Land Mines In Cambodia
“When elephants fight, ants get killed.” Cambodian Proverb
Everywhere you go in Siem Reap you will see disabled beggars. They are victims of war – victims of landmines.
The landmines in Cambodia were placed by different fighting groups (the Khmer Rouge, the Heng Samrin and Hun Sen regimes) during the Civil War in Cambodia in the 1970s. They were put in the whole territory of the country. One of the problems that Cambodia faces is that the people who placed the mines do not remember where they put them.
Cambodia is still a very poor traumatized country from the cruel years of the Khmer Rouge. Almost every family has lost at least one family member and faced unbearable situations during that time. Most of the adults remember starvation. There are many terrible stories.
The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may still be as many as four to six million mines. It will take at least ten more years to clear most of them out. They have 40,000 amputees. It is the largest number in the world which makes it the most disabled country.
Even now about 250 people a year still step on land mines – most of them children. The hospitals are too far away and many of them die. The ones that don’t usually lose a limb.
Traditionally in Khmer society the person who stepped on a mine was viewed as unlucky, their own bad karma having sentenced them to a life of misery. It was assumed, furthermore, that those with only one leg or one arm could not be productive members of society. This attitude of discrimination is changing and there are now some organizations to help the disabled.
Some of the organizations have music groups that you will see around Cambodia especially in Angor Wat and the other temples. They sell their CDs and play traditional Khmer music.
There are many organizations you can give to in Cambodia and in the US to help as well. Unicef, Cambodian Children’s Charity and Land Mine Survivors Cambodia are a few in the US. The American dollar goes a much longer way in Cambodia and even a small amount will help.
The country is recovering slowly. They are determined to build and succeed, heal the wounded, forgive the unforgivable and have better lives.
beautiful pics from an area and a people I know nothing about. thank you
they get better. thanks for the comment!
I spent part of an afternoon with Chum Mey, one of the 7 survivors of the Khmer Rouge prison, and read his book that night. Much harder for me than walking among the land mines was walking in the killing fields among the bones and clothing that was seeping back up to the surface as the rain washed the next layer of dirt from the earth. The tree that was used for the killing of the infants is an image and thought I will never shake…
Thank you for one of your very simple travel suggestions, to bring small educational and creativity toys for children in Cambodia. My greatest joy there was giving away the 50 or more magnet sets, puzzles, crayon packs, and more, that I’d brought … and wishing I’d been able to carry many more.