One in every 290 Cambodians is an amputee. From the garbage-ridden sands of Ochheuteal Beach in Sihanoukville to the entrances and souvenir stalls opposite the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, limbless victims of Cambodia’s landmines stand with crutches, hands out, begging, to passing tourists, for money. There are – of course – other victims; less able torsos dragging on low-lying, wheeled platforms, sometimes escorted by a street child; sometimes offering to sing a sullen song for a few Cambodian Riel or a Dollar or two. Then, there are also those whose limbs were salvaged, but whose faces lay ambushed and deformed by the explosive impact of ordnance.
Cambodia is no longer at war, and yet, the risk of death from unexploded landmines in rural areas is extremely high. It is estimated Cambodia has at least 6 million unexploded landmines. With an estimated total of 40,000 amputees, and 85% of populations outside main cities dependant on agriculture, it is all the more pertinent that more money is invested to clear and demine Cambodian land.
There are currently three main organisations that assist with the demining of ordnance and landmines in Cambodia: the Cambodia Mine Action Committee (CMAC), the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) and the Halo Trust. However, with the cost of deactivating a landmine at approximately $1400, it could cost more than $8 billion to significantly reduce the risk of death or mutilation in rural lands. (See below links for more information on how to raise or donate money for this cause).
In consideration of the above, we decided to visit the Cambodian Landmine Museum near Siem Reap in support of the work of Aki Ra, a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge regime. In later years, he used his fearlessness and knowledge of landmines in an attempt to try and undo the damage imposed by the former authoritarian regime. He has become an active deminer and has advocated against the production and use of landmines through his demining activities and through the Cambodian Landmine Museum. He also opened an orphanage aiming to support landmine victims. He was rewarded with the CNN Top 10 Hero Award – for which he should be very proud – in 2010.
Charities you can donate to:
The Halo Trust: http://www.halotrust.org/home/donate.aspx
Mine Advisory Group: http://www.maginternational.org/donate/
Landmine Action: http://www.landmineaction.org/support/donate/index.asp
To donate to Aki Ra’s Cambodian Landmine Museum, go to his website: http://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org/donate.html
- Shadows beneath the light: Six feet under, but not dead (thirdkulturekidparis.wordpress.com)