Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 11 August 2015

Five-Year Review: Non-signatory Myanmar has acknowledged the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, but it has not commented publicly on its position on accession to the convention. Myanmar has participated as an observer in a couple of the convention’s meetings, most recently in 2013.

Myanmar states that it does not use, produce, or transfer cluster munitions. It somehow acquired a “cluster adaptor” similar in design to a modern cluster munition that it allegedly used in Kachin state in late 2012 and early 2013.


The Republic of the Union of Myanmar has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[1]

Myanmar has never made a public statement detailing its position on joining the convention, but it has expressed concern at the humanitarian impact of the weapons on several occasions.[2] In October 2013, Myanmar repeated its view that cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines are “the main causes of maiming, killing and terrorizing innocent civilian populations.”[3] In 2009, a government official informed a regional conference on cluster munitions that Myanmar “criticizes the use of such weapons with indiscriminate area effect and which can cause humanitarian consequences.”[4]

Myanmar attended one regional meeting of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR in October 2008). It participated in a regional conference on cluster munitions in Bali, Indonesia in November 2009.

Myanmar participated as an observer in the convention’s First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2010 and the Third Meeting of States Parties in Oslo, Norway in September 2012, but did not make any statements. Myanmar attended the convention’s intersessional meetings in Geneva once, in April 2013.

Myanmar is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

In November 2009, Myanmar stated, “We do not use cluster munitions, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, nor assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under this Convention.”[5]

Myanmar somehow acquired and reportedly used a “cluster adaptor” in 2012 and 2013, which is similar in design to a modern cluster munition. There are indications that Myanmar government forces used the “cluster adaptor” to mount six fragmentation bombs, which separate from the rack when dropped from the air, similar in function to a modern cluster munition, in the conflict with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin state in the north of the country in late 2012 and early 2013.

The KIA claimed that the Myanmar army units stationed at Gangdau Yang used cluster munitions against KIA forces in a 26 January 2013 attack at Hka Ya Bum, “a hill top of strategic significance” five miles west of the town of Laiza in southern Kachin state.[6] On 19 April 2013, the Deputy Secretary of the Kachin National Council provided photographs to the CMC showing an unknown type of air-dropped bomb that it said “confirmed that the World War-Two era 20 pound fragmentation bombs were used during the airstrikes in the KIA’s strategic outposts between 14 December 2012 and 08 January 2013 by the Myanmar Air Force.” According to the Kachin National Council “this type has never been used in Burma’s civil war before.”[7]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) received a separate set of photos that showed what appear to be the same remnants being carried in a vehicle at a location not known to be the scene of the attack.[8] HRW confirmed airstrikes and shelling on Laiza by Myanmar forces in December 2012 and January 2013.[9] The government of Myanmar later admitted to shelling and bombing Laiza.[10]

The “cluster adapter” and 20-pound fragmentation bombs shown in the photographs appear to meet the definition of a cluster munition in the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[11]

Myanmar possesses 122mm Type-81 and Type-90B and 240mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[12]

[1] The military regime changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, but many ethnic groups in the country and a number of states still prefer to use the name Burma.

[2] In 2010, a government representative informed the Monitor that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reviewing the convention. Interview with Aye Thidar Myo, Assistant Director, International Organizations and Economic Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vientiane, 10 November 2010.

[3] Statement of Myanmar, UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 30 October 2013; and statement of Myanmar, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 1 November 2012.

[4] Statement by Ye Minn Thein, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Conference on the Promotion and Universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Bali, 16 November 2009.

[5] Ibid.

[6]Burma army uses cluster bombs to take key KIO position near Laiza,” Kachin News Group, 26 January 2013.

[7] The photographs were contained in an email sent to the CMC from Hkun Htoi, Deputy Secretary, Kachin National Council, 19 April 2013.

[8] Email from Bertil Linter, 25 March 2013.

[9] HRW also documented the attacks on Laiza on 14 January 2013, which killed three civilians. See HRW Press Statement, “Burma: Halt Indiscriminate Attacks in Kachin State,” 17 January 2013.

[10] According to a January 2013 statement by HRW, “On January 14, government spokesman Ye Thut denied that government shells struck Laiza. The previous week, the Office of the President publicly denied that the army conducted any airstrikes against the KIA with helicopters and fighter jets, but then later backtracked when news reports showed video footage of the attacks.” HRW Press Statement, “Burma: Halt Indiscriminate Attacks in Kachin State,” 17 January 2013.

[11] The photographs show a metal tubular “rack” that appears to be similar in design to the US-produced M1 cluster adapter. The small fragmentation bombs are of a more modern design and marking than World War II-era munitions. A military officer who requested anonymity confirmed that the weapon was manufactured in Myanmar; additionally, a former military ordnance officer confirmed that the markings on the weapons were those used by Myanmar’s armed forces.

[12]Myanmar Defense Weapons,” 20 March 2014. English translation from Hla Oo’s Blog “Burma Army’s MRLS or Multi Rocket Launcher Systems,” 23 March 2014.