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.Take 4 (Click the number for info of entire trip)

This is another part of my report of the trek to Chong Kneas that will be a multi-day posting that we hope to be helpful to those who plan to follow our steps.

Of the entire 237km-distance between Saigon and Phnom Penh, we made 176, and the last 61-km portion of National Route #1 is under heavy construction as it is upgrading to be part of Trans-Asian Highway. Since all traffic is extremely slow, through the glass window of my bus I was so lucky to snap this picture of a Cambodian kid sitting with her adult on the roof of another bus traveling in opposite direction. I am sorry about the quality of this, but cannot skip this exposure as I look again many times at her anxious and sorrowful face. I have cropped out the part showing her amputated arm as I believe the expression of her face is more than enough to display a wounded soul.

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According to Hannes Schick, it is not difficult to imagine the overall number of amputations due to these deadly weapons in the country as a whole. Cambodia is one of the countries with the highest number of land mines and unexploded devices in the world. When the Americans bombed Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam they dropped hundreds of thousands of devices which had intentionally been built in order not to explode as they hit the ground but with a delayed action when they were hit by human beings or moving objects.

Other hundreds of thousands of bombs were unscrupulously dropped by aircraft which had failed to bring its destructive devices to Vietnam. When the country was under the United Nations' temporary control, over 2,000 minefields later delimited by the Control Department of the Anti-mine Cambodian Centre were reported. Other 2,632 minefields were detected in the following period up until the end of 1996. Presently, the priority is the location of the areas where land mines probably were dropped but not their removal so that most of them do not explode under circumstances controlled by experts but under people's feet or hands. Thus, it is up to the people to clean up their country from the deadly weapons manufactured and sold by Americans, Russians, Chinese, Italians, French, Turkish and Serbs. It has been estimated that it will take 175 years to neutralize the mines currently present in Cambodia.

During the conflict the placing of the mines played a key role in the tactics of the various belligerent factions. Wide areas of the country became uncultivable.

The unexploded devices are everywhere and their number is so high that people use the grenades' metal to build working tools and the bombs, after removing their explosive content, as the pillars of the houses' foundations. Although they are aware of the risks they may run, the farmers, pushed by hunger and the need to find food, also go to those fields known to be mined.

Antipersonnel landmines are devices created with a diabolic cleverness: they were not developed to kill but to physically harm people as much as possible, with the logic of forcing the enemy to undergo material sacrifices because taking care of a handicapped is more expensive than burying a dead. The lands to be mine-cleared, however, are still many.

Nevertheless, something was done at an international level in order to ban antipersonnel landmines. 96 countries signed to ban antipersonnel mines. Unfortunately some countries like China and the United States oppose clear and rigorous regulations with incomprehensible pretexts and refuse the outright ban of the mines. 110 million of invisible snipers will continue to remain lined up and hit children, old people, women, men in their everyday life's actions.


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2359] (8576)
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