Been a while since I posted and lot has been happening. Pretty hectic at the Museum the past few daze. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Museum was scheduled for their formal inspection by the CMAA (Cambodian Mine Action Authority). It happened today.
Richard Fitoussi, the International Project Manager got into town a couple of days ago. (As an aside I have to tell you that he is staying at the guesthouse I walked out of. You are a better man than I Richard. Good on ya mate.)
Richard got here a day earlier than he had planned because of the inspection. The staff at the Museum, led by Seng Ho, Hourt and Becky, have been working like crazy to get everything done. All of the landmines and UXOs had to be ‘secured’. Nothing can be accessible. Babe Feddon, said safety is paramount and he’s more worried about crazy old vets from the West coming in and trying to walk off with a 60mm mortar round or a couple of anti-personnel landmines, than with one falling over on a kid. But that has to be addressed too. It’s really all about safety; and if you’ve seen the old Museum you understand what I mean.
Well the meeting was to be at 10am so Richard and I met for breakfast at 6:30 and then headed out to Museum around 7am. As we drove into the parking lot the CMAA truck was already there and the inspection team was having tea. Uh oh.
Babe’s said, “We’re early. Do what you need to do and we’ll start whenever you want.” The staff was all ready. They made the office into an auditorium so all the children could welcome the dignitaries, speeches had been written, in English and Khmer, tea had been prepared, and for an added treat, fans had been turned on. The staff was all decked out n their uniforms, green Khmer high-collared, long sleeved shirts, and wool pants. WOOL pants…with pinstripes. They look outstanding. If you don’t die of heatstroke I think.
Well, we started the inspection at 9:30 and there were a few more items the inspection team wanted changed, but they were pretty happy with the looks of the Museum. They’d come out the first of August to do an inspection and given a list of changes. Everything had been addressed and I think they were impressed with the progress made.
We went to the auditorium and it was just like when a congressperson or an MP comes to visit. Seats all set out; kids sitting quietly with hands folded anxiously waiting too hear what the dignitaries had to say. (Okay, maybe it was a little, well a lot nicer than any assembly I’ve ever been in.) Everyone stood and sang the Cambodian National Anthem. It was pretty neat. The kids stand with their legs slightly spread and their hands at the small of their back and then snap to attention and begin to sing. Very nice and the dignitaries enjoyed it immensely. Speeches were made and then His Excellency Kouch Moly, Deputy Secretary General, CMAA gave a very nice speech in Khmer and gave the Museum its provisional license.
There are a few more things to get done but Richard plans to have another inspection, hopefully the final one, in about a month, before he leaves.
There is one room in the Museum that contains the souvenir store and what everyone calls the ‘prison cell’. It’s essentially the back end of the room and it’s all secured with chicken wire and just chock full of mines, bombs, UXOs and all kinds of stuff that Aki Ra has taken out of the ground, out of trees, bushes, jungle and anywhere else soldiers left little surprises. They are going to make a sculpture out of it.
A woman in Cambodia made a beautiful “Peace Sculpture” out of old weapons and it stands outside the Foreign Correspondents Club in Siem Reap. It’s maybe 5 1/2 feet tall and quite impressive. We hope to have a tree sculpture built at the entrance to the Museum from all the defused explosives in the ‘prison cell’. Each item has to be checked by CMAA to make sure they’re FFE (free from explosives), but CMAA liked the idea, so if you come out here next year, you may indeed see it standing in front of the Museum.
Lots more to do. We have to start a brand new NGO to do demining. That will take a lot of time and effort and Aki Ra will need a lot of support both in Cambodia and internationally to get it done. When the NGO is certified, it will be given a demining license and Aki Ra can get back to what he wants most to do:
Make his country safe for his people.
Only 5,000,000 or so mines left.