A group of 13 Ban Advocates and support staff from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam were involved in the 11th meeting of State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, organized in Phnom Penh from 28th November till 2d December 2011. Moreover, Umarbek Pulodov, a Ban Advocate from Tajikistan had a chance in the same week in Phnom Penh to follow the Mine Action Canada’s youth leader programme with around 40 other youth campaigners.
Before the start of the conference, the Ban Advocates participated in different briefings, among them was an interesting and interactive workshop on “push for survivor participation in practice” organized by ICBL.
On Sunday 27th November, several members of the Ban Advocates team met with H.E Hun Sen Prime Minister of Cambodia. They had the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for his concern and support for persons with disabilities, to speak about victim assistance in general and the specific needs of victims. In addition, they asked the Cambodian government to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Many of them were impressed of such a high level meeting, which was a successful one.
Before the conference started, and also during the week, the Ban Advocates enjoyed two field visits. The first to see the work of demining activities in Cambodia, and the second to visit Banteay Prieb training center, home for young people with disabilities. The visit at this center was especially inspiring because it provided a model of bringing persons with disabilities to become more and more autonomous at different levels in life: professional and private (housing, gardening,…) together with the support of teachers, who were students years before.
This week, the Ban Advocates were very active to lobby South East Asian countries, especially to delegates of their own countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Indeed, both Lao PDR and Vietnam have not joined the Mine Ban Treaty yet. They also met delegates from Thailand and Myanmar. Furthermore, Bounmy had the opportunity to join the meeting organized at the Pakistanese embassy.
Moreover, for the first time, Thi as a Vietnamese Ban Advocate involved for many years in the campaign, had the chance, with a group of other survivors, to speak to the US delegation who attended the conference as observers. Thi asked the delegates, why the US government produced and still used indiscriminate weapons. These weapons have had a terrible impact on civilians. For instance the effects of these weapons are seen even more than 30 years after the war ended.
Bounmy as a Lao Ban Advocate and Seevue as the Lao Ban Advocate Coordinator intervened during the side event on “International South-South Cooperation” organized by Japan on Monday 28th November. This side event aimed to facilitate the understanding of South-South cooperation, by sharing the experiences and discussing the use of this form of cooperation in accelerating the implementation of the obligations under the Convention.
Both Bounmy and Seevue spoke about the creation of the Lao team composed by eight survivors, who were trained almost two years ago. At this time, the group enjoyed the presence of Tun Channareth, a Charismatic and well known Cambodian survivor and campaigner. Channareth was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the ICBL and is one of their ambassadors. The group also learned from Pham Quy Thi’s experience, who is the Vietnamese Ban Advocate.
After being trained and inspired by other campaigners from neighboring countries, the Lao Ban Advocates are now ready to share their experiences of being great advocates in Lao PDR, to other new comers, as they did in Cambodia. Indeed, the Lao Ban Advocates team shared their experience with the two new Cambodian Ban Advocates, Hoeun Sok and Sum Kon. In a way, this experience shared between survivors on advocacy skills can be also seen as South-South cooperation, isn’t it?
Kon as a new Cambodian Ban Advocate spoke for the first time during the side event on “The human stories of victim assistance in Cambodia” hosted by Handicap International on Wednesday 30th November. At this side event, a qualitative research carried out to emulate the lives of some of the victims of landmines in Cambodia was reported. Kon, together with two other landmine survivors, spoke for the first time about their stories, especially in how life changed for them after the accident, and what specific needs they have to recover and have a successful professional and family life.
Kon is 35 years old teacher from Siem Reap province. He is married and has five children. After going back home, he is keen to share with his students what he learned and his experiences this week about the Mine Ban Treaty process.
All Ban Advocates went home after sharing their rich experience among a regional Ban Advocates group, of being involved to “push for progress” in such a symbolic country which is the most affected by landmines.