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I’m all templed out, and red as a lobster from the remorseless sun, so decided today to go to the Siem Reap landmine museum.
Cambodia is the nation with the highest number of disabled people, and the vast majority of disabilities are caused by landmines. Cambodia was heavily mined by the USA, Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge during its recent bloodlettings and, when the ceasefire was declared, nobody told the landmines – so between five and ten million of the devices just lie there in the jungle and in farms, waiting to be stepped on. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines reports
In 2005, there were 875 new landmine/UXO [unexploded ordnance] casualties, maintaining the daily average of two new casualties since 2000.
The landmine museum was started by a Cambodian gentleman with the Japanese-sounding name of Aki Ra. As a child, he was forced by the Vietnamese to lay mines, and later worked for the United Nations de-mining. With the money he earned, he set up a small museum where he houses paintings, photos and lots of empty landmine shells. (Photo gallery)
He continues to voluntarily defuse mines that people alert him to, and claims to have made 50,000 safe. Using the $1 museum entrance fee and donations, Mr Aki Ra and his wife take in orphans and children who’ve been disabled by mines, housing them in the museum grounds where they teach them a trade so they don’t need to beg.
Here’s a impressionistic 30 second video taken today of Ta Phrom in the rain, a landmine-crippled Khmer band playing outside Ta Phrom and the Terrace of the Leper King.