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Mine museum being guarded

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Aki Ra is seen with a mine removal team in a photograph displayed at his Siem Reap museum. Phak Seangly

Mine museum being guarded

Guards have been placed around the recently shuttered Cambodian Landmine Museum in Siem Reap after its founder Aki Ra was arrested late last month for illegal weapons possession.

Many shops and vendors adjacent to the former tourist destination have also ceased operations due to a loss in customers.

A dozen soldiers have been on round-the-clock guard at the premises. A poster on the facade says that it is temporarily closed but will reopen later.

One 40-year-old vendor who works near the museum claimed she used to earn around 150,000 riel ($36.50) per day but can’t sell anything now that the place is closed.

Reluctant to discuss the circumstances surrounding the closure, she claimed she was away visiting relatives when authorities came to arrest Ra.

Sa Mun, a nearby noodle shop owner, said she felt bad for the children who came to her shop. She said the museum gave her a monthly allowance to give out food to the schoolchildren.

“I heard American donors support those kids and they bring the kids to their homes,” she said, adding that Ra’s relatives owned shops in the area, which are also closed.

But Ray, a soldier who identified himself as the deputy chief of the group guarding the museum grounds, said since the shutdown, his group has been posted there 24 hours a day.

“Visitors come, but they are not permitted to enter,” he said.

Siem Reap’s provincial monitor for a human right group Suos Narin said he wasn’t aware what the situation was with the children who went to school on the grounds of the museum.

“I asked Toch Lonh, a museum team worker who is in charge of taking care of the children, but he declined to say anything. I made an appointment with him to ask for some information, but he did not come,” Narin said.

A Post reporter went to the museum grounds for information but couldn’t find anyone associated with it.