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The Kingdom of Cambodia has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, despite the fact that it was an early, prominent, and influential supporter of the Oslo Process.

Cambodia is not believed to have used, produced, or transferred cluster munitions. It is not known whether Cambodia has a stockpile of the weapon. Cambodia remains extensively affected by the use of cluster munitions by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cambodia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, but has not ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Although Cambodia did not attend the initial meeting to launch the Oslo Process in February 2007, it soon became the first country to add its name to the list of 46 nations that endorsed the Oslo Declaration at that meeting, thereby committing to conclude in 2008 a new convention prohibiting cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. On 14 March 2007, the Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Sok An, announced Cambodia’s decision to join the Oslo Process, saying, “Cambodia supports this Oslo appeal to ban cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and will become an active participant in the process.” [1]

Cambodia’s announcement came on the eve of its hosting the first regional forum on cluster munitions in Southeast Asia, which took place on 15 March in Phnom Penh.[2] The forum was organized by the ICBL and the CMC in cooperation with the government of Cambodia. Participants included Afghanistan, Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Lao PDR, Norway, and Thailand, as well as UN agencies and the ICRC.[3]

Cambodia then participated actively in all three of the international conferences to develop the convention text in Lima, Vienna, and Wellington, as well as the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008. It also attended the Belgrade conference for affected states in October 2007 and the regional conference in Lao PDR in October 2008.

At the Lima conference in May 2007, Cambodia delivered one of the keynote addresses in the opening session. The Secretary General of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, Ambassador Sam Sotha, stated, “A treaty on cluster munitions must ban all weapons which may cause future harm, but equally it must ensure the removal of all unexploded cluster munitions because today they are still killing in Cambodia and in many other countries throughout the world.” He added, “As a developing country, Cambodia is not interested in high tech solutions.” Cambodia affirmed that the Oslo Process was the only way to find the most effective solution to the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions. “The CCW moves too slowly and does not have enough developing countries involved,” Cambodia stated, adding that while it was too late to fix the wrongs of the 1970s, the Oslo Process was about prevention and ensuring that cluster munitions would not be used against innocent civilians again.[4]

At the Vienna conference, Cambodia opposed exceptions from the definition of a cluster munition based on self-destruct and self-neutralization mechanisms. Cambodia raised concerns about the ability of heavily affected countries to complete clearance obligations in five years and called for extension provisions to be clarified. Cambodia stated it supported deadlines for clearance obligations, but these would need to be matched by concrete commitments of technical and financial assistance.[5]

At the Wellington conference, Cambodia spoke of the Oslo Process reinforcing “the new model for conducting international diplomacy that has emerged since the adoption of the antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty.” [6] Cambodia worked against efforts to weaken the draft convention text, and emphasized the following key aspects: strong language on victim assistance guided by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; inclusion of survivors in decision-making processes and the implementation of national survivor assistance initiatives;[7] a ban on all types of submunitions without permitting “exemptions to protect existing stockpiles or arms industries” or “exclusions based on unproven technological safeguards;” [8] no transition periods (during which cluster munitions could still be used); no provisions for interoperability (joint military operations with states not party); commitments for assistance from those able to provide it and plans for rapid and significant support to countries with extensive contamination or limited resources;[9] and obligations on the states which used cluster munitions to directly support clearance, including by providing strike information.”[10]

Cambodia maintained these positions during the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 and joined the consensus adoption of the convention. Cambodia stated that that it was committed to working with partners to live up to the “ambitious promise” of the convention.[11]

Despite Cambodia’s extensive and positive leadership role in the Oslo Process, it did not sign the convention in Oslo on 3 December. It attended the signing conference as an observer and made a statement reiterating its commitment to the convention, describing it as a “historic development.” However, Cambodia said that due to “recent security developments” in the region, it now needed more time to study the “impacts of the convention on its security capability and national defense.”[12]

Civil society campaigning in Cambodia on cluster munitions has been strong. During the Global Week of Action, on 27 October 2008, CMC campaigners launched the Cambodian Ban Bus in Phnom Penh.[13] By July 2008, a little over one month after launching the People’s Treaty in Cambodia, Jesuit Refugee Service had collected nearly 10,000 signatures.[14] Youern Sam En and Tun Channareth, two survivors and “Ban Advocates” from Cambodia, were inspirational campaigners during the Oslo Process.[15]

[1] ICBL, “Cambodia Announces Support for New Treaty Banning Cluster Munitions,” Press release, 14 March 2007, www.icbl.org.

[2] Ibid.

[3] ICBL, “Regional Forum in Southeast Asia: Taking Action on Cluster Munitions,” Press release, 26 March 2007, www.icbl.org.

[4] Statement by Amb. Sam Sotha, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Secretary General, Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), Opening Speech, Lima Conference on Cluster Munitions, 23 May 2007.

[5] Statement of Cambodia, Session on General Obligation and Scope, Vienna Conference on Cluster Munitions, 6 December 2008. Notes by CMC and WILPF.

[6] Statement by Amb. Sam Sotha, CMAA, Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions, 18 February 2008.

[7] Statement of Cambodia, Session on Victim Assistance, Wellington Conference, 20 February 2008.

[8] Statement of Cambodia, Session on Definitions, Wellington Conference, 19 February 2008.

[9] Statement by Amb. Sam Sotha, CMAA, Wellington Conference, 18 February 2008.

[10] Statement of Cambodia, Session on International Cooperation and Assistance, Wellington Conference, 21 February 2008.

[11] Statement of Cambodia, Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, 30 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[12] Statement by Amb. Hor Nambora, Representative of Cambodia to the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 4 December 2008. The “security developments” comment was an apparent reference to border incidents with Thailand.

[13] Representatives from UNDP, Norwegian People’s Aid, Jesuit Service, the Cambodian Red Cross, Religions for Peace, and the Cambodian Mine and UXO Victim Information System participated in the initiative. CMC, “Global Week of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs, 27 October – 2 November 2008,” www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[14] CMC, “CMC Newsletter,” Issue 1, June – July 2008, www.stopclustermunitions.org.

[15] Stéphanie Castanié, “My story, by Yoeun Sam En,” Ban Advocates Blog, 26 May 2008, blog.banadvocates.org; CMC Ireland, “Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munition, Civil Society Participants, Tun Channareth (Reth), Cambodia,” 8 May 2008,