Decades of war have left Cambodia one of the most landmined countries in the world. Out of about 10.6 million landmines laid during Cambodias tumultous recent history there are an estimated 3 to 6 million unexploded mines still in place. Most of these lie hidden in the undergrowth buried by the passing years waiting for a foot or a hand to provide the necessary pressure required to detonate. This happens in agonising regularity leaving with Cambodia one of the highest rates of physical disability of any country anywhere in the world and while records are not comprehensive it is believed that there have been more than 400 000 amputations as a results of landmines since 1979.
There were no records kept either of exactly where the mines were placed so the task of removal is made all the more time consuming and dangerous. Parts of the Cambodian countryside are still liberally dotted with these deadly little bombs. While the Khmer Rouge were considered to be the worst offenders, deliberately targeting the civilian population, all sides involved in the conflicts have shown blatant disregard for the long term consequences of the use of mines. Their patrons too should shoulder some of the blame and some of the cost. The CMAC (Cambodian Mine Action Centre) reports that mines found in Cambodia were manufactured in the US, China, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, East Germany, the former Czech Republic, India, Chile, South and North Korea, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Poland.
The cost of producing one of these landmines is between 3 and 30USD. The cost of removing one of them is anywhere between 300 and 1000USD. The estimated cost of providing an artificial limb to a landmine survivor is between 100 and 3000USD.
Landmines dont always kill, in fact many of the mines planted in Cambodia were intended to maim rather than kill. 1 in every 236 Cambodians is a mine accident survivor, the highest per capita number in the world. Cambodia is one of the most impoverished nations in South East Asia. These last two statistics mean that many of Cambodias landmine survivors end up unable to work and on the streets. Many victims, no longer able to move independently, become isolated and unaware they are one of so many, affecting not only their physical but their emotional health as well and often that of their families. There are many vocational programs which not only help provide an ability to generate income but also help elevate self esteem and restore dignity stolen by the little explosive pieces of metal left behind by war.
I found this beautifully shot haunting short film made for the Cinema Verite Film Festival which shows the affect landmines have on the whole community.
There are other programs too such as the sports program run by the CNVLD ( Cambodian National Volleyball League -Disabled), which implements a national sports program for Cambodian athletes with a disability including Wheelchair Racing, Volleyball and programs to raise awareness of Disability Issues.
We do our part too.
The fourth annual ISPP Fun Run was held on Saturday. It's an event held to help provide sponsorship to the Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons Volleyball team and every year it's organisation is the responsibility of the the Grade 9s. There are two separate Fun Run events, Elementary and Secondary, held on the day, in which kids, parents, friends and members of the Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons ran their sponsored laps as well as a jumble sale, food sales and this year a volleyball game between the Falcons and the ISPP Super 8.
In the last four years the Falcons, a team from the CNVLD have yet to be beaten by any ablebodied team, although many have tried, including teams from the Australian Defence Force.
Also on the track was a wheelchair race featuring the ANZ Royal CNVLD Wheelie Grand Prix Kompong Speu Racing Team and some novice wheelchair driving ISPP students and parents and I dont think I need to tell you who's skills were deemed superior by the timekeeper.
Watch the Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons in action in this video...