ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Laos seeks quicker removal of cluster bombs
More than 1,000 government officials, charity workers and survivors of the bombs will gather for the first meeting of states that are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became international law on August 1.
The four-day event "is expected to be a defining moment" for the convention, which is the most significant disarmament treaty in more than a decade, said the Cluster Munition Coalition, a non-governmental group working to eradicate weapons, which number in their millions. Cluster bombs, launched from the ground or dropped from the air, split open before impact to scatter multiple bomblets over a wide area.
The bomblets can resemble a large flashlight battery or a tennis ball. Many fail to explode and can lie hidden for decades, posing a threat to unsuspecting farmers and children.
"Cluster munitions cannot distinguish between soldiers and civilians, wartime or peace... children are at particular risk," said Stale Torstein Risa, the Norwegian ambassador to Vietnam and Laos, two of the most severely affected states.
Norway was the first country to sign the convention, followed by Laos, the most heavily-bombed nation on earth per capita, according to the country's National Regulatory Authority (NRA), which coordinates work on unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
In Vietnam, unexploded ordnance -- much of it cluster bombs -- has killed 10,529 people and wounded more than 12,000 in six heavily-contaminated central provinces, a study found last year. Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon also have have high numbers of confirmed casualties from leftover cluster munitions, said the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, a non-governmental monitoring project.
After Laos and Vietnam, Iraq and Cambodia have the largest areas of contaminated land. They are among at least 23 states and three other areas believed to have cluster bomb remnants, it said.
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