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Miss landmine furore

The organiser of the 2009 Miss Landmine pageant has accused an Australian NGO head of “playing a direct role” in its cancellation last year.

In August 2009, the Ministry of Social Affairs announced that the pageant – which was to feature 20 Cambodian victims of land mines and explosives remnants of war – would not be allowed to go forward, saying it would damage the “dignity and rights of the disabled”.

The organiser of the pageant has laid part of the blame for that decision at the feet of Chris Minko, secretary general of Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled).

A press release points to an interview Minko gave for a Canadian documentary on the pageant, set to premiere in the United States on October 16, in which he allegedly “shares his passionately dismissive views on the Miss Landmine project, labeling it ‘sexist’, ‘a flesh market’ and ‘in very bad taste’.”

The release goes on to say that Minko advised Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng to kick pageant director Morten Traavik out of the country, saying, “Get him out. People like that are not needed in this landscape.”

Minko said via email that he had merely made his opinion on the pageant known to the ministry.

I find beauty pageants degrade and exploit women – be it women with a disability or without a disability,” he said. “There are more dignified ways of showcasing the ability of Cambodian women landmine survivors.”
Traavik said he found Minko’s “apparently central” role in the cancellation of the pageant “troubling on a number of levels”.
“Most troubling is that these are the kinds of advisers that the Cambodian government apparently take cues from,” he said.

He also said he hoped the documentary, titled “Miss Landmine”, would be screened in Cambodia.
Sem Sokha, a secretary of state at the ministry, said he had not received any proposal for the screening of the documentary. Asked if the government would allow it to be shown, he said, “We have banned [the pageant]. Now there is no new news about it.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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