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 Media contact:  
 Phillip Rollfing  

Land Mine Museum

Aggie-designed land mine museum
moves a giant step closer to reality



Construction of a Cambodian land mine museum designed by Texas A&M University architecture students has moved a big step closer to reality, thanks to high-level Canadian diplomatic negotiations with the Cambodian government regarding land for the museum and a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by the Aggies and the professor in whose class they developed the plans for a museum memorializing victims of the infamous Khmer Rouge “killing fields.”

The letter campaign brought attention to problems the Cambodian Land Mine Museum Relief Fund (CLMMRF) encountered with the Cambodian government after purchasing a site for the new museum near the Siem Reap Airport, in a location undergoing rapid development. Later, that same year, the Cambodian government barred the museum’s construction on the proposed site. Through their letter writing campaign, the Texas A&M students garnered support for the museum project from several prominent politicians, diplomats and world-renown celebrities.

The efforts paid off. In May, Cambodian government agreed to a land swap, trading the original museum site for a parcel of land nearly twice the size. The new site, located in a rural area about 15 kilometers from Siem Reap, promises to be highly visible to tourists. It sits on the route to the 10th century temple of Banteay Srei and several other ruins that make up the World Heritage Site of the Angkor Wat Archeological Park.

Rogers, who holds a Ph.D. in architecture and has a special interest in Southeast Asian art and architecture, got her students involved with the project three years ago, when they developed designs for the proposed museum. The designs were unveiled September 2003 to representatives of the Cambodian Land Mine Museum Relief Fund, and one design was chosen to be further articulated for construction. The Texas A&M students also helped raise funds for the museum’s construction, staging a March 2004 fun run and selling student-designed Land Mine Museum T-shirts.

“Today numerous students are witnessing a dream on paper come close to being a reality,” said Rogers. “It is fitting that we are scheduled to begin construction, as the students who began the project three years ago graduated only last month. I am extremely grateful not only for the talent of these students, but also for their motivation and perseverance,” she continued. “This grassroots project demonstrates the ability our students have to bring about change on a global basis.”

The original land mine museum is owned and operated by Aki Ra, a former child-soldier who participated in the laying of land mines in his youth and has since devoted his life to removing the estimated 6 million mines still hidden in the Cambodian soil. Since 1999, Ra has cleared more than 6,000 land mines with little more than a wrench and a hammer. His incredible collection of mine shells and bomb casings are on display at the museum along with archives chronicling the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge and the genocidal horrors of Cambodia's infamous “Killing Fields.”

The new facility will house the existing land mine exhibits created by Ra, and will provide exhibition space for Ra’s paintings chronicling the hardships of war. An education space will support prevention through awareness. Additionally, rehabilitation facilities will provide prosthetic assistance to victims of land mines.

The student’s original designs are currently being updated to utilize more affordable and available local materials.

“We are aware that Cambodia’s environment is in danger of deforestation, and in response to this crisis we are utilizing more brick, concrete, and tile,” wrote CLMMRF founder Richard Fitoussi, in the June 2006 CLMMRF newsletter that announced the land swap agreement. “This material change will in a small way respond to the growing problem of deforestation in Cambodia. In addition, these materials will require less long term maintenance.”

Fitoussi said the CLMMRF would not have been able to realize the new facility without the hard work and dedication of Rogers and her students.

“Dr. Rogers was responsible for mobilizing an incredible letter-writing campaign to help lobby our case in Cambodia,” he wrote. “Her team of student architects from Texas A&M University’s College of Architecture worked to secure very important endorsements for the CLMMRF from several prominent figures including the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, several U.S. Senators, members of the U.S. State Department, the office of Paul and Heather McCartney, and Hollywood Director Tom Shadyac, to name but a few. The CLMMRF would like to personally thank her for her dedication to this project,” Fitoussi continued. “We would also like to thank her team for creating the Land Mine Museum facility that will soon be built.”

In addition to recognizing the extraordinary contributions of Rogers and her students toward realizing the new museum facility, Fitoussi thanked Canadian Ambassador Donica Pottie, “who worked diligently to overcome numerous diplomatic obstacles,” and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, “for his personal endorsement of the project and for encouraging the Cambodian government to reach this settlement agreement.”

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The current land mine museum is owned and operated by Aki Ra (right), a former child-soldier who participated in the laying of land mines in his youth and has since devoted his life to removing the estimated 6 million mines still hidden in the Cambodian soil.

Aki Ra (right) removing a landmine

An architectural model of the student-designed Cambodian Land Mine Museum to be constructed outside of Seim Reap.

A student design model

A digitial interior design for the museum

Students work on a design in the studio

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