Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mine museum chiefs detained

Mine museum chiefs detained

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Aki Ra is seen with a mine removal team in a photograph displayed at his Siem Reap museum. Phak Seangly

Mine museum chiefs detained

The Siem Reap provincial court on Saturday put the founder of the Cambodia Landmine Museum and its senior officials in pre-trial detention on charges of illegal possession of weapons.

This follows a fire on the premises after which authorities discovered old and rusty weapons in a small shed on the museum’s compound.

Court spokesperson Riem Chanmony told The Post on Sunday that Aki Ra, the museum’s founder, was arrested along with Hanh Sokuthea, its executive director, and Eoun Yun, the deputy director, in Banteay Srey district on August 28, a day after a fire accident at the museum’s canteen.

Provincial authorities found nine grenades, 15 “72A” mines, 325 bullets, six broken machine guns, two cases of anti-tank mine shells, a grenade crate, and a case of detonating cord, among others.

During questioning, Aki Ra said the weapons belonged to his late uncle, though he had never made a report of the stockpiles to the authorities.

Chanmony said the museum had been closed pending investigation.

“The court decided to shut down the museum temporarily,” he said.

The closure of the museum, which doubles as a school providing education, food and shelter for at-risk and mine-affected youth, is expected to have a major impact.

Chhun Bora, the training manager at Cambodia Self-Help Demining, an NGO founded by Aki Ra, said through the museum’s funding, 21 schools had been built in the north and northeast of Cambodia.

The schools have provided free education for at least 600 students and improved the livelihood of about 60 volunteers teaching there.

At the museum’s headquarters in Banteay Srey district’s Kna Sanday commune, 30 students had received free education, with half of them finishing high school and pursuing higher education at the university.

Bora called on the court to let the museum continue its activities.

“I don’t fully understand court proceedings, but I think the case does not involve the museum. The court should let the organisation continue its activities so that it can make money from visitors to support the living of its staffs and students,” Bora said.

Provincial police said students at the museums were being looked after by the social affairs department.

Born in 1970 and separated from his family by the Khmer Rouge at the age of five, Akira fought for the many different armies that ravaged the country for nearly 35 years. In the early 1990’s, he worked for the United Nations clearing landmines around Angkor Wat.

Aki Ra has extracted around 50,000 mines throughout his demining career, at times using bare hands without technical devices. In 2010 he was named a CNN top 10 hero. He received the Manhae Prize awarded by the Manhae Foundation in South Korea In 2012.

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in