The Cambodian Landmine Museum is an excellent museum setup by Aki Ra, a mine disposal expert.
The museum has thousands of landmines on display; all deactivated and retrieved by Aki Ra. The mines from the Khmer Rouge era and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped by the US during the Vietnam war on display here have been manufactured in many countries including China, Russia, USA and Vietnam. The museum documents how these weapons came to be in the country; their use and the consequences of their use which can still be felt today.
Aki Ra’s story is an integral part of the story of landmines in Cambodia and the museum documents his life as well.
Aki Ra was born in 1970, or so he believes. About 5 years later his parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge and he was taken away by the Khmer Rouge.
Aki Ra became a child soldier from the age of 10. The Khmer Rouge ordered children to plant mines with little training and direction. This resulted in landmines being planted without maps of minefields, meaning that there is no easy way to locate and deactivate them. The children often fell victim to their own mines. If the children failed to plant all the landmines given to them for the day they were killed. Aki Ra planted thousands of landmines for the Khmer Rouge over a 3 year period.
He switched sides later in the early 1980’s to be part of the Vietnam army and eventually transferred to the Cambodian army. He planted landmines for all sides.
After the war was over he returned to his home town and started to clean up the minefields. At this time he had only basic tools and carried out the deactivation by taking apart the landmines with a knife and pliers.
In the 2000s, the government required all bomb disposal personnel to be certified according to accepted international standards. This was due to high scrap value leading to large numbers of injuries amongst people collecting the mines for money.
He was imprisoned briefly twice during this period for continuing his disposal activities before he managed to get formally trained by the UN to continue his work.
The charity he has set up focuses on clearing up minefields in small villages, which are considered a lower priority by the international mine clearing teams.
The second aim of his charity work is to care for disadvantaged children; this was started by taking in children who has lost limbs due to landmines but has since expanded to include other disadvantaged children, such as polio victims.
There were 270 victims of landmines in Cambodia in 2008. This has been fallen dramatically from 850 per year in the period 2000 to 2005. This is thanks to the work of Aki Ra and other such organisations who work tirelessly to clear the country of its landmine problem.