Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 03 August 2016

Summary: Non-signatory Myanmar acknowledges the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, but said in October 2015 that it cannot consider accession until a nation-wide peace agreement is concluded. Myanmar abstained from voting on a UN resolution on the convention in December 2015. It last participated in a meeting of the convention in 2013.

Myanmar states 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 expressed concern at the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions in the past, but has not articulated its position on accession.[2] However in October 2015, a representative of Myanmar affirmed that its armed forces have never used cluster munitions and informed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security:

My country’s ratification of the [Convention on Cluster Munitions] would possibly be considered taking into consideration the political, economic and social circumstances in the aftermath of a nation-wide peace agreement.[3]

On 7 December 2015, Myanmar abstained from the vote on a UNGA resolution on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which urges states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.”[4] Myanmar did not explain why it abstained on the non-binding resolution, which 139 states voted in favor of, including many non-signatories.

Myanmar attended one regional meeting of the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Xieng Khouang, 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, as well as intersessional meetings in Geneva in 2013. It was invited to, but did not attend the convention’s First Review Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia in September 2015.

Myanmar is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty or 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 informed states that it follows the 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]

Previous allegation of use

Myanmar acquired a “cluster adapter” that it reportedly used 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.[8] The weapon is similar in design to a modern cluster munition.

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, “a hill top of strategic significance” five miles west of the town of Laiza in southern Kachin state.[9] On 19 April 2013, the Deputy Secretary of the Kachin National Council provided photographs to the 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.”[10]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) received a separate set of photos that showed what appear to be the same remnants being carried in a vehicle at a location not known to be the scene of the attack.[11] HRW confirmed airstrikes and shelling on Laiza by Myanmar forces in December 2012 and January 2013.[12] The government of Myanmar later admitted to shelling and bombing Laiza.[13]

The “cluster adapter” and 20-pound fragmentation bombs shown in the photographs appear to meet the definition of a cluster munition in the Convention on Cluster Munitions.[14]

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.[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, UN General Assembly (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, 1 November 2012.

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

[4]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[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] 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.

[9]Burma army uses cluster bombs to take key KIO position near Laiza,” Kachin News Group, 26 January 2013.

[10] The photographs were contained in an email sent to the CMC by Hkun Htoi, Deputy Secretary, Kachin National Council, 19 April 2013.

[11] Email from Bertil Linter, 25 March 2013.

[12] 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.

[13] According to a January 2013 statement by HRW, “On January 14, government spokesman Ye Thut denied that government shells struck Laiza. The previous week, the Office of the President publicly denied that the army conducted any airstrikes against the KIA with helicopters and fighter jets, but then later backtracked when news reports showed video footage of the attacks.” HRW Press Statement, “Burma: Halt Indiscriminate Attacks in Kachin State,” 17 January 2013.

[14] 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.

[15]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.