When Chen Ra and her family purchased a small plot of land in their village in the Battambang Province of Cambodia, they were delighted. Since moving to the area three years earlier in 2002, the family had relied on working for other farmers to survive. Now Chen and her husband and son could cultivate their own land. But the area was heavily contested during the war and bitter fighting between the Khmer Rouge, Vietnamese forces and the Cambodian government had left a deadly legacy of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines scattered across the region.
When the HALO Trust arrived to clear the village of mines in 2015, Chen Ra had become a proud grandmother. But daily life was still fraught with danger for the family.
The first year we found about 20 landmines in our field. We burnt them and it was like fireworks going off. Every year since, we’ve found more mines. We were really scared, but the soil is really good and we can’t afford to buy any more land. So we just carried on.
In fact, the family had escaped serious injury on several occasions, not least when her son hit a mine with his hoe and her husband stumbled across a whole line of mines.
Chen Ra, recounting how one woman had lost a leg and another friend caused a huge explosion by burning rubbish on top of an anti-tank mine.
We were really lucky not to get hurt in our field, or on the road where HALO found the anti-tank mines
Today, thanks to HALO, Chen Ra knows her granddaughter will never know such fear. The village is free of both anti-personnel and anti-tank mines for good.