Aki Ra is one of Cambodia’s best-known demining experts. Taken from his family at a young age, he was trained by the Khmer Rouge to become a child soldier, serving the perpetrators who, as he had been told, had murdered his parents.
He spent his childhood years learning how to use firearms with the Khmer Rouge. And for 12 years, he served in three different armies doing what he did best—making and laying landmines.
In the early 1990s, he saw the chance to redeem himself and undo the damage unleashed during the civil wars. He began clearing the mines he had laid as a child. He started out by using homemade tools and whatever tools he could afford to buy.
While some might call them brave, or even foolhardy, he and his team have, to date, cleared an estimated 50,000 landmines, 100 minefields, three million square meters of land, and helped 15,200 villagers in the process. But with an estimated five million mines still remaining, he has his work cut out for him. A courageous freedom fighter, Aki Ra continues to work tirelessly to free his country of the deadly legacies of decades of war.