It was our last day in Siem Reap so we decided to go to the Cambodian Landmine Museum we’d read about. Again we called on our trusty tuk tuk driver to take us there – at least we knew he’d get us there in one piece!
As we approached, we saw rows of large bullets and rockets lining the entrance. We paid the cheap $3 entry fee and in we went. We didn’t know anything about the landmine museum before arriving but were taken away with how informative it was and the story behind Aki Ra – the man that created the museum.
Aki Ra was suppressed into the Khmer Rouge Army. Part of his job within the Khmer Rouge was to lay land mines all over the country. He was recruited when he was just 9 years old so he really didn’t know any different. Once the Khmer Rouge collapsed Aki Ra decided to start clearing the land mines in an effort to make his country safe again. Along the way Aki Ra saw many children who had been injured by land mines and lived in poverty, so decided to bring them to his home where he and his wife could care for them as their own. Today the museum still homes children affected by land mines and helps to educate them so go onto university and secure jobs. 1 in 5 people have been injured by a land mine, so everyone in Cambodia will know someone that has been affected. What the Khmer Rouge did, killed a quarter of the country’s population meaning that 45% of the population are now under the age of 30, 90% are under the age of 45 and just 4% are over the age of 60. The stats are shocking.
We were lucky on the day that we decided to visit the landmine museum as the project manager and co-founder of the charity – Bill, was there giving a tour. Bill was from America and moved over to Cambodia with his wife to help Aki Ra when he heard of his story from a friend. Bill now helps run the museum whilst his wife teachings at the school. Bill even goes out into the fields and helps Aki Ra and his team, clear the land mines from time to time. Sadly, they estimate that it will take a further 100 years to be able to clear all the land mines in Cambodia.
The landmine museum and all the work it does is purely funded on donations and aid from other countries, which many countries have cut due to their own financial difficulties. Surprisingly Norway gives the largest amount of money – 10% of the total given to this fund, which works out more per person than any other country.
The landmine museum was a truly inspiring and fascinating place and really hit home what Cambodia as a country had been through and is still going through today. As Barry said to me after – ‘It’s amazing how different your life can be just from the country you’re born in’
To learn more about the Landmine Museum or to donate go to: