Aki Ra, The Ex-Child Soldier Removing Cambodia's Landmines By Hand
Aki Ra was recruited by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, a genocidal crusade active in Cambodia in the 1960s and '70s, as a child soldier. By age ten, he began planting landmines. He laid landmines for the Khmer Rouge and for the Vietnamese army that overthrew his village for years. "I maybe planted 4,000 to 5,000 landmines in a [single] month," Aki Ra told CNN. By the 1990s, the U.N. came to Cambodia to help restore peace in the country. That was when Aki Ra dedicated his life to undoing the damage he had done under the Khmer Rouge regime. He began clearing landmines, using nothing but his hands or a small knife. In 2008, Aki Ra formed the Cambodian Self Help Demining team, comprised of local Cambodians, former soldiers, and war crime victims. Aki Ra also founded the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Facility, where he teaches about the destructive power of landmines and operates an orphanage housing some children who were injured by landmines.