Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 26 June 2018

Summary: Non-signatory Myanmar has acknowledged the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions and said in October 2017 that it is reviewing the convention with a view to joining in the future. It last participated in a meeting of the convention in 2013. Myanmar abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution on the convention in December 2017.

Myanmar previously stated that it has never used and does not produce or transfer cluster munitions. It allegedly used a weapon similar in design to a modern cluster munition in Kachin state in 2012–2013.


The Republic of the Union of Myanmar has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[1]

At the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2017, Myanmar stated that it is reviewing the convention with a view to joining in the future, stating “In principle, Myanmar supports the provisions of the…Convention on Cluster Munitions. We recognize the initiative taken under [it] to prevent the indiscriminate use of…cluster munitions, which can lead to vulnerability and serious humanitarian impact…”[2]

Previously, in October 2015, Myanmar saidit would consider acceding to the convention after “a nation-wide peace agreement.”[3]

Myanmar attended one regional meeting of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lao PDR in October 2008. It participated in a regional conference on cluster munitions in Bali, Indonesia in November 2009.

Myanmar participated as an observer in the convention’s annual Meetings of States Parties in 2010 and 2012 and then its intersessional meetings in 2013. Myanmar has not attended a meeting of the convention since 2013.

In December 2017, Myanmar abstained from voting on a key UNGA resolution that urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[4] It abstained from voting on previous resolutions promoting the convention in 2015 and 2016.

Myanmar is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

In November 2009, Myanmar informed a regional meeting that, “we do not use cluster munitions, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, nor assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited under this Convention.”[5] It criticized cluster munitions as “weapons with indiscriminate area effect…which can cause humanitarian consequences.”[6]

In October 2015, Myanmar stated that it followsthe basic principles of the law of armed conflict and stated, “Our Armed Forces exercises restraint in its military operations. Cluster Munitions were never used in these operations.”[7]

Myanmar possesses 122mm Type-81 and Type-90B and 240mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads.[8]

Previous allegation of use

Myanmar acquired and reportedly used a weapon similar in design to a modern cluster munition in late 2012 and early 2013 during the conflict between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin state in the north of the country.[9] The KIA claimed that the Myanmar army units stationed at Gangdau Yang used cluster munitions against KIA forces in a 26 January 2013 attack at Hka Ya Bum, five miles west of the town of Laiza in southern Kachin state.[10]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed airstrikes and shelling on Laiza by Myanmar forces in December 2012 and January 2013.[11] It reviewed a set of photos that showed what appear to be the same remnants in a vehicle at a location that appear to be the site of the attack, indicating they were moved.[12] The “cluster adapter” and 20-pound fragmentation bombs shown in the photographs appear to meet the definition of a cluster munition under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[13]

[1] The military regime changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, but many ethnic groups in the country and a number of states still prefer to use the name Burma.

[2] Myanmar, Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.41, 72nd Session, UNGA First Committee, New York, 31 October 2017, UNGA, Official Records, A/C.1/72/PV26, pp. 18–19/29.

[3] Statement of Myanmar, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 15 October 2015. In 2013, Myanmar expressed concern at the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions but did not elaborate its position on accession. Statement of Myanmar, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 30 October 2013; and statement of Myanmar, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 24 October 2012.

[4] “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 72/54, 4 December 2017.

[5] Statement by Ye Minn Thein, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Conference on the Promotion and Universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Bali, 16 November 2009.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Statement of Myanmar, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 15 October 2015.

[8] “Myanmar Defense Weapons,” 20 March 2014. English translation from Hla Oo’s Blog, “Burma Army’s MRLS or Multi Rocket Launcher Systems,” 23 March 2014.

[9] There is evidence that Myanmar government forces mounted six fragmentation bombs to the adaptor, which then separated from the rack when dropped from the air.

[10] “Burma army uses cluster bombs to take key KIO position near Laiza,” Kachin News Group, 26 January 2013. On 19 April 2013, the deputy secretary of the Kachin National Council provided photographs to the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) showing an unknown type of air-dropped bomb that it said, “confirmed that the World War-Two era 20 pound fragmentation bombs were used during the airstrikes in the KIA’s strategic outposts between 14 December 2012 and 8 January 2013 by the Myanmar Air Force.” According to the Kachin National Council, “this type has never been used in Burma’s civil war before.” The photographs were contained in an email sent to the CMC by Hkun Htoi, Deputy Secretary, Kachin National Council, 19 April 2013.

[11] HRW also documented the attacks on Laiza on 14 January 2013, which killed three civilians. See HRW, “Burma: Halt Indiscriminate Attacks in Kachin State,” 17 January 2013.

[12] Email from Bertil Lintner, 25 March 2013.

[13] The photographs show a metal tubular rack that appears to be similar in design to the US-produced M1 cluster adapter. The small fragmentation bombs are of a more modern design and marking than World War II-era munitions. A military officer who requested anonymity confirmed that the weapon was manufactured in Myanmar; additionally, a former military ordnance officer confirmed that the markings on the weapons were those used by Myanmar’s armed forces.