Along with Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia continues to suffer the devastating effects of unexploded mines. Both Russia and Ukraine have already used this type of weaponry, which Biden announced that he wants to supply to kyiv. But Human Rights Watch recalled that China and Russia are also “actively researching and developing new types of cluster munitions.”
Phnom Penh () – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Ukraine not to use cluster bombs after the United States confirmed that it would send an 800 million dollar military aid package to Kiev for the war against Russia. Several humanitarian groups have criticized the decision of US President Joe Biden in recent days, alleging that this war residue can remain unexploited for decades.
“The use of cluster bombs in the Russian-occupied areas on the territory of Ukraine would pose the greatest danger to Ukrainians for several years, up to a century,” Hun Sen tweeted yesterday, citing the “painful experience” of Cambodia, where American munitions dropped in the early 1970s caused and continues to cause dozens of deaths and severe maiming injuries. “I call on the US president, as the provider, and the Ukrainian president, as the recipient, not to use cluster bombs in the war, because the real victims will be the Ukrainians,” reiterated the premier-dictator in power since 1985.
Along with Laos and Vietnam, Cambodia is one of the most mined countries in the world after the United States dropped millions of bombs in the 1960s and 1970s in an attempt to attack communist bases during the Vietnam War. In Laos alone, 260 million bombs were dropped between 1964 and 1973. To date, less than 0.5% have been cleared.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured that the risks to the civilian population will be minimized, but it will be a very difficult promise to keep, given the unpredictability of the weapon. Cluster bombs are devices designed to explode in the air that contain a series of smaller munitions inside that are made to spread over a very wide area, and, in turn, explode on contact with the ground. Or at least they should: according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, even in recent conflicts, 40% of munitions remains unexploded, increasing risks for the civilian population and causing “indiscriminate destruction” that violates the right humanitarian international.
In Cambodia, in the last 40 years alone, at least 20,000 people have been killed by stepping on unexploded mines. In Laos, at least 11 thousand. In 60% of the cases, the victims carried out normal daily activities and a third were minors, according to various data. However, a report of last year from the monitoring group Cluster Munition Coalition revealed that in 2022 97% of the victims were civilians and 66% children.
In January, a group of Ukrainian sappers visited Cambodian minefields. In the conflict between Russia and Ukraine cluster bombs have already been used on both fronts last fall (broadly in Moscow, more limitedly in kyiv), causing dozens of deaths even among non-combatants. Russian shelling hit civilian and medical infrastructure and killed more than 200 people. According to investigations carried out in the city of Izium, the Ukrainian attacks with cluster bombs between March and September 2022, during the Russian occupation, caused at least 8 civilian deaths and 15 injuries, but according to testimonies collected by Human Rights Watch the figures real are much higher.
kyiv has so far used Turkish-made ammunition. At present, the manufacture of cluster bombs is mainly concentrated in Asia: according to the Cluster Munition Coalition, the main producing countries are Brazil, China, Egypt, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore and Turkey. More than 120 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of this type of weapon. However, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, as well as China, India and Pakistan have refused to sign the treaty.
Until now, Russia has used old arsenals and newly developed cluster bombs in Ukraine, and also repurchased several orders for arms that he had sold to India and the Myanmar coup military junta.
Human Rights Watch noted that China and Russia “are actively researching and developing new types of cluster munitions.” China has not commented on the use of cluster bombs against civilians in Ukraine, but in May 2022, as a Foreign Ministry spokesperson noted, it condemned the use of cluster bombs by the United States in the Southeast. Asian. China has repeatedly stated that it has never used cluster munitions anywhere in the world, but acknowledged that it produces, stores and exports them, although there is no transparency on Chinese transfers. “We do not export military products to countries subject to Security Council embargoes and sanctions and we do not supply weapons to non-state actors or individuals,” Beijing had said in 2019. However, remains of Chinese origin have so far been recovered in Iraq, Israel , Lebanon and Sudan.