Soon after the Gulf War died down and at the time when a poor nation was thirsting
for foreign help, Robin Bidulph, a former British army officer, decided to take off
his military uniform and volunteer in Cambodia.
Working for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)-U.K., Robin teaches courses in English
and English interpretation/translation at the University of Phnom Penh.
When the school term ended and holiday time-when students and teachers can enjoy
a more relaxed time-arrived, Robin was nowhere to be found. I thought he was swimming
at sea, but it turned out I was wrong.
If you go to Banteay Meanchey in Cambodia's northwest, you will hear landmines singing
horrible songs by the sides of the mountains. That's where you would have found Robin
this summer-working with HALO Trust and having a tough quarrel with these man-made
"I like Cambodia and the people," Robin told me when I visited him in Banteay
Meanchey recently. "I don't want to see your innocent people being killed or
maimed by landmines."
Of course I believed him since I found that he worked from morning until night, seven
days a week, clearing on average two or three mines a day.
On my way to Siem Reap, I stopped over in Battambang, where I met Vice Governor Teas
Heanh, who has complained a lot about mine-clearing projects.
Minefields in Battambang take up about a third of the cultivable land, he said, but
he had not seen any demining activities carried out in the province yet, even though
certain organizations have pledged to start such programs.
Most of the people within Battambang who have been displaced from their homes by
warfare in recent years want to go back to their home districts, he said, but the
biggest problem is landmines.
In Banteay Meanchey I was told by the head of the provincial Red Cross that one or
two mine injuries are still being reported every two weeks.
Thousands of landmines have been jailed in the ground in Cambodia and need to be
relieved of their destructive duties by demining programs.
Cambodia needs more people like Robin Bidulph-not just foreigners but Khmers as
well-who are willing to give up their time and risk their lives to help make our
country safe again.