After decades of war, the Cambodian countryside is littered with millions of unexploded antipersonnel and antitank mines. Hundreds of innocent farmers and children are killed or maimed by these devices each year. After traffic accidents, land mines are the leading cause of death for Cambodians.
After the destabilization caused by secret American bombings of Eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War, many factions participated in the laying of landmines. First, the Khmer Rouge, then Thai and occupying Vietnamese army laid these victim-activated munitions.
With little or no money to remove these devices, Cambodians increasingly rely on NGOs and foreign governments to pay for their removal. Slowly–perhaps too slowly for those injured every year–they are coming out of the ground.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum and school is one of those NGOs dedicated to educating about the threat of landmines, and coordinates fundraising to pay for landmine removal. As part of their documentary project, my students interviewed Bill Morse, founder of the museum.
A retired businessman from Southern California, Bill and his wife Jill left their comfortable retirement home near Palm Springs California and moved to Cambodia to start the museum. Bill gives tours and raises money, while Jill runs a school for children from the countryside who have been affected by the tragic legacy of landmines. We interviewed Bill and Jill, and met their students. Hopefully we can share their message with the world in hopes of solving this global problem.