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Landmine Activist Pushes for US To Ban Weapons

Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World President-Designate Wolfgang Petritsch, right, chats with Tun Channareth from Cambodia.

Cambodian international landmine activist Tun Channareth, who was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, has wrapped up a trip to the US, where he hoped to gather support for a petition for the US to ban the use of landmines and cluster munitions.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Tun Channareth, who lost his leg to a mine in 1982, said at least 156 other countries have signed the international treaty to ban landmines, despite the failure of the US, China and Russia to do so.

Tun Channareth, a former soldier on the border who is now 51, was also awarded an honorary degree by Seattle University for his work to help landmine victims in Cambodia and his advocacy to have the weapons banned internationally.

“I have incorporated an agenda that is asking people in Seattle [and Washington state] to give their signature to push America, especially the US government, to agree to abolish landmines and cluster bombs,” he said.

The US funds programs to clear landmines and unexploded munitions, which is good, he said.

“What I critically want is for the US to hold the pen and sign, to agree to stop using [landmines and cluster munitions], destroy its existing stocks, and stop producing them,” he said. “This is what I really need.”

Tun Channareth said individual aid to victims is not enough without broader solutions to the landmine problem.

“To improve the lives of victims, it’s not just giving them wheelchairs or food,” he said. “But we need to clear their land and clear munitions in the hometowns, which are waiting to kill them.”