Cambodia has united with a host of nations in opposition to the US supplying Ukraine with cluster bombs, issuing a stark warning that such weaponry will cause great suffering to the Ukrainian people.
The protest follows a recent announcement by US President Joe Biden during a CNN interview on July 7.
In the interview, he confirmed that the difficult choice to arm Ukraine with cluster munitions was made after consultations with the Department of Defence and discussions with US allies.
Responding to the news on July 9, Prime Minister Hun Sen took to social media to underline the Kingdom’s stance against the deployment of such deadly ordinance, drawing upon Cambodia’s own harrowing past experiences.
“If this is true, it will be a tragedy for the people of Ukraine for the next dozens of years, or hundreds of years, if this kind of bomb is used in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia,” he wrote.
Reliving the historical scars that Cambodia bears from the barrage of cluster bombs dropped by the US in the early 1970s, he added: “It has been more than half a century and we still have not found a way to destroy all of them [cluster bombs]”.
The premier acknowledged Cambodia’s limited influence on the world stage, but passionately implored the leaders of both countries involved.
“I plea to the US president, who is the supplier of the ammunitions, and I call on the Ukrainian president, as receiver, not to use this cluster ammunition in the war because the victims are people and they are Ukrainians,” he said.
Reports indicate that many of the US’ allies have also voiced their disapproval of the provision of cluster munitions, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Spain and Germany, among others.
While Cambodia is not a member of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which bans the production and use of cluster bombs, the Kingdom has expressed interest in the convention established in 2008.
The US and Ukraine, however, are not participants in the agreement.
The CCM shared its strong disappointment via social media on July 8 regarding the US government’s decision to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine.
“This act undermines global efforts to eradicate these indiscriminate weapons, which put civilian lives at immediate risk,” it read.
Highlighting the extensive and long-lasting damages cluster munitions inflict on civilian populations, the convention further stated: “Cluster munitions cause unacceptable harm to civilians and have long-lasting humanitarian consequences due to their wide area effect, which results in significant adverse socio-economic consequences.”
“Therefore, any use of cluster munitions by any actor under any circumstances is not acceptable”.
In a recent comment, Heng Ratana, director-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), shared that approximately 30 million cluster munitions were dropped on Cambodia during the war.
Of these, between five and six million did not explode and now litter an area of almost 700sq km.
In 2022, the US Department of State granted funding to the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) to support demining in the areas of Cambodia affected by cluster bombs. The project, affecting Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie, Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces, is projected to conclude in November 2025, according to CMAC.