By BRYAN THAO WORRA
AAP staff writer
This week on August 1st, we mark the one-year anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Those who ratified the treaty agreed to halt the use of these inhumane weapons. This treaty also includes provisions calling for support for clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance.
For many of us in Minnesota, particularly refugees from Southeast Asia, it is a bittersweet reminder of our constant journey. The US has yet to sign on to the Convention, which is one of the most significant international disarmament and humanitarian treaty in more than a decade. Last year, over 107 countries signed the treaty and 37 countries ratified it.
In Minnesota, we’ve convened several events to recognize the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including the Legacies of War exhibit at Intermedia Arts as well as displays at the Loft Literary Center, the Hmong National Conference and the Brookdale Library, film screenings and formal and informal discussions about what the unexploded weapons have meant to the Lao, Hmong, Cambodian, and Vietnamese among many others. This includes communities in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The Lao PDR, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history was one of the first countries to sign the treaty and they hosted the convention’s First Meeting of State Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR, in November 2010. There, they developed an action plan to be used by all states to complete the legal obligations of the treaty. But it won’t be easy. In Laos alone, they estimate it will take at least $400 million dollars to completely remove the cluster bombs from Laos by 2020.
Groups like Legacies of War have called for an increase in U.S. funding to $10M per year over the next 10 years in order to make a significant dent in the current cluster bomb problem in Laos and to save thousands of lives in the future. With nearly 100,000 Southeast Asians living in Minnesota, we have a stake in this issue as we try to support our families and friends who still live in contaminated regions. In Laos, nearly 1/3 of the countryside is unsafe and over one-third of the victims are children under the age of 12.
Many of their parents weren’t even born yet when the war ended. Minnesota played a key role in the manufacture of many of these weapons during the war. Fortunately, Minnesota has also played a key role in the lives of many who sought to rebuild and grow, and to transform our societies anew.
Even as we face difficult budget choices, let us not turn our backs on those who need us most, and continue to encourage effective programs that clear these deadly weapons.
One year later, we’ve made great progress addressing cluster bombs, but we can and must do more.