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Cambodian Landmine Museum
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Cambodian Landmine Museum is probably one of the smallest museums you will ever visit, yet may also be the most unforgettable. In a country ravaged by conflicts both from within and without, this museum acts as a heartbreaking reminder of the tragic cost of war. Include a visit to this incredibly moving place during your stay in Siem Reap and you're bound to have a much more rounded and rewarding experience.
How It All BeganCambodia is known for having one of the worst unexploded ordnance problems in the world, second only to Laos, perhaps. The results of three decades of war have left the land littered with unexploded mines which still cause death and devastating injuries so many decades after peace was finally established in the country.Cambodia is home to over 40,000 amputees, many of them children. Hundreds of Cambodians still step on mines every year, causing detrimental effects on the country’s economy and society.
There are various projects in place aimed at de-mining the country, and the story of Aki Rai , the man behind the Cambodian Land Museum, is perhaps the most known.
Aki Ra fought as a child soldier in the Khmer Rouge and was in charge of laying thousands of mines throughout the central Cambodian region. Once the Khmer Rouge were ousted, and relative normality returned to his country, he began searching and unearthing unexploded mines within the Siem Reap area. He had intense training in dealing with them and, in his own words, was possibly the best equipped man in the country to do so.
Aki Rai has dedicated his life to de-mining, and eventually opened this museum to educate visitors and raise funds for his projects, which include homing and educating children who have become victims of explosives.
On a much broader sense, the museum is infinitely educative for all who visit. Many people erroneously think that once a war has ended, then the worst times have passed. As Aki Rai and his museum will attest, it seems the hard times are only beginning.
What You’ll SeeThe museum displays a large collection of mines, mortars, bombies and all sorts of explosive ordnance and details their widespread use in Cambodia and the rest of the world. It also boasts a comprehensive and incredibly effective collection of personal stories of people who have, in one way or another, been affected by this problem. Photos and first-hand stories of children with missing limbs is arguably the most difficult part of this museum to stomach, yet this stark reality of war is useful, as the aim of the museum is to create awareness. In a world which is as much at war now, as it was in the 1970s, the topic is poignant and very much relevant.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum has moved sites since it first opened. After receiving funds from private individuals (most of them foreign), Aki Ra moved to a bigger location about 30km out of Siem Reap, where he has also opened a Relief Center. The center is home to almost two dozen at-risk children, who have been affected by landmines. The organisation covers their medical expenses, provides a home environment and much-needed education. Some of the children’s families have relocated to nearby villages, and the center’s help has had beneficial effects on all nearby communities.
The foundation also aims to help street kids, orphans, and any child in need of help. Profits from the museum are poured back into the children’s welfare facility. For obvious reasons, tourists are not allowed entry into the children’s living quarters.
How to Get ThereThe museum is found an hour’s drive out of Siem Reap, in the direction of the Beantey Srei outer temple complex. The great majority of visitors who head out here will combine a visit of the two. A guided day out with a driver and an air-conditioned car should set you back about $ 30 USD and only $ 15 USD if you decide to hire a tuk-tuk instead. Entry fee for the museum is $ 5.00 USD per person.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Mar 26, 2015