Speech by Yusuke Shindo
Director of Conventional Weapons Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
At the Weapons Destruction Ceremony in Banteay Srey, Siem Reap Province

Cambodia, 21 September 2003

Public Awareness for the Weapons for Development The residents hand over weapons Preparation for the Weapons Destruction Ceremony Weapons Destruction Ceremony Flame of Peace
Click photographs to enlarge

H.E. Em Sam An, Secretary of State of Ministry of Interior,
H.E. Ung Oeun, First Deputy Governor of Siem Reap Province,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to participate in the 'Flame of Peace' in Siem Reap Province organised with the support of the Government of Cambodia and the Rural Government of Siem Reap, and to be given this opportunity to speak on behalf of the Government of Japan. Through the public destruction of weapons, we show that we are determined and ready to face the challenges posed by Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).

The excessive and destabilising accumulation of SALW hinders social and economic reconstruction, humanitarian aid and peace-building activities in post-conflict situations. SALW claim more than half a million lives each year. Over 80 percent of their victims are women and children. The international community began to address the issue of SALW after then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali brought the issue to world attention in 1995. Japan has been at the forefront of this fight against SALW. We continue to affirm the importance of this issue at various international fora and conferences and have organised many conferences and workshops related to SALW not only in Japan but also in other countries.

In 2001, the United Nations convened the Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Japan served as vice-president of the Conference. Japan also served as chair of the UN First Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action on SALW held in July of this year. Consolidation of peace is one of the main pillars of Japan's foreign policy, and it therefore follows that the issue of small arms, including their control, collection and destruction, should be seriously addressed.

Japan holds the view that not only raising awareness of small arms issues in the international community but also real action in the affected areas is very much needed. We understand that the illicit trade and circulation of SALW pose a serious problem to the security situation in Cambodia. To tackle this issue, the strong determination of Cambodia to get rid of illicit weapons is the key factor in a successful weapons collection. Beyond the process of weapons collection, the elimination of the very incentive or motivation for having such weapons will become the key factor. This will require, first and foremost, national reconciliation accompanied by further improvement in the domestic security situation, tighter border control, improved public awareness, transformation from the culture of guns and violence to the culture of peace. In other words, a comprehensive approach is needed.

Japan has established JSAC (Japan Assistance Team for Small Arms Management in Cambodia), which is now implementing the Peace Building and Comprehensive Small Arms Management Program here in Cambodia. Under this project, weapons are collected in exchange for assistance for improving social infrastructure and public order. This project amounts to 3.7 million dollars in aid.

The program consists of four pillars, namely, 'Weapons Reduction and Development for Peace', 'Weapons Destruction', 'Registration' and 'Public Awareness'. Firstly, under Weapons for Development, the voluntary surrender of weapons will bring benefits to the community such as construction of schools, bridges, roads and water well. This approach is referred to as a community-based approach. Secondly, the collected weapons are to be destroyed in public to effectively promote better understanding among the public of the need to collect and destroy illicit SALW. Such ceremonies will also contribute to confidence-building between the residents and the government authorities. Thirdly, through the support of the registration of SALW, illicit circulation can be avoided in the future. Fourthly, through the Public Awareness programme, all sectors including NGOs can cooperate to address the problem of SALW. All of the elements of this project are interdependent and essential for the success of the project.

The Weapons for Development Project is a peace-building process that addresses the cause of conflicts such as poverty and social exclusion. We are certain that people's lives are being improved by sustainable development, the creation of good governance and confidence-building between the security sector and civilians, and that the illicit trade in SALW can be eliminated through this project.

This ceremonial destruction in Banteay Srey, which will burn about 1000 collected weapons, will be the first step in tackling the problem of SALW and is welcomed by the international community. These weapons were collected through cooperation among the Government of Cambodia, the Rural Government of Siem Reap and the Government of Japan. Japan hopes that this will become a successful model as a weapons collection and destruction project that takes into account the multiple development needs of local communities. Japan is determined to intensify its efforts to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms, as a nation dedicated to peace and advocating the culture of peace.

On the occasion of this ceremonial weapons destruction, Japan wishes to reaffirm its strong commitment to confronting the problems associated with small arms in Cambodia and to working together with the Cambodian people toward a better and more secure life for their country.

Thank you.

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