Laos Ratifies Cluster Munition Convention

Laos, the world’s most cluster munition contaminated country, has become the fifth country to ratify the cluster bomb ban.  It is among the some 100 signatories of the treaty, opened for signature in December 2008. 

“Each new ratification brings us one step closer to the life-saving promises of this treaty and each new signature increases the stigma against this weapon making it harder for any country to even contemplate future use,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch. “We call on all countries that have not done so to sign and ratify the Convention without delay.”

Four other countries have ratified the treaty, the Holy See, Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Norway.

The ratification occured at an event on the Cluster Munitions Convention at the UN in New York, attended by some 75 countries.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo signed the treaty at the event and Iraq announced an intention to join.

In an indicator of the severity of Laos’ cluster munitions problem, in 2008 31 people were killed and 69 people injured by US ordnance dropped during the Vietnam War.  Between 1964 and 1973, the US dropped an average of a plane load of bombs on Laos every eight minutes.  Almost the entire population of the Laotian Plain of Jars had to evacuate and a US Information Service refugee survey at the time found that 80% of the victims of the bombing there and the surrounding Xieng Khouang province were civilians. In 1996, the UN estimated that about 500,000 tons of UXO remained in the ground.

For more details on the contamination of Laos by cluster munitions and other unexploded remnants of war, click here.

For a history of how the terrible contamination of Laos occured, either click here go to the Mennonite Central Committee’s website or read my paper on the history of efforts to ban and mitigate the impact of mines and cluster munitions since the Indochinese Wars.

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~ by Matthew Bolton on 26 March 2009.

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