Published: July 28th 2011July 26th 2011
What an incredible story of the founder of the Cambodian Land Mine Museum - Aki Ra. He was forcibly recruited as child soldier by the Khemer Rouge, then at 14 years switched allegiances to the Vietnamese backed Cambodian Army fighting the Khemer Rouge, many of whom were his friends or relatives. He described being sent out to hunt for food with his AK-47 or M-16 and coming across his friends in the Khemer Rouge who were also hunting for food. He'd play with them at night and they'd end up trying to kill each other by day. After the fighting, he took on unorthodox de-mining work, often de-activating 30 or more mines per hour!
He now runs an orphanage/school for child victims of land mines and funds those activities with his museum proceeds and donations. The museum has some strong Canadian connections. He's also founded an NGO for de-mining, since the Cambodian government banned him from using his unorthodox methods ... such as going in with no body armour and only using a swiss army knife or pair of pliers to de-activate a mine. I heard of a similar person in Sri Lanka, who also did unorthodox de-mining. I spent
way more time than I planned at the museum ... There's a dummy mine field out back to demonstrate mine clearing, but there were no planned activities. Too bad.
The museum is located near Angkor, as this area was mined during the civil war - Yes, some of the ruins and surrounding area were mine fields. The worlds heaviest concentration of mines is probably along the Thai-Cambodia border, the area the Khemer Rouge withdrew to when pressed by the Vietnamese Army. The Khemer Rouge fought on until 1989, when Pol Pot died.
There are more photos below