Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress


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  • War Legacy Issues in Southeast Asia: Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).
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The Kingdom of Cambodia is among the world's most UXO-afflicted countries, contaminated with cluster munitions, landmines, and other undetonated weapons.

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In , the United States launched a four-year carpet-bombing campaign on Cambodia, dropping 2. The Vietnamese military, Vietnam-backed Cambodian forces, the Khmer Rouge, and Royalist forces reportedly all deployed landmines during the civil war period. There have been over 64, UXO casualties in Cambodia since , including over 19, deaths.

Open Development Cambodia, a website devoted to development-related data, reports that since the early s, about square miles 1, square kilometers of land has been cleared of UXO. Between and , the U. These activities are carried out largely by U. Some experts are concerned that declining international assistance could jeopardize clearance goals. From through , the United States military reportedly flew , bombing runs and dropped over 2 million tons of cluster munitions, including over million cluster bombs, on the small land-locked country.

An estimated one-third of these munitions failed to explode. The bombing campaign also supported Lao government forces fighting against communist rebels Pathet Lao and their North Vietnamese allies. Cluster munitions were considered the "weapon of choice" in Laos because they could penetrate the jungle canopy, cover large areas, and successfully attack convoys and troop concentrations hidden by the trees.

The most heavily bombed areas in Laos were the northeastern and southern provinces, although UXO can be found in 14 of the country's 17 provinces. The bombings in the northeast were intended to deny territory, particularly the Plain of Jars, to Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces and, in the south, to sever the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which crossed the border into eastern Laos.

The northeastern part of Laos was also used as a "free drop zone" where planes that had taken off from bases in Thailand and had been unable to deliver their bombs, could dispose of them before returning to Thailand. According to the Geneva-based Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor , since , there have been over 50, mine and ERW casualties in Laos, including over 29, people killed. The country has already met these goals: in , the number of reported casualties was 41, including four killed.

Cluster munitions have hampered economic development in the agricultural country. Expenditures on demining efforts and medical treatment divert investment and resources from other areas and uses. Many injured UXO survivors lose the ability to be fully productive. According to the Lao government, there appears to be a significant correlation between the presence of UXO and the prevalence of poverty. Since the early s, the U. NADR demining programs constitute the largest U. For many years in the s and s, UXO-related clearance programs were one of the primary areas of substantive cooperation between the United States and Laos.

Some argue that such activity has helped foster bilateral ties with a country whose authoritarian government is deeply inward looking. When President Obama became the first U. And even as we continue to deal with the past, our new partnership is focused on the future. Vietnam's voluntary effort to locate and return the remains of U. MIAs was a significant factor in the restoration of diplomatic relations. UXO assistance to Vietnam most likely has been a factor in establishing trust between the two governments.

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The UXO in Vietnam are remnants from conflicts spanning more than a century, potentially as far back as the Sino-French War or Tonkin War of and as recent as the Cambodian-Vietnamese War and the border conflicts between China and Vietnam from to Estimates of the amount of UXO in Vietnam vary. According to one source, "at least , tons of live bombs and mines remain in Vietnam.

Viewed in terms of land area, the Vietnamese government estimates that between 6. Figures on the number of UXO casualties in Vietnam also vary. One source says, "No one really knows how many people have been injured or killed by UXO since the war ended, but the best estimates are at least ,, including 40, deaths. A survey of UXO casualties determined that the three main circumstances under which people were killed or injured by UXO were in order : scrap metal collection In some of Vietnam's poorer provinces, people proactively seek out and collect UXO in order to obtain scrap metal to sell to augment their income, despite the inherent danger.

Figure 3. NGOs working in Vietnam report some issues in their collaboration with the MND, which has declared portions of contaminated provinces off limits for UXO surveying and decontamination. Many of these areas contain villages and towns inhabited by civilians. In addition, the MND has not been providing information about any UXO clearance efforts being conducted in these areas.

The lack of information sharing has hindered efforts to establish a nationwide UXO database that is being used to refine UXO location and clearance techniques. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have been the largest recipients of U. Table 1. FY numbers estimated : S. In December , the United States and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation to overcome the effects of "wartime bomb, mine, and unexploded ordnance" in Vietnam. The main areas of assistance are clearance, surveys, and medical assistance.

In Cambodia, the Department of State and USAID support programs that collaborate with and train Cambodian organizations in clearance activities, conduct geographical surveys, help process explosive material retrieved from ERW, and provide mine risk education. In Laos, U. In Vietnam, the United States provides mine clearance and survey support, capacity building programs, and medical assistance and vocational training for victims.

DOD's stated policy is. It is important to note that U. The House of Representatives voted Thursday against an amendment that would have blocked the transfer of American-made cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia. Cluster munitions, often called cluster bombs, scatter multiple explosive sub-munitions over a wide area. These sub-munitions, or "bomblets," often fail to explode upon impact and become de facto landmines, continuing to pose a threat even long after conflicts end, according to Human Rights Watch.

Cluster munitions have been used by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, in attacks that have targeted large civilian populations, according to the United Nations. In a report titled "Children and Armed Conflict," U. During the House debate on the proposed amendment on Thursday, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N. Cluster Munitions in Yemen - message to the Children : don't touch this!

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John Conyers , Jr. That campaign has caused the deaths of over children, 3, civilians, and has forced 2. Cluster bombs were banned by a treaty signed by countries, though a few countries, including the U. Advocates said the small margin by which the amendment was rejected is major progress in an effort to end the cluster bomb trade. Nearly half of the U. House of Representatives are ready to cut off cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia," Bery told ABC News today, noting that the timing of this vote is especially significant, as this is the week that President Obama is meeting with Saudi officials.

Bery said the vote is a message that more than House members "find the Saudi Arabian military conduct to be unacceptable.

Indian forces use cluster munitions along LoC

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Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress
Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress
Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress
Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress
Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress
Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

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