The Cambodian Landmine Museum; One Man’s fight Against Evil

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An Inspiring Story of One Man’s Fight Against a Close to Invisible Enemy

Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla has dedicated himself to the total eradication of landmines in Cambodia.  Find out how his story has led to the most impactful landmine museum in the world.

Aki Ra's house soon became full of defused explosives

Aki Ra has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

A Difficult History

The period between 1975-1979 when the Khmer Rouge were in control of Cambodia and murdered 2.5 million people making that over 25% of the population at the time. 

A large proportion of the khymer rouge fighters were young kids

A large proportion of the khymer rouge fighters were young kids

 

Cambodia is one of the most heavily infested landmine countries in the world.  A consequence of multiple wars but mainly from the Khmer rouge regime who ruled with an iron fist.  Even Cambodians today are feeling the effects of the conflicts.  Often adults working and children playing suffer from undetected landmines which litter the land.

How Did The Cambodia Landmine Museum Get Started?

A former child soldier of the Khmer rouge has worked tirelessly armed with only basic handmade devices, he has set about clearing landmines in his native land of Cambodia.  His name is Aki Ra and up to now, he has cleared over 50,000 landmines.

The drive to set up the facility came about from Aki Ra witnessing lots of Children getting wounded as they playing in the countryside.  Apart from adopting multiple children who were in extreme poverty and missing limbs he decided to take action and set about making the countryside safe to play in again.

Aki's collection of defused explosives took decades to come together.

Aki’s collection of defused explosives took decades to come together.

 

Aki Ra has lived with landmines all his life.  Previously a member of the Khmer rouge, his tasks included planting his own mines.  Once the regime fell, he set about working with the United Nations as a de-mining specialist.   After Aki had spent a year working in partnership with the UN, after which he returned to his village.  For over 10 years he then focused himself on clearing mines with his villages.

Aki Ra’s house soon became full of defused explosives, and in order to further his efforts he started charging $1 to see his collection.  This signaled the beginning the Cambodian landmine museum.

Initially it was just a tour of his personal collection, and over time the collection grew and the museum came into existence in 1997.   Perhaps ashamed of the countries’ past the govt ordered the museum to close.  Aki found a loophole in the law by which if he operated as a non govt organisation he could continue.  So he moved to site where it is today in the Angkor Wat national park.

Hand in hand with his work on clearing the mines, he has greatly expanded the work he has done with children.  There are over 30 children that are housed at the center.  They have emotional and familial problems and the center aims at healing them.

Funding the Project

In response to worldwide effort, Aki Ra’s museum moved from his home, to a new location.  Situated only 40 km from Siem Reap near the Banteay Srey temple, the site covers over 3 acres.  Funded by NGO’s, the Cambodian landmine relief fund and even movie directors, meant they were able to purchase the land and build the museum.

The ongoing funding of the site is taken care of by tickets sales, donations and sales from the in house shop.

What Is The Purpose of the Site?

  • To educate the world of the horrors of landmines, and to show people that war carries on long after the shooting stops
  • An orphanage to 27 children who have lost parents through the ravages of landmines
  • Classrooms for children for volunteers to come and teach English
  • Estimates suggest that there are still as many four to six million mines, some estimates even say ten million mines.   The site acts acts as a base for further detecting of landmines.

The Mission Of The Museum

We believe that lovesupport and education are the essential means to secure a better future for the children that live here and our visitors.

What is There to See?

A fairly modest museum in size, yet the rawness and uniqueness are unparalleled.   As you walk through the rooms, you get a feel of just how many countries have engrossed their grubby little hands into this country.   Namely Russia, China and America.

This is illustrated by the museum’s mine garden.  The exhibits include defused explosives (shells and mines) in the ground, with easily identifiable markers of which country produced what.  Lay our guide was easily understandable and his knowledge was impressive.

You can even perform your own mock mine-clearing exercise.  This is extremely chilling in the knowledge that in a real life scenario one false move would be fatal.

Here Are Some Photos of the Day

 

There are plenty of enlarged photos on the wall with English text underneath explaining the scene.  The most shocking was the images of children who had been maimed whilst playing in the fields.
Apart from planting thousands of mines, the Khmer rouge would employ the use of spikes in the undergrowth.  They would be covered up and disguised as much as what was physically possible.
Nails hidden by leaves were placed on the enemy's pathways

Nails hidden by leaves were placed on the enemy’s pathways

There are plenty of posters showing off the achievements of the government.  The government has committed to destroying all landmines by 2025 in accordance with the Ottowa Convention.
Rats and dogs are trained to smell out explosives from the dirt

Rats and dogs are trained to smell out explosives from the dirt.  Diggers with reinforced glass remove the explosives.

Dogs have also paid a price, as they have played a leading role in detecting the devices, as they have an incredible sense of smell, to sniff TNT in the dirt.
Graves of the dogs that died in recovering undetected mines

Graves of the dogs that died in recovering undetected mines

Making A Donation

There is a shop next to the museum.  It’s definitely worthwhile even if you don’t buy anything to leave a donation.  The shop has lots memorabilia of the experience, from T-shirts to DVD’s of Aki Ra’s charity work.

Useful Information

How much does it cost?
Entry fee: $5 for adult, free for children under 12, free for Cambodian citizens.
When does the Cambodian landmine  museum open?

It’s open from 7:30 – 17:30 every day of the year.

How do you buy tickets?

It is possible to book a spot at the Cambodian Landmine Museum on Tripadvisor.   When I went I bought them on the day and that worked out fine. To be on the safe side, it’s wise to book beforehand, and as long as you cancel within 24 hours notice you’ll get a full refund.

Best Way to get there

Tuk-tuk from the center of Siem Reap costs $20 for the round trip.  The ride takes around 30 minutes. The driver will wait for you outside the museum.   Wait until you get back into town to pay driver.  For a cheaper rate download the Passapp taxi app.

The temple pass for Angkor Wat won’t cover the museum.

What hotels are near Cambodia Landmine Museum?
What restaurants are near Cambodia Landmine Museum?

A Touching Place To Spend The Day

Cambodia has had such a horrifying story, it is striking in the light of this how people fight against such hardship.  It portrays expertly what humans are capable.  Both to destroy and also to heal.  This is a must see along with the Angkor Wat temple.

Useful Links

https://www.cambodialandminemuseum.org/

https://www.tourismcambodia.com/travelguides/provinces/siem-reap/what-to-see/432_cambodia-landmine-museum.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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