Cambodians living in the Seattle, Wash., area have begun putting their names on a petition asking the US to join an international landmine treaty.
Organizers of the petition, including a Cambodian landmine victim and Nobel Prize laureate, Tun Channareth, say they want to collect 1,000 signatures before sending the petition to US President Barack Obama.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 156 countries have signed an international mine ban and 108 have signed a convention against cluster munitions. Neither the US nor Cambodia are among them.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 156 countries have signed an international mine ban and 108 have signed a convention against cluster munitions. Neither the US nor Cambodia are among signatories for the cluster munition ban. Cambodia ratified the landmine ban in 1999.
Henry Ung, a manager at the World Financial Group in Seattle, said he met with Tun Channareth and decided to support the cause and sign the petition. “I support him 100 percent in this field,” Ung said.
Ung fled the Khmer Rouge over the Dangrek mountains in 1979, crossing a mine field to get to Thailand. “That’s why I understand this,” he said.
Warya Pothan, who has lived in Seattle since 1975, said she supported the petition because “there are a lot of landmines in our country of Cambodia, and the casualties are so many.”
Millions of landmines remain in Cambodia, although the annual fatality rate has dropped from 1,154 to 185 over the last decade.
Moly Som, who came to Seattle in 1977, said she too supported the petition “to make peace in the world.”
Many signatories to the petition were moved by Tun Channareth’s work. He lost his legs to a landmine in 1982 while fighting in Cambodia’s post-Khmer Rouge civil war.
“He is very brave,” said Dani Morton, a grassroots activist in Seattle who also signed the petition. “He does wonderful work, and for those of us with both hands and legs, indeed, he hasn’t asked us for anything but our signatures.”
Morton arrived in the US in 1981, via a Thai camp, but she saw many family members perish to landmines along the border. “We should help each other,” she said, “and make President Obama participate.”