Monday, December 6, 2010


Outside mined farmland in Choam Khsan in 2003 - where's a rat when you need one?
Instead of using man's best friend to uncover landmines, the Colombian authorities will soon start deploying rats to detect mines buried as deep as 1 meter below the surface. Already trialled in Tanzania, the rats will search and burrow down for explosives in exchange for the reward of sugar. They have an advantage over bomb-sniffing dogs as they are so light that they don't detonate mines, as canines sometimes do. They can also be trained to obey commands such as, "search; stop; let's go." Let's face it, people would prefer to see a rat go up in a puff of smoke than a dog. Now if they can adopt a similar approach in Cambodia, we could see the remaining 650 square kms of the country that are still under threat of landmines, in 21 northwestern districts along the Thai-Cambodian border, cleared in double-quick time. I really wish it was that easy. Mines still account for more than 200 killed or maimed victims each year in Cambodia, with a total of 63,000 people suffering injury or death since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. In actual fact, Colombia and Cambodia are already in partnership to combat the scourge of landmines, with CMAC training their Colombian colleagues in Battambang.

On a totally-unrelated topic, Meta House will show The Tenth Dancer at 8pm tomorrow (7th December). Introduced by Khmer Arts Ensemble's Toni Phim-Shapiro, this riveting documentary is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a teacher and her pupil set against the backdrop of war-torn Cambodia. The film weaves between the past and the present, memory and dream, to reveal a story of human dignity and survival. I couldn't put it better myself. The teacher is the remarkable Em Theay. It was filmed in 1993 and Em Theay, now 80, is as sprightly as ever. I think she might just go on forever.

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