Cambodia is one of the countries we love returning to. Each time we visit, new buildings are built, fast improvement of roads is going on, cities get a brighter look and more modern cars drive along the streets. But some things simply don’t disappear from the cruel past so quickly.
There are people who were really unlucky, who unwittingly stepped on a hidden danger – a landmine. Even nowadays not all areas in Cambodia and Laos are cleared of landmines. It’s a long and dangerous process and it will take another 10 to 20 years to declare Cambodia UXO (unexploded ordnance) free.
The sad truth is, that even today about 250 people step on such a device each year. Very often the victims are children who play in the fields, while not realizing that hidden dangers lure beneath them. In many cases, one dies right on the spot because the next hospital is far away and often there’s a lack of proper infrastructure to treat such traumas. If your survives such incident, the scars stay forever; a lost leg is the most common injury. In most cases, these people are no longer capable of taking on a job or continue the work they had. Therefore, you’ll see many people with bad disabilities begging in the streets, in front of market entrances, hotels or restaurants.
We’ve come across many landmine victims during our travels through Cambodia. The country and its people have faced many unbearable situations, which gives us the chills when thinking about it … There’s one story that still sticks as if we heard it yesterday: During our first visit back in 2006, we drove up to Angkor Wat with a local taxi driver. He showed us the area and knew a lot about the countries history. He told us about the time when the Khmer Rouge rose to power and the genocide of approx. 2 million Cambodians took its course. His entire family was slaughtered during the Pol Pot regime as well … What’s the appropriate way to react if someone tells you a horror story like that? He said it in a way as if he had made peace with history. After all, what else could he do? Still, the scars on the outside might heal but it will take more than one lifetime to forget …