With landmines still going off across the countryside in Cambodia, the presence of explosives is still very real for the ordinary Cambodian.
In the last stretch of my cycle ride, as I approached Siem Reap I discovered the Cambodian Landmine Museum. It’s a welcoming place which expertly portrays the horrors the country has suffered.
A Troubled Past
War raged for nearly fifty years from 1950 to 1998, still even today people are feeling the effects of the conflict. On a regular basis normal people who work in the countryside are losing legs due to undetected landmines that infest the land. Starting with battles against the French in the Indochina war then onto the war between guerrilla fighters of the Khmer Rouge and the government, war has played a major role in the fabric of the country’s history.
The period between 1975-1979 when the Khmer Rouge were in control and murdered 2.5 million people making that over 25% of the population at the time.
During the wars vicious traps were set, with the intention of creating as much damage as possible. Russia and China supplied grenades and mines to the rebels, and these were set as booby traps. Either hidden in trees or elaborately placed in the pathways of the enemy.
Alongside other governments, the Cambodian government has lots of strategies in dealing with the problem. The government has committed to destroying all landmines by 2020 in accordance with the Ottowa Convention.
With Cambodia being number one in Landmine casualties for the last 30 years, there is still a huge amount unexploded devices still in the ground. Estimates suggest that there are still as many four to six million mines, some estimates even say ten million mines. The biggest victim from this epidemic are young boys who make up a large proportion of the casualties. This is down to them being more willing to play around with them when they find discover them. 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.
Thinking About Going To The Cambodian Landmine Museum
This was a really interesting place and Lay the guide was really helpful. However depressing it maybe, it’s at least good to know the atrocities which have happened throughout the world. The museum is easy to get to, taking about thirty minutes by bike heading east out of Siem Reap. For the next 6 months it’s free to enter, but next year they will start charging.