Land mines in Cambodia:
A legacy of three decades of war
In a small hospital in Phnom Malai, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold on the Thai-Cambodian border, I met Soth Choeurn (54). He stepped on a land mine and lost his left leg and a finger of his left hand. Nothing extraordinary in Cambodia, where (at the time this photo series was finished, in the mid-1990s) some eight people a day stepped on a mine. But Soth’s case was less common: ten years earlier, another land mine already had taken his right leg.
Mines were placed by all factions involved in the long war that started in 1970. Cambodia has one of the world’s highest mine casualty rates but since demining started, the number of mine casualties decreased from about 850 per annum in the early 2000s to about 270 in 2008. The country now has some 40,000 amputees, which is also one of the highest rates in the world. For the mostly poor rural population, having a family member lose a limb is also an economic drama. Besides, the presence of land mines causes great amounts of stress on them and restricts the access to agricultural land, forests etc. It is estimated that it will take another 10 to 20 years to clear these mines.