM-21 Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[12] Cambodian officials have asked representatives from states that have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, as well as NGOs, if BM-21 rocket launchers are banned under the convention. BM-21 multiple barrel rocket launchers are capable of firing rockets with a variety of warheads, one of which is a cargo warhead containing explosive submunitions. The CMC has informed Cambodia that the rocket delivery system itself is not prohibited by the convention, and the convention would allow use of the BM-21 with unitary munitions; however, under the terms of the convention, a BM-21 rocket launcher could not be used to deliver any rockets containing explosive submunitions.[13]


[1] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 7 April 2014; and statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 10 September 2013.

[2] For details on Cambodia’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 193–195.

[3] See ICBL, Cluster Munition Monitor 2010 (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2010), p. 201.

[4] In June 2011, Cambodia informed the convention’s first intersessional meetings that its accession is “just a matter of time” and said the fact that it has not joined is “not an issue of our commitment” to the convention. Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 27 June 2011.

[5] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 14 September 2011.

[6] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Third Meeting of States Parties, Oslo, 11 September 2012; and statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 17 April 2012.

[7] Peter Sombor, “Cambodia Still Undecided About Signing Cluster Munitions Treaty,” The Cambodia Daily, 9 September 2013.

[8] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, April 2014.

[9] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 27 June 2011.

[10] The official was Chau Phirun of the Ministry of Defense. Lea Radick and Neou Vannarin, “No Rush to Sign Cluster Munition Ban: Gov’t,” The Cambodia Daily, 5 December 2008.

[11] Article 2.2 states: “‘Cluster munition’ means a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions.”

[12] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 229; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2008, CD-edition, 3 December 2007, (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[13] Letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from Steve Goose, CMC, 30 November 2011.