We started the afternoon at Banteay Srei after a rather delicious Cambodian lunch. The Banteay Srei is a 10th century temple that is about 25 kilometers north east of Angkor Thom. Although smaller and only one level high, this temple is very beautiful. It is made from red sandstone, which is harder and more suited to carvings than the sandstone used for the other temples. Moreover, it is the carvings that really make this temple special — they are spectacular and still in very good condition, even though they are over 1000 years old. The temple is also known as the Lady Temple. No one seemed sure exactly why it got this name, but one suggestion is that the carvings are so fine and could only have been done by the hand of a lady. As we walked around the temple vicinity, the tour guide enlightened us.
The Entrance: Only Shiva and Vishnu carvings have been incorporated on the entrance. The French restored this temple and the statues have been preserved in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. The entire area is paved with laterite stone.
This museum was founded by Akira, local Cambodian who has been independently clearing landmines throughout Cambodia and more recently near the Thailand border for many years.
The sad history of Cambodia involves land mines. There was an article describing that there are 2 million land mines still buried in throughout the country. And the biggest problem is that no one bothered to document where they were placed. As a result, people are still being killed or injured today.
Personally, I was impressed by what Akira had contributed to Cambodia. Akira is the founder of the landmine museum. He was taken as a boy soldier at thirteen years of age to serve Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and later defected to serve in the Cambodian army. Part of his job for both sides was laying landmines—unmapped and strategically indiscriminate. Later on, he declared a mission “I want to make my country safe for my people” and built an organization mainly provides education and training to rural people about landmine safety, clearing mines and unexploded ordnance from various provinces in Cambodia, and training soldiers to deactivate and clear landmines.
I understand that it will take time but hopefully one day, Cambodia will become free of landmines.
Saurabh & Yosuke