Countdown to entry into force - Week 3: Vietnam
(Vietnam) 10 May 2010 - Vietnamese cluster bomb survivor Phan Van Tu at work making fishhooks.
At age 14, a cluster bomblet explosion destroyed his left arm and part of his left leg while he was fishing. Photo credit: Landmine Survivors Network-Vietnam
Few countries suffer from cluster bomb contamination on the same scale as Vietnam, but its government has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions that comprehensively bans the weapon and provides assistance to affected individuals and communities.
Although Vietnam is not believed to have ever used, produced, stockpiled or transferred cluster munitions, it remains heavily contaminated by unexploded cluster submunitions and other explosive remnants of war. The US dropped 413,130 tons (4.1 million kg) of submunitions on Vietnam between 1965 and 1973, striking 55 of its 64 provinces and many major cities. Unexploded cluster submunitions still contaminate most of Vietnam's provinces and continue to claim civilian victims ' Ministry of Public Security figures show some 138,000 casualties (38,000 killed and 100,000 injured) caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war in Vietnam since 1975.
As a village health worker in one of Vietnam's most heavily contaminated regions, Huong Thi Nguyen witnesses frequent civilian casulties caused by cluster bombs. But the weapon has also had a profound personal impact on Nguyen, as a cluster submunition explosion in 1991 killed her 4-year-old daughter and permanently disabled her husband Kien Le.
"As an affected country, Vietnam has every reason to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and no excuse not to," said Nguyen, who is part of Handicap International-Belgium's Ban Advocates initiative. "I hope that the international community will help my country to clean up contaminated land and put an end to the suffering that cluster bombs have caused to Vietnamese civilians and communities."
Neighbouring Lao PDR, which is the most heavily bombed country in the world, has ratified the Convention and will host the First Meeting of States Parties from 8-12 November. The Cluster Munition Coalition urges Vietnam to sign the Convention without delay and to attend the First Meeting of States Parties.