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Global Community to Team Up for Cluster Bomb Ban

Posted May. 09, 2008 08:36,   


Viengkeo Kavongsone, his wife and their children were clearing the ditch that drains rainwater from their little wooden house in the province of Xieng Khouang in northern Laos. When they tried to clear something hard, the small metallic ball exploded. The youngest son died immediately, his wife and daughter lost legs, and his oldest boy lost his sight.

British daily The Times reported how seriously cluster bombs can destroy a family. The bomb was scattered by American bombers in the late 1960s. Global news agency Agence France-Presse reported that around 400 people are being killed or injured in the explosion of cluster bombs, which were scattered four decades ago but have yet to explode in Laos, every year.

The international society has raised its voice to put a ban on producing, using, keeping and transporting cluster bombs that have seriously damaged innocent people. Around one hundred governments will gather to sign the cluster munitions treaty, an international treaty to prevent the use of cluster bombs, in Dublin, Ireland, from May 19 to 30.

○ A cluster bomb destroys people and things within 1 square kilometer

Cluster bombs, first developed in 1943, release several hundreds individual “bomblets,” after being airdropped from airplanes or choppers, or being shot as a missile. A cluster bomb can turn everything staying in a square kilometer into ruins.

Lots of cluster bombs were used by the United States, which attacked Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s. They have been dropped onto as many as 23 nations including Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya. The most recent case was Israel’s use of cluster bombs in its war against Lebanon in August 2006.

The bombs seriously do harm to the innocent people since some of bomblets, which failed to detonate when they were scattered, have worked as land mines.

Non-government humanitarian organization Handicap International released a report last year. According to the report, 13,306 people have been killed or injured in cluster bomb explosions and 97.9 percent (13,031) of the total victims were innocent civilians. The organization estimated that the actual number of victims would reach as many as 100,000, citing difficulties collecting data.

It also explained a total of 440 million cluster bombs have been dropped and as much as 130 million ones of them have yet to detonate and threaten the lives of innocent people.

○ 84 governments agree to cluster bomb ban

Victims of cluster bombs have continued to increase. According to U.S.-based international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, 28 nations are still producing cluster bombs and 75 nations have them in stock. Both of the two Koreas are still producing and keeping cluster bombs.

The Cluster Munition Coalition, consisting of around 200 civic organizations from around the world, announced that 84 nations have agreed to cluster bomb ban since the first international conference was held in Oslo, Norway, in February 2007. However, even if all the pro-cluster bomb ban nations sign a treaty, it would not be effective as much since nations that have produced and used a large volume of cluster bombs, such as the United States, Russia and China, have taken a lukewarm stance.

Monthly magazine The World Today, published by British think-tank Chatham House, expected, “Even though the United States, Russia and China rejected to sign the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, all of them do not produce anti-personnel mines any more. Similarly, if the cluster munitions treaty is agreed upon, it would influence not only those which sign the treaty but also those which do not sign the treaty.”