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A public embrace for gun sculptures

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World of Peace is a new statue installed in Kampong Thom in which two fish pay tribute to the rivers of the province. The sculpture is a symbol of the success of the small arms reduction program in Cambodia. The initiative is being funded by a grant from the Japanese government. The statue marks the surrender of hundreds of small arms and weapons from Cambodia's war torn past from throughout the country.

Two more dramatic Weapons for Peace sculptures are set to be installed in the cities

of Battambang and Kampong Thom, marking the surrender of hundreds of small arms and

weapons from Cambodia's war torn past in the two provinces.

Following the discovery of a large weapons cache in Battambang province, Governor

Prach Chan requested that a sculpture made of decommissioned weapons be made for

his city. From a choice of 10 sketches he selected Naga for Peace and Development.

The seven-headed dragon Naga is known as the spirit of water, land and forests in

Cambodian mythology. A sickle extends from the creature's tail and emphasizes the

importance of agriculture in Battambang.

Kampong Thom picked World of Peace, in which two fish pay tribute to the rivers of

Kampong Thom.

Despite the cheery symbols, viewed closely the still distinguishable materials preserve

the memory of the dark past they participated in. In a warehouse on the outskirts

of Phnom Penh, 10 artists transformed the weapons to art.

Along the walls of the worksite are piled what is left of the sculptures' raw materials

- charred rifles and rocket launchers from Flames of Peace - the ceremonies in which

surrendered weapons are piled and torched in massive bonfires. The weapons were given

up voluntarily by people in Battambang and Kampong Thom as well as Otdar Mean Chey,

Banteay Mean Chey, and Siem Reap, the five provinces where weapons collections have

been carried out since 2003.

The sculptures are a symbol of the success of the small arms reduction program in

Cambodia. The initiative is funded by a grant from the Japanese government.

The artists, all one-time students from the Royal University of Fine Arts, are veterans

of Cambodia's first guns-into-art initiative in 2003, the Peace Art Project Cambodia.

Started in 2003, PAPC's sculptures were installed in various sites in Phnom Penh

and sold privately.

Artist Sophon Samkhan, who teaches at RUFA, said he wants the art to say to people

that "guns create violence, and when the country is at war, investment does

not come in and it affects the living standard of everyone."

From March until mid-September the artists hammered, welded and consulted in the

workshop of Design Technologies Warehouse, a British NGO. The project was overseen

by artist Sasha Constable.

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