Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Landmines and Butterflies….

Our final afternoon we decided to give the ruins a rest and have a look at something different… the landline museum. The story behind the museum really should be made into a film. Aki Ra was taken by the Khemer Rouge at around the age of 5 and trained as a child soldier, his parents were killed and he is not sure of his real name or even his birthday. He spent most of his youth fighting as a soldier and planting mines, in his words "land mines became my friends, they were a way to keep me safe and to catch food." Then one day Aki Ra defected to the other side and then spent years fighting against the Khemer Rouge, finally the Khemer Rouge were defeated but Aki Ra had lost his childhood, to him all he had known was fighting and death.

By this time, Cambodia was is a terrible state and land mines were everywhere, Aki Ra, who was now quite the landmine expert started to disarm them. Often for no payment or for as little as the villagers could put together. Whilst he was doing this work he saw a lot of children injured or orphaned because of the land mines and so he started to take them in and turned his home into a school.


In 2007 the government put a stop to Aki Ra's work, although he was doing a noble job, there were others digging up mines and selling the mines and parts for profit on the black market, the government wanted to put an end to it. So in 2008, Aki Ra set up the formal NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining, which is a separate NGO to the museum and school (relief facility) and so, he continues with his work.

To date, Aki Ra has cleared over 50,000 land mines… just think about that number for a minute, 50,000 land mines, isn't that insane? How many mines were laid in the first place?

Not only that he has taken in 30 children and called them his own, now he heads the organisation that trains and sends out Cambodians to continue his work, of removing land mines, one mine at a time. In 2012 Aki Ra was awarded the CNN Heroes Award.


It is quite a somber place to visit, I wondered how Ebi-kun would take it, not an easy subject to talk to an 8 year old about but so important that he knows that these awful things went on and still go on in the world. He read a lot of the information, I could see him taking it in, he asked some questions and then I let him be, knowing that when he was ready he would want to know more. Playing at being soldiers doesn't seem as attractive anymore.


After the landmine museum we stopped off at the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, different place to the cafe we went to a couple of days before.


They had loads of different types of butterflies, so pretty but not easy to get a photograph of!


When you arrive a guide shows you around, explains all about the butterfly farming and how they breed the butterflies…


They had boxes full of different caterpillars, like this guy…


And some really big stick insects…


It's not very big so we were only there for an hour at tops, then we headed back to town for some lunch, Ebi-kun trying yet another type of smoothie, he could probably write a book about the smoothies of Cambodia and Laos!


It was a pretty full on day because after lunch we went to the National Museum, no photos allowed for that but it was quite an interesting place. Then on the way back to town, Yasutoki wanted to stop at the Hello Kitty Angkor Shop - yes, that really exists! Inside is like stepping into a Japanese omiyagi store, I couldn't believe it! There were lots of samples, Ebi-kun tried everything at least twice! The cookies and other goods were also Japanese prices, they were totally marketing to the Japanese tourists…


Finally we got the driver to drop us off in town, so we had a mooch around the arts market before heading to Pub Street to get some dinner.






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