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Horiuchi Hiroko (Jesuit Service Cambodia)
Tun Channareth (we call him Reth) came for the first time to Japan in November 1997 to campaign for banning landmines. Back in 1982 he stepped on a landmine, lost both legs and since then lives in a wheelchair. In November 1997 the Japanese government had not yet decided whether they would sign the Ban Landmines Treaty (the Ottawa Treaty) or not, because they were waiting for a US reaction to the Treaty. This is a typical attitude of making decisions taken by the Japanese government.
Reth Appealed to Ban Landmines

Reth energetically appealed to all the people in Japan to ban landmines for two weeks from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Reth told his experiences as follows: "At the moment when I stepped on a landmine, I got shocked because I instantly knew that I could no longer use my legs; I lost hope to live".
In Cambodia eighty percent of the people are rice farmers. Rice paddies and fields, grounds and forests are the sites where the fighting has taken place and where the ordinary farmers live. In the last thirty years 10 million landmines made in U.S.A., China, Cuba, Russia and other countries have been buried in Cambodia, a country with a population of ten million people. The landmines were not taken away even after the conflicts and fighting were over. The landmines under the ground are still waiting for many people to step on. We had one landmine victim for every 22 minutes in the world.
Obuchi's Promise

Reth visited Keizo Obuchi, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time and handed him many signatures of Japanese for banning landmines. Mr. Obuchi listened to Reth and had some tears in his eyes while he looked at Reth without legs in the wheelchair. Mr. Obuchi seemed to talk to himself that landmines were evil and they should be totally banned. He promised Reth that he would definitely sign the Ottawa Treaty as Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs.
After campaigning to ban landmines in Japan, Reth left for Ottawa and Oslo where together with Ms. Jody Williams, Coordinator of ICBL (International Campaign to Ban Landmines) he received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. At present, Ms Jody and Reth are the two official Ambassadors of ICBL.
Reth at the Okinawa Summit

Reth paid his second visit to Japan during July 2000. Many symposiums were held by NGOs, at the time, to appeal for peace to the world leaders who came to the Kyushu -- Okinawa G8 -- summit. Reth was invited as a keynote speaker in the symposium, "U.S. Bases and Anti-personnel Landmines" held in Okinawa..
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Before coming to Okinawa Reth made a courtesy call on the Governor of Kumamoto and the mayors of Nagasaki and Shimabara. He addressed citizens and students in Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Shimabara on the importance of banning landmines and all kinds of weapons.
Reth thanked the people of Japan for having already signed and ratified the Ottawa Treaty, but he reminded his audiences that the Defense Agency of Japan still keeps stockpiles of one million landmines. He asked the people to appeal to the government of Japan to destroy the stockpiles as promised. As of today, 137 out of 180 countries in the world have joined the Ottawa Treaty. But, neither the United States nor Russia, China, Cuba, Yugoslavia signed it. As a result, the USA keeps stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines in its military bases located in Japan, especially in Okinawa where 75 percent of all the bases are concentrated. Many of the U.S. allied countries in Europe and elsewhere share this contradiction.

Towards a World without Landmines

It is true that the United States provides financial assistance for mine clearance and for assisting the victims. But this is NOT ENOUGH. The problem must be addressed at its ROOT: the production and exporting of landmines. The United States must sign the Ban Landmines Treaty. Reth made a special appeal asking President Clinton to sign the Ottawa Treaty using his presidential powers, so that he could leave it behind as his great legacy before he leaves his office in January 2001.
Tun Channareth
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