Cambodia and Thailand, which were recently embroiled in a border spat during which cluster bombs were allegedly used, have announced plans to ratify the treaty that bans such weapons.
The countries announced their intentions to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions during a four-day meeting in Geneva which brought together more than 80 states, as well as representatives of civil society, UN aid agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“This last week, most notably, both Thailand and Cambodia indicated their intention to join in the near future,” said Steve Goose, who is from the Cluster Munition Coalition which groups over 350 non-governmental groups.
“This is significant and somewhat remarkable in that early this year Thailand was firing cluster munitions in Cambodia in their border dispute,” added Goose.
This week’s meeting in Geneva also heard delegations, including those of Australia, Britain, Mexico, New Zealand and Norway, condemn the use of such weapons in the ongoing Libyan conflict.
“We have a lot of countries who were condemning the use of these weapons especially by Libya … including and most notably Spain who has provided those cluster munitions to Libya back to 2008,” said Goose.
Some 109 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which entered into force on August 1 last year, and which requires signatories to stop the use, production and transfer of the deadly weapons.
Cluster munitions split open before impact and scatter multiple — often hundreds — of smaller submunitions, or plastic bomblets, the size and shape of a tennis ball or a table lighter over a wide area.
Many of them fail to explode immediately and can lie hidden for years, killing and maiming civilians, including children, even decades after the original conflict is over in countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
However, China, Israel, Russia and the United States are among countries that have not signed the convention.
Those powers are thought to hoard and manufacture the bulk of the munitions, although the data is secret.