Landmines in Cambodia → Why you Should Watch Your Step!

While getting off the beaten path may be a tempting proposition, there are a number of reasons why you should think twice about straying too far from the main routes in Cambodia, six million reasons to be precise, all landmines.

The evidence of these dormant dangers strewn about the Cambodian landscape can be seen in the streets of large cities like Phnom Penh, as well as the tiny rural villages in the surrounding countryside; Cambodians, old and young, with missing limbs.

Where are the landmines in Cambodia?

The mines appeared throughout the country over a period of many years, the result of constant warring between the Khmer Rouge and its opposing factions, and even the Vietnamese had a hand in placing a vast number of the devices.

These days, accidental explosions are still all too common, and much of the land that should be given over to farming is inaccessible. Mines are even found in the streets of small townships, with unsuspecting locals living literally -on top of them for years before they're discovered.

How to avoid landmines

For tourists, the threat is much less, of course. The main routes are all well worn and the cities are largely untouched by the problem. It's when you step outside the main tourist areas that you're taking a risk, so here are a few considerations you might want to take on board before you head off to explore the unexplored on your own.

Temples are Targets Too

Because landmines were strewn indiscriminately around the Cambodian landscape, they frequently turn up in unexpected places. Temples, in particular, were popular targets for the enemy, so tourists heading off for some sightseeing are well advised not to wander around in the undergrowth near to religious icons and buildings.

Take a Guide

Over the years and tragically by trial-and-error, the locals have learned where it is safe to walk, so take a guide (it helps the local economy, too).

Bear in mind that one reason there are so many landmines still covering Cambodia is because no one really knows where they all are. They were laid by so many different groups, none of which documented their whereabouts, that they cannot be cataloged now. Hiring a guide is no guarantee against the threat of mines, because the chances are your guide won't have a clue where they're laid either.

General Idea

Although landmines weren't mapped when they were placed during the wars, it's widely known that the vast majority were placed along Cambodia's northern border with Thailand. You won't find maps pinpointing the exact location of these nasty little devices, unfortunately, but you can avoid them by only crossing the borders (or travelling near to the border) using recognised roads.

Educate Yourself

Ever wondered what a landmine looked like up close and personal. Well, if you take a short trip just outside Siem Reap you'll come to the shanty home of Aki Ra, a former soldier for the Khmer Rouge.

Using skills he learned working alongside the UN, he has been finding and deactivating landmines in Cambodia for over a decade and a half. His huts, which are full to the brim with numerous types of incendiary devices, are a chilling advert for the cruelty of war, and you can follow the crowds of tourists to view this spectacle for yourself.

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2 Comments

  • frank aguirre said

    i will be going to thailand next month. doing research on land mines.was there2 years ago.please contact me there,please.

  • Hoo Chin Meng said

    I lost my brother to a landmine in Cambodia.
    Take Care when there

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