Cambodia Day 4 – An Afternoon at the Cambodian Land Mine Museum

It was something I wanted to do, to see a little of the real Cambodia, to feel a bit of the history surrounding the beautiful temples and the war that ravaged the country within my lifetime.

The Khmer Rouge, under the despotic rule of Pol Pot, was a communist organization which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, the official name was Communist Party of Cambodia, later the Party of Democratic Kampuchea.

The Khmer Rouge regime is remembered mainly for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people (from an estimated 1972 population of 7.1 million), through execution, starvation and forced labor. It is often said to have been one of the most violent regimes of the 20th century – on par with the regimes of Adolf Hitler and, in the views of many, Joseph Stalin. In terms of the number of people killed as a proportion of the population of the country it ruled and time in power, it was probably the most lethal regime of the 20th century

Source: Wikipedia

In 1981, Pol Pot dissolved the party. Pol Pot was of course, the man behind much of this.

During his time in power Pol Pot created an aggressive regime of agricultural reform, designed to create a utopian Communist society which was known for repressing intellectuals. Today the excesses of his government are widely blamed for causing the deaths of up to two million Cambodians, although estimates vary significantly. By some accounts, nearly one out of every eight Cambodians was murdered. The regime targeted Buddhist monks, Western educated intellectuals, individuals with glasses, and ethnic Laotians and Vietnamese.

Source: Wikipedia

I find it strange how many people here in Malaysia (virtually a neigbouring country) know so little about this regime and how devastating it was, yet even as a toddler I was aware of the happenings in Cambodia, when I was on the other side of the world.

The country is peppered with landmines because of the civil war that raged..there are still on average of 2 people A DAY dying in Cambodia due to landmines, and it’s 2006.

Land Mine Museum

The plural is used, as there are a HELL of a lot of mines theres.

You are greeted with ‘Museum’ spelled out in mines.

Landmine Museum

I saw the testament of the suffering in the Land Mine museum..the story of the Land Mine museum itself is an interesting one, even moreso the guy behind it, Aki Ra.

This guy has dedicated his life to clearing mines although sadly his clearing exercise is far from complete, it is estimated that 6 million mines remain in the soil of Cambodia. These uncleared mine fields are primarily located along the Thai/Cambodian border, and it is here that Aki Ra regularly journeys to continue the work, unaided by support, external funding or the most basic of detection devices. He says it’ll be around 20-30 years more until the mines are cleared to an acceptable level.

What’s he’s taken out of the ground, he’s stock-piled here.

Common Mines

As a child soldier, Aki Ra lived through Cambodia’s tumultuous past. Both his parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was about five years old. He was then conscripted into their army where he was taught to lay mines, fire guns and rocket launchers, and make simple bombs. Today he is taking an active part in rebuilding the country he loves. In 1999, Aki Ra established the Cambodia Land Mine Museum in Siem Reap near Angkor Wat. His dedication and sincerity enable others to more fully understand Cambodian culture, and to see first hand the resolve the Cambodian people have to address the issue of land mines. His goal in life is to make his country safe and free of land mines.

His full life story is HERE, a true hero.

He’s been in a LOT of trouble with the government over his museum. (Read More)

Several times a month, for up to 5 days at a time, he works without sophisticated detection or safety equipment, usually solo, clearing mines on the Thai/Cambodia border. Providing his own food during these expeditions by hunting, he uses nothing more than his own foot, a stick and his extensive knowledge to safely locate and then with his hands, detonate the landmines. Aki Ra clears up to 30 mines per day, an amazing feat when compared to the 2-3 per day of an official United Nation mine clearer.

Aki Ra

Thankfully with funding from the Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund, Aki Ra has gotten some updated information and equipment.

I watched him demining on a DVD, it was a harrowing experience, watching the sweat drip off him as he deftly takes the detonator out of a mine big enough to blow up most of our houses just using a twig and a knife.

After that using some very basic aparatus, he makes the mines safe..The aparatus consists of a fire, a metal pipe and some water, he uses steam to melt the explosives inside the mine.

It actually made me want to give up everything, and go there…and take out the fucking mines with my bare hands. There are just SO many, and countries are still stockpiling, China for example has something like 115 MILLION mines stockpiled.

Landmine Museum

What reinforces this fact, is the 12 young children that live in the Museum facility..all missing arms or legs. It’s hard to look at them, to see them playing knowing full well their injuries are caused by man, man made devices planted in the ground.

There are stories, photos and paintings around the place illustrating this, they aren’t for the weak-stomached.

Mine Painting

Some of the stories you read about these very children are heartbreaking, one young boy for example was playing near his home when he found some unexploded ordinance, of course he didn’t know what it was, so he picked it up..

It blew both of his hands off.

What’s worse…his 2 brothers heard the explosion and ran to help him, they ran into a tripwire triggering another explosion and were both killed.


We have to fight to ban mines, they are inhumane, yes war is war, war is inhumane, but mines stay around, the modern ones are made of plastic…so they don’t even degrade. They just stay there, waiting silently to blow some poor childs leg off.

Mine Museum

Yah..being there upset me, even just writing this and remembering being there upsets me.

And yes, it effects us closer to home.


Singapore Land Mines

Honestly, that disgusts me. Do they plan on planting them in Malaysia if we cut off their water? What exactly do they need landmines for?

I bought 3 t-shirts (I think they were $5USD each), I didn’t haggle the price, that was sadly the best I could do.

You can find more information here:

International Campaign to Ban Landmines
The Cambodian Land Mine Museum
The Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund
The Land Mine Museum
Cambodia – Aki Ra

Cambodia Day 1 – Leaving on a Jet Plane to Siem Reap
Cambodia Day 2 – Itinerary – Morning in Angkor Thom and Bayon
Cambodia Day 2 – An Afternoon at Angkor Wat & Sunset at Phnom Bahkeng
Cambodia Day 3 – Morning at Banteay Srei, Ta Som, Neak Pean and Preah Khan
Cambodia Day 3 – An Afternoon at Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Old Market – Siem Reap
Cambodia Day 4 – A Morning at Lolei, Bakong and Preah Ko (Roluos Group)




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36 Responses to Cambodia Day 4 – An Afternoon at the Cambodian Land Mine Museum

  1. Fireangel March 3, 2006 at 10:31 am #


  2. Intensecure March 3, 2006 at 11:23 am #

    Almost speechless. 🙁

  3. spiller March 3, 2006 at 12:04 pm #

    after reading this, I did hell lot of demining..

    ..through minesweeper.

    sadly, that’s the best I could do.

  4. zbjernak March 3, 2006 at 1:13 pm #

    u r right..we know peanuts abt it during our school time…

    if i remember it correctly…we dont have much about the regime in our text book…really…

    i got to know abt this after i left school…

    but then again, it happened in a foreign place…
    there are many many many more things happened locally that we malaysian have no clue about….

    so perhaps tht answered the question.

  5. Crunk Juice March 3, 2006 at 1:47 pm #

    Maybe we can call the members of FAG

    film actor’s guild

    led by Awlric Balldwin

  6. Celebrity Vivids March 3, 2006 at 2:17 pm #

    no wonder the fookers are rich

  7. Me March 3, 2006 at 2:22 pm #

    It’s really sad isn’t it. I visited Cambodia in ’93 while Polpot was still very much alive and active. I’ve seen too many children and adults without limbs and many of the kids were orphans.
    I don’t understand why developed countries like USA, Singapore and Korea are still producing mines… it’s an issue we need to spread.

  8. kimberlycun March 3, 2006 at 3:11 pm #

    heartbreaking 🙁

  9. foodcrazee March 3, 2006 at 3:29 pm #

    u guys should be in Phnom Penh to really understand the life there….those poor ppl….been there seen them and till now, i still pity those buggers…..

    Countries that still produces land mine – FARK OFF

  10. Boss Stewie March 3, 2006 at 4:45 pm #

    so sooooo sad….

    but lets not just damn the countries that produce the mines… we should damn the people who put them there in the first place!

  11. meekie March 3, 2006 at 5:04 pm #

    Yes i am aware of the landmines in south east asia.
    One of the countries that pay effort in clearing up landmines is Japan, that they are constantly doing research and invent robots to explode & clear landmines. That was one of the video clips i watched so far abt landmines.

  12. skyflakes March 3, 2006 at 5:32 pm #

    there is an organisation raising money to help clear the mines in Cambodia, it’s called Bombs Begone! formed by students of my school in Australia. This organisation is set up by Senior Students in Australia, more specifically Victoria. My school has adopted a landmine field.

    any help/donations are welcome =D

    for more information, the website is

  13. Dabido (Teflon) March 3, 2006 at 9:12 pm #

    My friend Vichna (That’s his Cambodian name … he goes by Kenny in Australia) helps raise money to remove land mines in Cambodia. They often hold functions in Sydney where people can donate money.

    He told me heaps about it when I was training him in 2000. Lots of cute Cambodian girls also go to those functions, so if any of you single guys out there want a cute Cambodian girl … head to Sydney, and go donate at one of the functions.

  14. HOCKEEY March 3, 2006 at 9:30 pm #


  15. Cobalt Paladin March 3, 2006 at 9:32 pm #

    Why did you single out Singapore only when there were 14 other countries who produces landmine? Why did you think that it’ll be used on our neighbour? I hope you are not sensationlising just to garner more hits. Thank you.

  16. andrew March 3, 2006 at 10:15 pm #

    I would say it is simplistic to say that landmines are inherently bad. They are not. There is nothing evil about landmines.

    Landmines are excellent area denial munitions. They are often used in a DEFENSIVE (vis a vis an OFFENSIVE) role. For example, they are used to safeguard borders, to protect your installations and fortifications, etc. Basically, the function of landmines is to attrit the attacking forces, to disorganize them, to reduce their number and cohesion, so that when they eventually breach the minefield, they are weakened.

    What is a mine field? It can be nothing other than a few rolls of concertina wire and a sign. There is a certain psychological effect of a minefield, similar to that provided by a sniper – the mere threat of a minefield is sufficient to deter the attacking forces.

    The problem with landmines is what happens *after* the war. According to international conventions, minefields MUST be fenced and marked. The positions of landmines must be recorded for later removal and disposal after the cessation of hostilities. It is because these “rules” are not followed, that is why you have what you have in Cambodia.

  17. min March 3, 2006 at 10:16 pm #

    Singapore, sadly, is the greatest exporter of landmines.

  18. sieteocho March 3, 2006 at 11:04 pm #

    This is for Andrew, and also for Jasper who on tomorrow suggested mines which auto-destruct after a certain time.

    First of all, you don’t know what “after the war” means. For a landmine to defuse after a period of time is not useful at all because you don’t know how long the war will last. Also, are you going to tell your soldier, “hey, it’s been 4 years since we planted this mine field. All the mines are useless. Please mine this field again.”

    Secondly you cannot guarantee that a landmine will self-destruct. And even if the land mine self destructs, it’s technically a blind. Would you buy a piece of land which says, “99.9% of all land mines have been cleared”? Would you run a plough through it? Of course it’s safer than mine field, but the explosives are still physically there. And how much is a battery that lasts 4 years (or the expiry date of the bomb) going to cost you?

    Third, how do you expect, when there is a war going on, that the engineers will take their own sweet time to mark out the locations of all the land mines they plant? The whole point of land mines is that they are expedient, fast and easy. Having to follow the rules more or less negates this. Moreover, why would you ever make a map of your land mines, a map that could fall into enemy hands? Isn’t it overwhelmingly to your advantage to keep them guessing where the mines are? Does one bone headed rule negate the dangers of land mines? And what about, “hey, this map said the mine was going to be here. Where did it… ” “BOOM!”

    It’s for these reasons that I don’t think there are real alternatives to banning land mines, for negating the horrors of land mines. Are you an officer? Is this really what they teach you in OCS, that land mines are OK?

    Whether mines are defensive or offensive, they kill people, and a dead person is a dead person. They deny natural resources to people, and they destroy the environment.

  19. kimberlycun March 3, 2006 at 11:32 pm #

    sieteocho: good one! like to add though that mines don’t kill, they are designed to maim. very inhumane 🙁

  20. andrew March 4, 2006 at 3:55 am #

    Sieteocho: I do not understand why you cannot discuss this issue solely on its own merits, but prefer to question my belief system.

    Your depiction of mine operations appear to be based on speculation. You claim that

    1. minefields are not marked in the haste of war
    2. a map of a minefield is a liability than an asset
    3. they kill people, destroy the environment, etc.

    To that, I respond that:

    (Points 1 and 2) Minefields ARE marked in time of war. If nothing, for self-interest – to prevent fratricide. Also, minefields are often not impermeable barriers; gaps are often built into minefields to allow the movement of friendly forces. These gaps need to be mapped with precision; this implies that th elocations of the mines need to be mapped with precision as well.

    I quote from US Army FM 20-32 Mine/Countermine Operations.

    “Minefields must be marked to prevent fratricide. Marking ensures that friendly soldiers do not accidentally enter a minefield, and it is a requirement under STANAGs and Geneva Convention agreements. When emplacing minefields behind the forward line of own troops (FLOT) (in the main battle or rear area), mark the minefields on all four sides. This includes air-delivered Volcano minefields that are sited and emplaced before the enemy attacks.

    Gator, RAAM, and ADAM minefields are exceptions to the rule. To preserve the system’s flexibility and because of the relative inaccuracy of emplacement, these minefields are not normally marked before emplacement unless the tactical situation permits. Marking the area where mines are to be emplaced by artillery or fixed-wing aircraft is not recommended. Mines could likely be emplaced outside the marked area.

    Forward of the FLOT, minefields are not generally marked before emplacement. However, commanders must make every attempt to mark these minefields as soon as the tactical situation allows. For scatterable minefields, a commander may choose to remove markings once the self-destruct (SD) time of the mines has expired; but the location of the minefield must still be recorded and forwarded to higher and adjacent units in case some of the mines did not self-destruct.”

    As for point 3 – what you pointed out is a truth. As an aside, does it make a difference, if the death is caused by a bullet, shrapnel, or a mine? Killing an enemy soldier in time of war is considered justifiable homicide. Perfectly legal, though different people have different views with regard to the morality of it all.

    If you are of the persuasion that killing is wrong, with little or no exceptions including armed conflict, (you are of course, entitled), then the whole issue about minefields is moot anyway because it comes under the bigger umbrella of killing in general.

  21. Agagooga March 4, 2006 at 5:57 am #

    There is killing – and then there is killing.

    Especially when it poses a risk to non-combatants decades later.

  22. sieteocho March 4, 2006 at 8:34 am #

    I didn’t bring up the OCS part to question your belief system. I am questioning the army’s belief system.

    I think, when we question the use of nuclear weapons, most of us aren’t really worried about the way that the US is going to use it, at least not for now that the US is still a mostly benevolent power. We are worried about the crazy people who might get their hands on it.

    Land mines used under proper procedures are safer, but question remains: even if you have a map, would you volunteer to defuse a mine field?

    It’s not these more developed or “civilised” armies that we’re worried about. It’s guerillas, militias, crazy people who use land mines indiscriminately. In other words you can’t just show me an army manual and say “this is how we do it, it’s safe”. You have to show me how, without a land mine ban, you’re going to avoid land mines falling into the wrong hands, of people who fight using land mines.

    Also, there’s no guarantee that people who make that map will pass it on. If they get wiped out before they do, then the map dies with them or gets lost.

    A bullet or a bomb can kill, but the threat of the bullet or a bomb is an immediate one. You point a gun at an enemy, and when the war is over, you can put down the gun. Maybe the bomb becomes a blind, but that’s rare. After the bullet is fired, it drops to the ground, harmless. The threat of a land mine goes on, even though the person who planted the land mine doesn’t want to use it to kill anymore, long after the killing is justified.

    My point was not that killing is wrong per se. I wanted to debunk the fiction that mines are “better” because they are for “defensive” rather than “offensive” operations.

  23. Anonymous Coward March 4, 2006 at 11:09 am #

    I hope that Singapore will abolish the use of landmines, so that my vocation will be scrapped!

  24. visceral March 4, 2006 at 2:41 pm #

    I fail to see how mines could benefit anyone, except the ones who sell them. and kiling is never wrong, if it is in the service of your principals. there is no room for scruples when you do not have the means to feed your family

  25. spiller March 4, 2006 at 10:06 pm #

    gee.. i guess my joke wasn’t so funny at all.

  26. pkchukiss March 4, 2006 at 11:36 pm #

    Indeed, if it were not for my GP tutor, I would never have known that Singapore is one of the leading manufacturer of landmines in the world!

    We must discourage mines as much as possible! Any tactical use of mines would be akin to chemical warfare: even till now, abandoned barrels of chemicals still lie around in the world, slowly leaking into the environment, and destroying the local habitat!

  27. accidental observer March 5, 2006 at 12:40 pm #

    The tiger’s personal vendetta against the lion for banishing him from Narnia?

  28. Erna March 5, 2006 at 1:23 pm #

    The physical damage, people can see but the psychological effects on Cambodians are just as harrowing.

    Time Magazine once did a cover story on the mental health situation in Asia and in Cambodia, it’s heartbreaking. So many people are still suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and there just aren’t enough doctors or facilities to treat all of them. Even now, so many years after the war…many of them have recurring nightmares, suffer depression and are practically disabled, unable to function properly as in their minds they’re still living that hell that Pol Pot made.

  29. dreamer idiot March 5, 2006 at 10:26 pm #

    Nothing to express the horror caused by crazy dictators and war-mongering policy hawks. Well, the madness still persists and continues…like what is happening today in Darfur. Will we ever to seek peace (and make love) instead of war?

  30. Agagooga March 6, 2006 at 1:10 am #

    I love ad hominem attacks!

  31. accidental observer March 8, 2006 at 11:15 pm #

    Perhaps some enterprising S E Asian director could capitalize on this incomprehensible enmity…Grouchy Tiger, Roaring Lion…hehehe!

  32. suertes March 10, 2006 at 3:31 pm #

    When I was a kid, my Mom used to remind me about the starving children of Cambodia every time I refused to eat something..

  33. bliz April 20, 2006 at 6:42 pm #

    You can all say f**k Singapore for all you want. I’m Singaporean and I believe in free speech. I am of course ashamed of the situation.

    There is something which I have to say though. It’s not to defend Singapore, just my personal thoughts.

    Undoubtably, landmines tend to harm innocent people in peace and war times. However, every other weapon of war will have collateral damage, except for target-specific, non-massive, scatter types and extremely accurate weapons like sniper rifle. Carpet bombing, stray bullets and the like can and will kill innocent people. Are you saying that just because the probability of collateral damage from landmines is higher than other weapons, it is to be condemmed and not to be used? If that is so, don’t you think that it’s a rather arbitary thought. Who has the right to say that a weapon is worse than another because it tends to kill more innocent people, while the fact remains that most weapons kill innocent people. You should instead be pushing for a ban of weapons which can kill innocent people, in which case all weapons will be banned. Alas, the world will not agree and instead hold on to their weapons as conflicts abound and they want to keep the ‘right’ to solve it through ways of killing.

    That is all that I have to say.

    Give peace a chance.

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