The Land Mine Museum is run by Aki Ra, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier and landmine layer. He started off by turning the garden of his home into a museum of mines and other ordnance. The museum is now located in a purpose built location approximately 12 miles from Siem Reap in the direction of Banteay Srei.
A humbling experience that is also supporting an amazing cause. Check out many of the landmines that Aki Ra and his team have collected throughout Cambodia on their de-mining mission.
Aki Ra is a former Khmer Rouge conscripted child soldier who works as a deminer and museum curator in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Aki Ra is unsure of his age, but believes he was born in 1973. His parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Orphaned in the Khmer Rouge camp, he was taken in by a woman named Yourn who raised him and several other orphaned children until he was conscripted into the Khmer Rouge army at about 10 years of age.
Mae Yourn (Mother Yourn), who lived and worked at the Cambodia Landmine Museum, died at the age of 66 in April 2010 from complications from diabetes.
Aki Ra fought for the Khmer Rouge until 1983 when he was captured by the Vietnamese. He was conscripted into the Vietnamese army on threat of his life while still a boy. He later served with the Cambodian army as a teenager and still later received landmine clearance training with the United Nations.
Having laid thousands of landmines as a soldier and working for the UN to remove them he discovered he was quite adept at clearing landmines and UXOs, and decided to make it his trade.
Having no demining tools, he used a knife, a Leatherman, and a stick. He would defuse the landmines and UXOs he found in small villages and bring home the empty casings. Sometimes he would sell them as scrap to help fund his work.
Tourists began hearing stories about a young Khmer man who cleared landmines with a stick and had a house full of defused ordnance. Aki Ra began charging a dollar to see his collection, using the money to help further his activities. Thus began the Cambodia Landmine Museum.
Aki Ra cleared landmines where he had fought, when he heard about an accident, or when village chiefs and farmers would call him at the museum and tell him of mines in their villages and ask for his help.
While working in these villages he found many injured and abandoned children. He brought them home to live with him and his wife Hourt. Some of the children who moved to their home were also street kids from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Eventually he had brought home over 2 dozen boys and girls.
The first child Aki Ra brought home was a 9-year old boy who had lost his leg to a landmine and was living on the street. His wife Hourt had no idea Aki Ra would be returning with the little boy, but when he returned home she took the child to her family and said “Look, now I have a son”.