“Biggest Danger for Many Years”
Cambodia warns Ukraine about cluster munitions
07/09/2023, 2:45 p.m
During the Vietnam War, the US dropped millions of cluster bombs on Cambodia and Laos. Tens of thousands were killed or maimed. More than half a century later, cluster munitions are still active in the country, says Cambodia’s head of government and appeals to Kiev.
Cambodia, from its own painful experience, has warned Ukraine against using cluster munitions. “It would be the greatest danger to Ukrainians for many years or up to a hundred years if cluster bombs were used in the Russian-held areas on the territory of Ukraine,” wrote Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Twitter.
Hun Sen pointed to the millions of cluster bombs that the US Army dropped on neighboring Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s to hit Communist bases. This is a “painful experience” for his country, and tens of thousands of people have been killed or maimed by the explosive devices.
The government of US President Joe Biden announced on Friday that it would supply cluster munitions to Ukraine because of the Russian war of aggression. The decision is internationally controversial. Cluster bombs are considered particularly insidious and pose a great danger to civilians. They are very imprecise and many of the explosive devices they contain do not detonate immediately. These duds therefore remain a danger to civilians even years or decades after the end of a conflict. According to the United States, it has received assurances from the government in Kiev that it will minimize the risks to civilians when using cluster bombs. US President Biden spoke of a “difficult decision” for arms exports.
“The real victims will be the Ukrainians”
Hun Sen pointed out that although more than half a century has passed since US cluster bombs were dropped on his country, not all of the explosive devices have been rendered harmless. “Out of compassion for the Ukrainian people, I call on the US President as the supplier and the President of Ukraine (Volodymyr Zelenskyy) as the recipient not to use cluster bombs in the war because the real victims will be the Ukrainians,” Cambodia’s prime minister said.
After a three-decade-long civil war that ended in 1998, Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. By 2025, the government wants to have finally defused all mines and duds. In January, a group of demolitions experts from Ukraine visited Cambodia’s minefields to learn from the Southeast Asian country’s experience.
Germany is one of the more than 100 countries that have signed the so-called Oslo Convention banning cluster munitions. However, the US, Ukraine and Russia have not signed the agreement.