Saturday, April 14, 2007

Aki Ra - coming out of 'retirement'

I won't try and explain Aki Ra's recent 'retirement' announcement other than to say that the latest word is that he's moving his operation from just outside Siem Reap to a new location in Banteay Srei, where an official unveiling of the new Landmine Museum and Relief Facility will take place on 21 April. Cutting the ribbon will be the Canadian Ambassador to Cambodia, Donica Pottie, alongwith Sok An, the country's Deputy Prime Minister. I never visited Aki Ra's landmine museum in its old location, for some reason I never found the time as I'm usually seeing friends or off into the countryside trying to uncover more ancient temples. But I hear his name constantly and there must be at least three documentaries in final production about the man and his work. As I don't know him or much about his work, other than what I read in the press, I'll direct you to The Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund website which has all the detail you need to learn about Aki Ra and his museum.

Briefly, Aki Ra is a former child conscript of the Khmer Rouge Army, who developed deadly first-hand experience with mines and weapons of all kinds. He spent well over a decade laying mines and booby traps made from almost every explosive ordnance deployed during those long years at war. In 1994, he joined UNTAC and received formal training as a de-miner, continuing to clear mines and uxo devices in communities around the country. By 1998 he had acquired an impressive number of de-commissioned casings from various mortars, mines, and artillery shells. To date it's estimated that Aki Ra has cleared over 50,000 mines and has been documented by dozens of filmmakers and journalists from around the world. He's since completed further de-mining safety and explosives certification from the International School of Explosive Engineering in England. Aki Ra continues to clear hundreds of mines per year and his museum houses a tiny fraction of his de-mining efforts.

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