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Postcards from the killing fields

October 19, 2006
Text and photographs: Lindsay Pereira

'Danger. Mines.' T-shirts bearing those words can be seen all along the streets of Siem Reap, in the kingdom of Cambodia. They are printed above garish images of a skull and cross-bones, with a map of the country beneath. You can buy one for 3 dollars US, or two for 4.

"Take the red T-shirt," a dealer suggests, when I stop. "Good quality."

UNICEF believes Cambodia has the third highest number of landmines in the world. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre estimates there may still be as many as six million mines in the country. Since 1970 -- when they were laid by the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen and Heng Samrin regimes, among others -- they have taken over 60,000 civilian lives and maimed thousands.

There have been more than 35,000 amputees after hostilities ceased. Travellers are constantly advised to stick to marked territory, to avoid adding to the 200 or so victims that continue to get hurt annually.

"Take the red T-shirt," the dealer tells me, smiling as I stare in uncertainty. "For you, special price..."

Image: A hot afternoon in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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