Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 08 July 2019

Summary: Non-signatory Myanmar acknowledges the humanitarian concerns associated with cluster munitions and has expressed interest in joining, but has not taken any steps towards accession. 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 2018.

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]

Myanmar has indicated that it will consider acceding to the convention, but not until it has achieved a nation-wide peace agreement. [2] In 2017, Myanmar said it was reviewing its position on joining the convention, which it said aims to “prevent the indiscriminate use of…cluster munitions, which can lead to vulnerability and serious humanitarian impact…” [3]

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

Myanmar participated as an observer in the convention’s meetings, but not since 2013. [4] It has has attended regional workshops on the convention, most recently in Manila, Philippines on 18–19 June 2019 and Vientiane, Lao PDR in April 2019. [5]

In December 2018, Myanmar abstained from voting on a key UNGA resolution that urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.” [6] It has abstained from the vote on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.

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

Myanmar told a regional meeting in 2009 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.” [7] It criticized cluster munitions as “weapons with indiscriminate area effect…which can cause humanitarian consequences.” [8]

Myanmar has denied using cluster munitions. In 2015, it said “cluster munitions were never used in…operations” by the Armed Forces. [9]

Myanmar possesses 122mm Type-81 and Type-90B and M1985 240mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers, but it is not known if the ammunition for these weapons includes versions with submunition payloads. [10]

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. [11] 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. [12]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed airstrikes and shelling on Laiza by Myanmar forces in December 2012 and January 2013. [13] 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. [14] 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. [15]

 [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] 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.

 [3] 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.

 [4] 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.

 [5] Regional Seminar on Landmines, Cluster Munitions and Explosive Remnants of War, Vientiane, Lao DPR, 29–30 April 2019. See, “Experts Discuss Landmine-related Risks At A Regional Seminar,” Lao News Agency, 2 May 2019; and “Asia-Pacific Workshop on CCM Universalization,” Convention on Cluster Munitions Quarterly Newsletter, April 2019.

 [6]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 73/54, 5 December 2018.

 [7] 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.

 [8] Ibid.

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

 [10]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.

 [11] 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.

 [12]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.

 [13] 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.

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

 [15] 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.