Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 26 June 2018

Summary: Non-signatory Cambodia has expressed its support for the convention, but has not taken any steps to join it. Cambodia participated in the convention’s meetings until 2015. It abstained from voting on a key UN resolution promoting the convention in December 2017.

Cambodia is not known to have ever produced, used, or exported cluster munitions. It has not disclosed the size or precise content of its cluster munition stockpile. Cambodia’s cluster munition contamination dates from the 1960s and 1970s, when the United States (US) extensively bombed the country in air attacks. More recently, in 2011, Thailand fired cluster munitions into Cambodian territory.


The Kingdom of Cambodia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Cambodia has shown interest in the convention but not taken any steps to join it besides stakeholder consultations. It last commented on the matter in March 2017, when a Cambodian official told the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) that the government views the convention positively and hopes to join in the future.[1] Previously, in 2013–2014, Cambodia said it was consulting with various stakeholders on the question of its accession to the convention.[2]

The Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs (CCBL) continues to call on the government to approve acceding to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. During a mine action conference in May 2017, ICBL-CMC Ambassador Tun Channareth met with Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin and other ministers and high-level officials to urge the government to reassess its approach toward the convention.[3]

Cambodia was an early, prominent, and influential supporter of the Oslo Process that produced the Convention on Cluster Munitions and advocated forcefully for the most comprehensive and immediate ban possible. It hosted the first regional forum on cluster munitions in Phnom Penh in March 2007 and joinedinthe consensus adoption of the convention at the end of the Dublin negotiations in May 2008. Yet, despite this extensive and positive leadership role, Cambodia attended the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo on 3 December 2008 only as an observer and did not sign, stating at the time that due to “recent security developments” in the region, it needed more time to study the security implications of joining.[4]

Since then, Cambodia has cited several reasons for not joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions, most of them security-related.[5] The Ministry of Defense has raised questions about how to destroy stockpiled cluster munitions and replenish defense capabilities after their destruction.[6] Cambodia has also long emphasized the need for its neighboring states, particularly Thailand, to accede to the convention.[7] In 2011, Thailand fired cluster munitions into Cambodian territory, killing two men and injuring seven.[8]

Cambodia has participated in several Meetings of States Parties of the convention, as well as the First Review Conference in September 2015 and intersessional meetings in Geneva in 2011–2015. It has attended regional workshops on the convention, most recently in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2017.[9]

In December 2017, Cambodia was absent from the vote on the first UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which urges states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.”[10] Cambodia was also absent from votes on previous UNGA resolutions supporting implementation of the convention in 2015 and 2016.

Cambodia has condemned the use of cluster munitions.[11]

Cambodia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, and transfer

Cambodia is not known to have used, produced, or exported cluster munitions.

The US used some 80,000 air-dropped cluster munitions containing 26 million submunitions on Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s during the Vietnam War, mostly in the east and northeast of the country.

After Thailand fired cluster munitions into Cambodian territory in June 2011, Cambodian officials informed a meeting of the convention that, “Despite being confronted and threatened by forces, so far we have refrained from employing cluster munitions in our response.”[12]


The types and quantities of cluster munitions stockpiled by Cambodia are not known. In December 2008, a defense official said that Cambodia has “some missile launchers that use cluster munitions that weigh more than 20kg” and that there were also stockpiles of cluster munitions weighing 250kg left over from the 1980s that Cambodia intends to destroy.[13] Weapons with submunitions that weigh more than 20kg each are not defined as cluster munitions by the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are thus not prohibited.[14] However, it is unclear if Cambodian officials are referring to the total weight of the warhead or the individual submunitions the warhead contains.

According to standard international reference publications, Cambodia also possesses BM-21 Grad 122mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[15] Cambodian officials have sought clarification from States Parties and NGOs as to whether BM-21 multi-barrel rocket launchers are banned under the convention. The launchers are capable of firing rockets with a variety of warheads, one of which is a cargo warhead containing explosive submunitions. The CMC has informed Cambodia that the rocket delivery system itself is not prohibited by the convention, and the convention would allow use of the BM-21 with unitary munitions. However, under the terms of the convention, a BM-21 rocket launcher could not be used to deliver rockets containing explosive submunitions.[16]

[1] CMC notes from the meeting by Megan Burke, Director, ICBL-CMC. See also, Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA), “H.E. Senior Minister Serei Kosal, CMAA’s 1st Vice President met Ms. Megan Burke, Director of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines,” 14 March 2017.

[2] In April 2014, an official said the convention’s “lack of clearly defined definition of cluster munitions” requires Cambodia to undertake “a much more vigorous study among key national technical stakeholders…to explore technical matters and to seek a possible consensus.” He said Cambodia will consider accession to the convention when it “concludes all relevant assessments.” Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 7 April 2014. See also, statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 10 September 2013.

[4] For details on Cambodia’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 193–195.

[5] See ICBL, Cluster Munition Monitor 2010 (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, October 2010), p. 201.

[6] Peter Sombor, “Cambodia Still Undecided About Signing Cluster Munitions Treaty,” The Cambodia Daily, 9 September 2013; and ICBL, Cluster Munition Monitor 2010 – Cambodia ban policy update, 21 October 2010.

[8] At the convention’s first intersessional meetings in June 2011, Cambodia said its accession was “just a matter of time.” Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 27 June 2011.

[9] Final Report of the South East Asia Regional Seminar, “Cooperating to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions: the country coalition concept,” Bangkok, 16–17 March 2017; and EU Nonproliferation Consortium, “Cooperating to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions: the country coalition concept,” UNESCAP, Bangkok, 16–17 March 2017.

[10] “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,”UNGA Resolution 72/54, 4 December 2017. It was also absent during the first round of voting on draft resolution A/C.1/72/L.41in the UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security on 31 October 2017.

[11] In 2014, Cambodia condemned reported use of cluster munitions in South Sudan. Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, April 2014.

[12] Statement of Cambodia, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 27 June 2011.

[13] The official was Chau Phirun of the Ministry of Defense. Lea Radick and Neou Vannarin, “No Rush to Sign Cluster Munition Ban: Gov’t,” The Cambodia Daily, 5 December 2008.

[14] Article 2.2 states: “‘Cluster munition’ means a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions.”

[15] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 229; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2008, CD-edition, 3 December 2007 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[16] Letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from Steve Goose, CMC, 30 November 2011.