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British Ambassador launches mines photo exhibition

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British ambassador Mark Gooding opens the MAG exhibition. Photograph: Alistair Walsh

The British ambassador to Cambodia, Mark Gooding, opened a photo exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) on Friday night at FCC Angkor.

The collection of images from photographer Sean Sutton, titled ‘Impact,’ illustrates the effects of land-mines over the past two decades, particularly in Cambodia.

Mark Gooding has taken a personal interest in the work of MAG which is primarily financed by the British government.

“The program we have here is the biggest demining program of the British government anywhere in the world. We have a program worth over $5 million dollars over three years from 2010 to 2013 and MAG is our partner here,” he told Insider.

“They’re doing amazing work in term of reducing the number of mine accidents and injuries, but also in terms of promoting livelihoods by releasing land for local communities that has previously been unavailable to them.

“Sean’s photographs are a fantastic record of their work here.”

Sutton is a photojournalist who has worked in major conflicts around the world, including the recent uprising in Libya where photographer Tim Hetherington was killed.

He says he has become fascinated with the issue of landmines and unexploded ordinances. The remnants of war have damaging repercussions which are often overlooked.

Sutton says even when conflicts are over, landmines can severely affect the redevelopment of a country.

“A lot of people knowingly live in the middle of minefields,” Sutton says.

“Most people who step on a land mine knew they were in a contaminated area. That is because they were forced to because they needed the food and access to water.”

Sutton told the story of one a family in one photo who were particularly poor after both breadwinners of the family became victims of landmines.

“First the husband was out in the field and stood on a mine. He was sent on an ox-cart to Battambang and came back six weeks later. He asked his wife to go a neighbour and ask for some medicine because the hospital wouldn’t give him any and he was in a lot of pain.

“She went to a neighbour’s house and found some medicine and on the way back she stood on a landmine. She smiled and looked at me and said ‘I took the medicine because I needed it more than him’.

“The biggest message they wanted to get across was yes they were very poor but they know their children are going to be safe. They know there are no mines there any more because MAG had cleared it.”

The exhibition runs at FCC Angkor until the end of December.

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