While walking along Phnom Penh’s riverside, we happened upon a landmine awareness photography exhibition.
This child’s lively eyes, and curious gaze caught my attention. His peaceful spirit contrasted sharply with the cruel creations depicted in the images at which his father was intently gazing.
I was struck by this second image as well. Above the display, one can see traditional Khmer structures and a shrimp-colored sunset in the background. Mingled with the graceful, beautiful architecture lie the landmines displayed underneath – symbolic of Cambodia where it is estimated that 20% of villages are still contaminated by minefields.
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Despite its rebound from decades of civil war, Cambodia is still plagued by landmines. It is estimated that 40,000 amputees reside there. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may be as many as 4 -6 million mines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia.
Sadly, many amputees roam the streets of capital city, Phnom Penh, either begging for money, or trying to sell their wares (paperback books, postcards, etc.). We bought two hand-painted postcards from a man who called himself Tom, who was missing both of his arms. Remarkably, Tom was able to manipulate the wares in his basket with the stumps of his arms. He had a warm smile and energetic spirit and he waved at us whenever we crossed paths with him on the street.
Shawn and I visited the Landmine Museum outside of Siem Reap. I’ll be posting on that nonprofit’s noble aims and our visit there shortly.