Quang Tri, Vietnam; Vientiane, Lao PDR (Nov 24, 2010)
Pham Quy Thi, a farmer from central Vietnam who lost his right hand in a cluster bomb accident in 1977, attended the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions hosted by the Lao PDR government in Vientiane from 9 to 12 November.
Signed by 108 countries and ratified by 46, the Convention is a groundbreaking instrument of international law which bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, and it provides significant assistance to victims of this deadly weapon, their families, and their communities.
While working in his rice field in 1977, two years after peace had come to Vietnam, Thi hit an unexploded cluster bomb, locally known as “bombie”. The explosion claimed his right hand and caused serious injuries to his abdomen. A number of metal fragments are still lodged in his body. It took Thi a year and a half to physically recover from his wounds, but the horror of being victimized by the cluster bomb haunted him for years longer. Thi managed to keep going, he married at the age of 25, and now has three children, two of whom have successfully graduated from college, and one of whom is a senior this year in informatics.
Thi has become well known in his home village for his active role as leader of the club for people with disabilities, many of whom, like Thi, have been injured and disabled by explosive ordnance. Thi has helped organize vocational training opportunities for disabled people so they can earn independent incomes and successfully reintegrate into their communities.
Thi’s experience in working with cluster bomb and other explosive ordnance victims in his community has motivated him to become involved in the “Ban Advocates” initiative sponsored by Handicap International Belgium, to advocate for the Cluster Munitions Convention. During the treaty process over the past three years, Thi has been to Ireland, Norway, Germany, Indonesia and now Lao PDR to participate in international conferences to promote the Convention which entered into force on 1 August 2010. In his story published on the Ban Advocates Blog, Thi expressed his hope that the new treaty would help clean up all contaminated areas in Vietnam so that he and others would be able to work without fear, and that explosives left over from the war would no longer pose a risk to local people.
The journey to Lao PDR is Thi’s sixth trip abroad since he became a campaigner for the CCM. Together with other cluster bomb survivors from all over the world, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Serbia, Laos, Cambodia, the United States and Lebanon, Thi will continue to participate in advocacy activities conducted by the Cluster Munitions Coalition, an international civil society campaign working to eradicate cluster munitions, prevent further casualties from these weapons, and put an end for all time to the suffering they cause.
“I hope the Vietnam government will soon participate in the CCM,” This said, “so that Vietnam can acquire much needed international assistance to help us clean up contaminated areas and so we can offer more support to victims and their families.” Thi says he intends to do his part to achieve that goal.
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