John Key is in Laos today attending the East Asia Summit.
Laos has been called the land of a million bombs. During the Vietnam War, the US dropped roughly 270 million cluster bombs. Approximately 80 million failed to detonate.
Peterkim Manithong was 16 years old when he picked up a cluster bomb while walking home from school with his friends in rural Laos. The next thing he remembers was waking up in a hospital, unable to see and feeling like he was on fire. Peterkim lost his eyesight and his arms as a result of finding one of millions of unexploded cluster bombs left behind.
President Obama has today pledged US$90 million to help fund the demining of Laos’ estimated 80 million unexploded cluster bombs. America is, however, one of a handful of countries that has not signed the convention banning the use and manufacture of cluster bombs. Last month it was revealed that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders had KiwiSaver funds invested in companies like General Dynamics, Textron, and Lockheed Martin that produce cluster bombs.
The legality of those investments remains up in the air. The Government has been reluctant to set any clear guidelines around ethical investment of KiwiSaver funds. John Key has said that the problem “isn’t big enough” to merit change. Finance Minister Bill English said it would be a “big step” for a government to tell the privately run funds where they could invest.
Unlike National, I don’t believe it’s ever okay to fund cluster bombs. I hope John Key’s time in Laos might change his mind too.