It was announced on Sunday that the Cambodian Landmine Museum near Siem Reap will soon reopen to tourists, ending three months of closure following the arrest of its staff for alleged illegal gun procession.
The museum’s international project manager Bill Morse wrote in a Facebook post that the museum had recently been informed that it would be allowed to reopen.
“The museum and staff are very happy to finally reopen and be able to tell the story of landmines in Cambodia through the life and times of Aki Ra [founder of the museum]."
“English language guided tours will begin on 7 January 2019: Victory Over Genocide Day. A good day to start talking! We would like to thank everyone who helped us make this happen,” he wrote.
In late August, a fire broke out in the museum compound 150m from the premises. When investigated, police reportedly found large quantities of illegal weaponry, including; nine grenades; 15 Type 72a mines; 325 bullets; six broken machine guns; anti-tank mine shells; and a case of detonation cord.
Aki Ra, executive director Hanh Sokunthea, and deputy director Eoun Yun were all arrested and charged with illegal gun possession. Thirty students staying in the museum were also removed by the Department of Social Affairs and placed in the care of two other NGOs.
Aki Ra said the fire broke out in a small warehouse where war remnants were temporally stored before being destroyed.
“It was a small warehouse. We called the fire engine to put it out on time. The building was one metre wide, two metres long, and two metres high. There was no explosion, the fire just burned the outer part and we put it out in time. It is located 150m from the museum,” he said.
The museum compound has now been returned to the staff in preparation for the reopening, but they are still awaiting official permission to reopen, said Morse.
“Everything has been cleaned up, re-inspected, an operating licence has been issued and the local police have returned the grounds to the NGO. The museum is awaiting an order from the magistrate in Siem Reap,” he said
Morse emphasised the positive impact the museum had on the local community through good salaries, building schools, clearing landmines, and caring for at-risk children, saying these projects are “losing thousands of dollars in income each week” that it is closed.
Founder Aki Ra told The Post on Monday he was called by the court “to meet on December 20”, where he was hopeful he would be given the green light to reopen the museum.
Throughout his demining career, Aki Ra has extracted approximately 50,000 mines in Cambodia. In 2010 he was named a CNN top 10 hero, also receiving the 2012 Manhae Prize awarded by the Manhae Foundation in South Korea.
Siem Reap Provincial Court spokesperson Yin Srang could not be reached for comment.