Disabled Cambodia: Limbs lost from landmines

Inactivated Landmines displayed at Aki Ra's Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Inactivated Landmines displayed at Aki Ra’s Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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.

A landmine victim stands in the cafeteria of a school in Cambodia's western city Battambang (Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/02/us-arms-landmines-victims-idUSTRE5814XZ20090902)

A landmine victim stands in the cafeteria of a school in Cambodia’s western city Battambang (Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/02/us-arms-landmines-victims-idUSTRE5814XZ20090902)

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.

Displayed inactivated landmines in Aki Ra's Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Displayed inactivated landmines in Aki Ra’s Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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.

Photo of Aki Ra's CNN Heroes Poster at the Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Photo of Aki Ra’s CNN Heroes Poster at the Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Disabled Cambodia: Limbs lost from landmines

  1. I think the international Khmer Rouge tribunal is a farce at best. There is no way that trying five surviving members of the Khmer Rouge leadership will bring either justice or closure to the millions of innocent victims who have perished or are still reeling from their genocidal rule. I think the focus should be on education and raising awareness so that similar atrocities do not happen again.

    • I can only agree with you. I still find it difficult to believe that Pol Pot managed to live a happy and free life until his death without ever needing to step into a court room. The long-term repercussions of the Khmer Rouge continue to be felt today, and you are correct in saying the trials of the five surviving members of the Khmer Rouge leadership is somewhat farcical as a result. I recommend that you read one of my earlier posts, ‘Shadows beneath the light: 6 feet under, but not dead’. I would be curious to know what you think.

      Many thanks for your view.

  2. You cite some awfully disturbing statistics in that blog post. I can’t imagine not being able to roam the countryside without the fear of being blown up or maimed. We take so much for granted. Thanks for the insight.

    • Thanks for the comment, poopdidoo. Indeed, I found writing that post quite disturbing as well. But the statistics didn’t really surprise me. Landmine victims were everywhere during our stay in Cambodia. It felt wrong not to take the time to research and learn about the issue in more depth, and consequently, to write a blog post and raise awareness on the issue.

      Again, thanks for sharing your view.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s