"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Visit Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

January 2020.

Take even a rudimentary look into the history of Cambodia and before long you’ll find yourself entering the tragic world of the landmine. During decades of war, experts say at least six million landmines found their way into Cambodian soil. Moreover, these evil devices have been responsible for the deaths and injuries of over 64.000 people.

Landmines in Cambodia.

Cambodia’s landmine problem in numbers.

In Siem Reap, several sites dedicate themselves to educating people about Cambodia’s landmine problem. One focuses on the amazing, lifesaving rats at APOPO Humanitarian Demining. Another recommended spot is Cambodia Landmine Museum, a war exhibit, art gallery and relief centre.

Cambodia Landmine Museum in Siem Reap

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

The museum provides an overview of Cambodia’s landmine troubles through the perspective of Aki Ra, one of the country’s most inspirational figures. His life story is an incredible one. The kind of tale that could, you suspect, get snapped up and brought to the big screen by Oliver Stone.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Aki Ra Cambodia.

Akia Ra, Cambodia Landmine Museum founder.

Aki Ra was just five years old when his parents lost their lives in a landmine explosion. Living wild in the jungle, he was found by the Khmer Rouge and forced into labour as a child soldier. By the age of twelve he’d become an experienced and skilled fighter capable of laying up to a thousand landmines a day.

Consequently, Aki Ra found himself bouncing between various military units during years of chaos in Cambodia. In 1978 he fell into the hands of the invading Vietnamese Army. Later, he served in the newly formed Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Aki Ra Cambodia.

Aki Ra.

When peace finally came to Cambodia in the early 1990s, he had experienced years of the devastation caused by landmines. Determined to make amends for his troubled past, he got a job as a deminer with The United Nations. He later returned to his home province, Siem Reap, where he spent his days disarming and removing mines.

Deactivated landmines Cambodia.

Part of Aki Ra’s grisly collection.

He carried out his work using little more than a pocket knife and neglected to wear any protective clothing. For funding, he sold empty mine casings as scrap, building up a private collection. Much of this haul now sits on display in the Landmine Museum.

The Incredible Story of Aki Ra.

Aki Ra Deminer Cambodia.

Aki Ra, living life on the edge.

As word spread about his great deeds, people from all over the country would come to see his casings. Eventually, foreign tourists began appearing! Thus Aki Ra came up with the idea of opening an official museum.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

The bulk of the museum’s casing collection lies stacked in this glass hut in the garden pond. Furthermore, there are piles gathering dust and cobwebs in a sizeable exhibit towards the back of the compound. You can even touch them if you wish.

Prosthetic limbs Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Landmines: designed to maim.

Landmines are designed to maim rather than outright kill. As a result, Cambodia now has a community of amputees believed to be around forty thousand people. As the museum developed, it also incorporated a rescue centre for children who’d lost limbs.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Landmine amputee relief center Cambodia.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Personally discovered by Aki Ra, a number of Siem Reap’s so-called “landmine kids” lived here and even received an education in a custom built classroom. It’s impossible not to be moved by some of the stories on display.

Thankfully, the museum no longer needs to operate as a rescue centre and the last landmine child left in 2012. The old rescue centre now serves as living quarters for the museum staff and their families.

Landmine victim painting Cambodia.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

The museum certainly doesn’t hold back in its visual depictions of what landmines can do to people. In fact, visitors may find the experience overwhelming, from terrifying photos of victims to grisly paintings created by local artists.

Cambodia Landmine Museum Siem Reap.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

It also showcases a large amount of weapons, artillery and military uniforms found during demining projects.

Exploring Siem Reap.

Bill Morse at The Cambodia Landmine Museum

Bill Morse.

While we were exploring, Sladja and I got to meet Bill Morse, CLM’s International Project Manager. He established The Landmine Relief Fund, an American charity that supports the museum and ensures Aki Ra no longer has to clear landmines on his own with minimal equipment and zero safety gear.

Photo gallery Cambodia Landmine Museum

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Bill was really friendly and gave us a little insight into the many difficulties of securing funding year after year. Then came the chaotic financial climate of COVID-19, which made his job even harder if not virtually impossible. Feeling suitably inspired, we left a small donation and bought a Cambodia Landmine Museum t-shirt from the onsite store.

Aki Ra Cambodia

Aki Ra with his CNN Hero Award.

As for Aki Ra, he still clears landmines to this day as the leader of a committed team. He has received numerous accolades, both domestically and internationally, including a CNN Hero Award.

Unfortunately, the museum temporarily closed its doors in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus crisis. As I republish this piece, over two years later, it seems the museum has reopened, which is fantastic news. For more info, head to the official website.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Cambodia Landmine Museum.

Like this? Check out more travel reports from Siem Reap.

Or maybe delve further afield with my articles from across Cambodia.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Lookoom

    During my trip to Cambodia I also visited a landmine museum, it seems that there are several of them to make visitors aware of this issue.

    July 6, 2022 - 10:41 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, thanks for commenting. I didn’t know there was another one, where was it?

      July 6, 2022 - 11:01 am Reply
      • Lookoom

        I just checked my notes, it was on the way between Siem Reap and Banteay Srei.

        July 7, 2022 - 12:33 am
      • Leighton

        That’s where the Cambodia Landmine Museum is 🙂

        July 7, 2022 - 6:56 am
  • Toonsarah

    We missed this – not intentionally, I just didn’t know it existed. When we visited Banteay Kdei there was a group of landmine amputee musicians playing near the entrance and we gave them a good donation. It was another salutary reminder of the struggles the country has faced and the impact on individuals.

    July 6, 2022 - 11:59 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Very much so Sarah. Thanks for reading and contributing to the thread!

      July 6, 2022 - 12:32 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    What an incredible story about Aki Ra (I was wondering, while reading your post, whether he’s still alive because of the work he does, and happy to see he’s doing well while he is continuing this dangerous job). The photo of that glass hut packed with landmines … wow!
    I’m also happy to read that the museum has reopened after the dreadful past two years – it’s great that you had the opportunity to visit them.

    July 6, 2022 - 12:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you found this story interesting Corna, if not exactly pleasant. The way he turned his life around is quite inspirational really. Not sure how I would have fared in such a miserable situation growing up. Thanks for reading and for joining the thread, as always.

      July 6, 2022 - 12:58 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Very impressive and inspiring. Glad to see that Aki Ra has received recognition for his work. Kind of hard to believe that Hollywood hasn’t picked up the story. Maybe Oliver Stone needs a little push. Just have to find a hint of conspiracy to make some good drama. Thanks for presenting the background.

    July 6, 2022 - 2:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for taking another look at this piece, Memo. Oliver Stone sounds about right. We need some controversial CIA angle I think. And Charlie Sheen.

      July 6, 2022 - 4:16 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Wow! It’s inspiring that Aki Ra persevered and is making a such an impactful difference. It seems like most people would be so scarred and traumatized from what he experienced that they would have a pessimistic outlook the rest of their lives, and I wouldn’t blame them. Thanks for sharing this wonderful museum.

    July 6, 2022 - 2:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You are absolutely right Lyssy, he’s a remarkable man. I would have fallen under the “traumatised” category, I’d imagine. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment.

      July 6, 2022 - 4:17 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    It is terrible what countries and despots will do to win. Landmines are a way of saying, maybe I will never have your country, but you will never have safety. So glad there is a museum to show people what the human cost is. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan

    July 6, 2022 - 2:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right, they will be busy demining Cambodian land for decades, if not longer. Thanks for taking the time to read Allan, as always.

      July 6, 2022 - 4:18 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Aki Ra is certainly a hero among men. To not only acknowledge his part in placing the mines, but then to come back and dedicate his life to removing them shows an incredible strength of character. What I have really appreciated about your posts is how in every one you show the beautiful courage and grace of the people who have taken struggles and heartaches suffered and turned them into opportunities of educating and helping others and being given a new life.

    July 6, 2022 - 4:04 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks so much Meg, I’m glad this story touched you in some way. Really appreciate your kind words, I know that many of these Siem Reap articles have not been easy to read.

      July 6, 2022 - 4:25 pm Reply
  • Stan

    This is why you are head and shoulders above most bloggers here. well written and handled with care, this is the kind of story that needs to be told but so many ignore.

    July 6, 2022 - 4:28 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you, Stan, you’re too kind I think. It wasn’t an easy site to visit and an even harder one to write up. But, as you suggest, this is important stuff in terms of understanding the country and its recent history.

      July 6, 2022 - 4:33 pm Reply
  • Diana

    Wow, how awful. I wasn’t aware of this piece of Cambodia’s history. I’m glad to know clean up efforts are ongoing. Hopefully one day there are no more land mines.

    July 6, 2022 - 6:01 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      That’s the goal I guess, but boy I imagine it’ll take a long time. Thanks for reading Diana, and for getting in touch.

      July 6, 2022 - 6:17 pm Reply
  • travelling_han

    Wow, another must visit on my Cambodia list. The story of Aki Ra is truly a moving and amazing one.

    July 6, 2022 - 6:33 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and commenting Hannah!

      July 6, 2022 - 6:36 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    You’ve covered this rather unpleasant topic really well Leighton in your piece and it’s good to learn that Aki Ra’s work goes on.

    July 6, 2022 - 6:46 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Marion, I’m so glad to see this place survived the economic wasteland that was COVID. Hope it can battle on and stay open in these increasingly volatile times.

      July 6, 2022 - 7:42 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    A device that can be made for a matter of pounds and is designed to rip off a person’s lower leg and force dirt and bone splinters up into their leg or body is one of the cruellest weapons known to man. Landmines are barbaric devices – designed to cause as much damage and pain as possible, with no regard for human life. These crude bombs maim, cripple and kill indiscriminately, devastating lives around the world. I still remember how Princess Diana courageously walked through an Angolan minefield to bring the dangers of these cruel devices to the world’s attention

    July 6, 2022 - 7:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      All true, and why The Cambodia Landmine Museum is such a special place to visit and support, in terms of ticket entry, donations and merchandise. Thanks for your comment!

      July 6, 2022 - 7:40 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    That is so sad that there are so many landmines in Cambodia. It is amazing that people like Aki Rai and Bill Morse are doing everything they can to try to clear them out of the community to make it safer for everyone.

    July 6, 2022 - 7:55 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking out this sad chapter of Cambodian history Allie. As you say there is hope, thanks to guys like Aki and Bill.

      July 6, 2022 - 8:00 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    And the horrors of Cambodia continue to stack up. I actually got teary reading about Aki Ra. A child soldier at age 12? Abhorrent! The best take-away is that he found a way to turn lemons into lemonade and continues to do so today. Thank goodness the museum has reopened. Thank you, Leighton, for enlightening us.

    July 7, 2022 - 12:07 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and for your thoughts Kellye. This one also had to be posted afresh, which is why you’ve seen the notification. Most of us couldn’t imagine the horror Aki Ra went through as a boy and a young man. But, as you say… lemons, lemonade and some redemption.

      July 7, 2022 - 7:55 am Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    It sounds like this museum is doing a good job of properly educating what happened, not brushing it over as I’ve found some others have. I’ll look for it if and when we return to Cambodia. Maggie

    July 7, 2022 - 1:32 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Maggie, thanks for checking out this piece on the Cambodia Landmine Museum. Hope your summer is unfolding well 🙂

      July 7, 2022 - 7:59 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    What a unique and fascinating museum to visit: landmines may not be a popular topic to dedicate a museum to, but given the country’s extensive history of them, it feels apropos to do so. Aki Ra is certainly an outstanding person, given that he is now doing the dangerous, yet brave work of demining what he’d done in his younger years. Tragic, yet redeeming, the Cambodia Landmine Museum looks to be a humbling experience.

    July 7, 2022 - 5:11 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Humbling is about right Rebecca, thanks for reading and commenting on this piece!

      July 7, 2022 - 8:00 am Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Aki Ra and this museum have done great work with landmines and their victims. My stepdad was seriously wounded by a German Bouncing Betty landmine in WWII in Italy. He wasn’t disfigured but the scars and areas of lumpy flesh were clearly visible when he had his shirt off.

    July 7, 2022 - 6:38 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I had to Google the term Bouncing Betty. We are currently watching the epic 1970s docu series ‘World at War’ and the last episode featured Italy heavily. Thanks for reading this piece and leaving your thoughts.

      July 7, 2022 - 8:02 am Reply
  • KhmerStyle

    thanks you for writing about this museum, I have no other words.

    July 7, 2022 - 8:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you too and yes, sometimes a reflective silence is all that’s needed with these kinds of stories.

      July 7, 2022 - 8:17 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    That is a pretty incredible story about Aki Ra. It’s crazy to think that all he used was a pocket knife to disarm the mines.

    July 7, 2022 - 1:05 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      He could have been blown apart at any moment. I wonder if, in the beginning, part of him felt like that’s the risk he had to take due to the fact that he’d planted so many of these things as a youth. Thanks for reading!

      July 7, 2022 - 2:02 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    What an amazing story of resilience and benevolence. Bless him for dedicating his life to cleaning up the hazards.

    July 7, 2022 - 5:51 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      July 7, 2022 - 7:32 pm Reply
  • The Travel Architect

    It looks like we were there just weeks, or maybe even days, before you. We were so moved by the situation that we resolved to have a fundraiser for the Landmine Relief Fund. Then… COVID. Now 2.5 years later, we’re talking seriously about having it later this summer. This post feels like a sign that we should go ahead and do it, so thank you!

    July 8, 2022 - 3:35 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. A fundraiser sounds like a wonderful idea, I’m sure everyone involved with CLM would appreciate that. Not sure if Bill Morse is still there, would be interested to hear about how you progress.

      July 8, 2022 - 7:44 pm Reply

    Amazing story, Leighton. We learnt a lot about land mines and their horrific impact whilst in Laos, including shocking statistics around how little money the Americans have spent on demining that country compared to the cost of setting the mines in the first place. Great write up bud.

    July 8, 2022 - 5:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I didn’t know that was such a big issue in Laos too. Thanks for reading and getting in touch!

      July 8, 2022 - 9:34 am Reply

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