Land Mines are still a huge problem in Cambodia. The main paved/dirt road from the Thai/Cambodia border town of Poipet is well marked with signs on both sides of the road indicating that it is very dangerous to walk off the road. Over 100 people each month in Cambodia are maimed or killed by stepping on unexploded land mines. The Land Mine Museum is well worth visiting – it is sobering, sad and educational at the same time. It is located not far from Charles De Gaulle Blvd which is the main road leading to Angkor Wat. The Mine Museum is located close to the Angkor Zoo – The Angkor Zoo has a sign on the paved Charles DG road – you drive to the Zoo and then turn right and about 1 mile down this dirt road the Mine Museum will be on your left. Not very many tourist visit this museum as its somewhat off the beaten path and the government probably keeps it from being publicized very much.
This museum was started a number of years ago by a Mr. Aki Ra born in 1975. He used to have a banner stretched across the road advertising his museum but the government raided the museum one day and shut everything down. Finally he was allowed to reopen the museum but he had to remove the banner. This is a museum of course, but it is so much more than that. It is Aki’s exhibition and history of a part of his life that most people would soon want to forget. This part of his life is on display for all to see – from the stomach wrenching photographs of war, to thousands of inactive weapons of war (many of which he deactivated personally), to articles about his experience in the army. His parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was five. He was forced to leave his village, work in the fields and then several years later was drafted into the Vietnamese army. Aki estimates he laid over 50,000 land mines during his time in the army.
Now he works for the people of Cambodia. He runs this his museum to further awareness about the tragedy and horror of war, he trains the Cambodian army in the art of defusing land mines, he personally defuses
many land mines each year, he offers free English classes, and he runs on site an orphanage for children maimed by land mines. Estimated time to visit is about 30 to 45 minutes. There are many deactivated grenades and land mines in the actual museum. Many photos and articles about the museum from noteworthy publications such as the Washington Post, and the New York times hand on the wall. There is a “mine field” setup outside the museum. See how easily it is to step on a land mine or trigger a “trip” wire. All the weapons of war at this museum are completely safe – everything has been deactivated.
Aki speaks 4 languages, Khmer, English, Japanese and French. His museum and orphanage is entirely supported by donations; it is not government funded. If you can’t make it to his museum you can email Aki personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at: (885) 012 630 446 or visit the official museum website here.