Landmine MuseumFebruary 27, 2017 in Cambodia
We hopped back into our tuk tuks and took a ride to the Landmine Museum which is slightly out of the city but 1000% worth the time. They're more than just a museum too, they also give disadvantaged kids a home and access to education, a true Cambodian NGO. I think our guide said that there are 18 kids there now? When the centre first opened it was in the city, but in 2006 the police got involved and shut down the program. Canada stepped in and defended the landmine centre to the Cambodian government and the centre was moved and reopened. Canada is apparently the largest benefactor of the landmine relief efforts in Cambodia which I didn't know. And to show their appreciation flag flies at the entrance to the building! Pretty neat :) there are also other major benefactors like American and Australia who have a flag flying outside the centre. To get a flag out there you need to have donated at least $100,000 a year for three years straight.
Our guide is an American Vietnam War Vet who got involved with the centre a number of years ago and he moved to Cambodia permanently with his wife 8 years ago. He's the reason that the centre is still operational. When the founder, a Cambodian named Aki Ra who dedicates his life to landmine deactivation and disposal, was told by the government he needed to cease his work or get licensed legally to do the work or be arrested, our guide stepped in to help. The founder didn't have the financial resources to obtain the license or proper equipment, he was using plyers and risking his own life everyday to remove Landmines he's found. So our guide funded the legal matters, apparently about $300 USD and started to get more involved. Now he runs the legal side of the centre from obtaining funding to helping with legal matters like the 2006 police incident.
At the centre itself there are actually no power lines or internet, they run off of solar power. When the centre first opened all of the children they housed were landmine victims, but as time has gone on there have been fewer and fewer victims and most of the children here now are actually polio victims. All the kids go to public school and are given a scholarship for university or trades school. Of the first students the centre ever helped one is in law school, some are barbers, and all are doing well for themselves. Opportunities that they'd never had if not for this place. They likely would have otherwise ended up as beggars, prostitutes, or involved in drugs and gangs.
So anyway, back to Landmines. They are a part of why the Cambodian population is so young. Survivors suffer from PTSD but aren't able to get help because they won't talk to foreigners and the genocide eliminated all the professional physchatrists.. And there are still a ton of Landmines in the country today. No one really knows how many.. But most of the known fields are marked now. Occasionally, random ones are discovered in rural areas though. There are 4000 people employed to clear Landmines and they're out everyday working... That is intense. I had no idea about that before coming here.. The majority of the funding for this work comes from international governments or individuals. Unfortunately funding has been cut recently by many countries. They're actually putting all efforts on hold right now waiting to see what Trump is going to do.. Because they worry they won't receive funding for a while.. Sad. Especially because part of their program also involves building schools in the rural areas they visit to clear landmines. The positive thing is that only 3 countries are still using Landmines today so hopefully once they're cleared the people can stop worrying...
There's a complicated history of where all the landmines came from. They are predominately from the Vietnam war, but there are Landmines from all over the world... The museum had all the different types on display, there are so many! Another fun fact I didn't know is that landmines are designed to maim, not to kill. Because taking care of a wounded soldier is expensive and slows down an army.... Vicious.
This organization now has 3 bomb squads and offers bomb education as well as medical treatment to the villages they visit. Apparently it can take up to 2 years for a bomb squad to get out to a village after a bomb is reported because of finding cuts.. I guess they just mark the location and hope that nothing happens? Terrifying. When the bomb squad does get out there they set up a grid system and clear about 50m a day. They basically go bush wacking in the dense jungle with a bomb and metal detector slowly and carefully... They've had no deaths on their team from bombs going off though which is great!Read more