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Govt bans 'Miss Landmine'

GOVERNMENT officials have called for the cancellation of the Miss Landmine pageant, saying Saturday that the photographic beauty contest, which features women who have lost limbs to land mines and explosive remnants of war, mocks the "honour and prestige" of handicapped people, especially women.

The ban comes a day after portraits of the contestants were first put on display at the Meta House art gallery in Phnom Penh ahead of an official crowning in December.

"The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation does not support the Miss Landmine contest," a press release said Saturday.

"The Ministry ... would like the program organiser to stop activity immediately in order to keep the honour and dignity of handicapped Cambodians, especially women," it added.

Organiser Morten Traavik said Sunday that he believed there had been a "misunderstanding".

"Why this situation comes now and not before two years of good relations, I do not know," he said via email.

"I have requested a meeting with [Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng] as soon as possible to try to correct the misunderstanding."

Photos and profiles of the contestants were posted on the Web site Saturday to coincide with the exhibition, with viewers encouraged to vote online. The winner of the competition was to be rewarded with a custom-made prosthetic limb.

Although the pageant has attracted debate about whether it exploits or benefits landmine victims, the ministry expressed its support for the pageant as recently as last week despite its ban on all other beauty contests.

Meta House Director Nicolaus Mesterharm said Sunday that, as a Cambodian gallery operating under Cambodian law, Meta House would have "no other option" but to shut down the exhibition.

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