Monday, November 12, 2007

Angkor Wat Day 2

I decided to start my site-seeing with something I knew I'd like: The Cambodian Land Mine Museum. The museum features the following:
- lots of defused mines
- a small minefield showing what mines would look like you if you came across them in the Cambodian jungles.
- very concise summary Cambodia's sad and chaotic history over the last 40 years.
- how and why land mines were, and still are used, particularly by the U.S.

The Mines
- Mines can cost as little as $1 to make (they're easy and fun to make at home with the kids) and $500 to $1000 to diffuse.
- They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from soda can size, to frisbee size.
- Some are designed to blow up tanks.
- Anti-personnel mines are designed to maim and not kill victims. The rationale: it costs and enemy a lot more to patch up an injured soldier than to bury one.
- My favorite: Antipersonnel Directional Fragmentation Mine that can injure people behind it or in front of it. It is about the size of the top of a shoe box and contain ball bearings that act like bullets when the device detonates.

The Mine Field
- included a series of trip wires for detonating various mines. Some wires were at chest level some were at foot level. Some could be detonated by radio. None of the mines were live and we weren't allowed to walk around in there, anyway.
- noteworthy: one of the most heavily mined areas in the world is along the Cambodian border with Thailand. During rainy season, many mines that are buried pretty deep, come to the surface and injure farmers living in the area.

Brief Recent History of Cambodia: Country has only been stable since late 1990's
- 1953: independence from France
- 1960: Prince Sihanouk elected head of state
- 1964: Sihanouk nation destabilized by Marxist movement (Khmer Rouge)
- 1970: Right-wing military group deposes Sihanouk and vows to rid country of commies. Military group asks U.S. for help. We're only too happy to lend a hand.
- 1975: Khmer Rough and Sihanouk join forces and take control of country. Most radical social-engineering since Nazis takes place. Towns evacuated, intellectuals carted off and killed, rest of population sent to forced labor camps in the country side.
- 1977: Pol Pot takes charge of country. Sihanouk placed under house arrest.
- 1978: After cross-border raids into Vietnam, Vietnames army invades Cambodia
- 1979: Vietnamese army captures Phnom Penh. Basic Freedoms restored but Khmer Rouge continues fighting throughout the country. Many Khmer Rouge retreat to Thailand.
- 1975 - 1979: Estimates vary, but some experts claim up to 3 million people or about 20 percent of Cambodia's population perished under Khmer Rouge rule.
- 1982: Vietnam launches offensive against coalition formed by Sihanouk, his son, and some friends. Thousands of refugees flee to Thailand.
- 1989: Vietnam withdraws from Cambodia, looting parts of the country.
- 1999: Khmer Rouge finally defeated and peace restored to Cambodia.
*Not sure of exact dates, but at some period, borders with Thailand were heavily mined to prevent Khmer Rouge from returning to Cambodia. Unfortunately, many refugees returning to the country were also injured by mines. To this day, hundreds are injured or killed in Cambodia due to mines.

Why We Like Mines
There is an international treaty designed to ban use and manufacture of mines. Naturally, the axis of evil: U.S., China, Russia, and some others refuse to sign it. We won't sign the treaty because we have mined the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and claim the mine fields prevent an invasion by the North.