Miss Landmine Continues Sans Ministry Support

Despite the Ministry of Social Affair’s requesting the termination of Miss Landmine Cambodia, a contest for female landmine survivors, the contest’s creator said Sun­day that he plans to move ahead with the project’s opening ex­hibition this week.

“I’m very surprised,” said Mor­ten Traavik, creator and director of Miss Landmine Cambodia. “In two years of developing this project, we have had very good dialogue with Cambodian authorities. We have had full support from the minister of Social Affairs and the Wo­men’s Affairs Ministry—right up to now.”

On Friday, the Social Affairs Min­istry released a statement denying a July 28 article in a local English-language newspaper stating that Miss Landmine 2009 had the support of the ministry. “Ministry of Social Affairs would like the organizer of this contest to stop action immediately in order to protect the honor and dignity of disabled Cam­bodians, especially women,” read the statement.

Successfully executing the first Miss Landmine competition in Angola last year, Mr Traavik said that the main focus of Miss Land­mine is to address the continuing glo­bal landmine problem. “It is also to challenge society to look at these women not as victims but as active strong people who can contribute to society—it’s giving these women a voice,” he added.

Just five days before the Aug 7 opening of a photo exhibition at Meta House in Phnom Penh meant to kickoff the Miss Land­mine Cambodia project, Mr Traa­vik said he received a statement from the Ministry of Social Affairs stating he no longer had the government’s approval. He said he sent a request to meet with the minister of Social Affairs to see if he could “work things out.”

Mr Traavik, a 38-year-old artist from Norway, said Miss Land­mine Cambodia has been working closely with the Cam­bodian Dis­ab­l­ed People’s Organ­ization (CDPO) and the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Auth­ority in creating this project, which includes the par­ticipation of 20 landmine survivors between the ages of 18 to 48. He said that each candidate has been photographed in various locations around the country, with the photos to be displayed this Friday at the exhibition. Friday also marks the day when online voting for Miss Land­mine will begin, wherein the public worldwide can select which candidate they wish to win both the title of Miss Landmine Cam­bodia and a custom-made pro­sthetic limb from Norway.

Mr Traavik said he hopes government officials will attend Fri­day’s exhibition and witness the photos firsthand as well as speak with him and the candidates before shutting down the project. “If they see it and still disapprove, I will accept their decision to close it,” he said.

Thong Vinal, executive director for the Social Affairs Ministry’s Disability Action Council, said Sunday that Prime Minister Hun Sen had signed onto the minis­try’s letter of disapproval, but he did not know when the premier had done so.

Sem Sokha, secretary of state for the Social Affairs Ministry, de­clined to comment and referred questions to the Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng, who could not be reach­ed Sunday. Ing Kan­t­ha Phavi, minister of Women’s Af­fairs, also could not be reached for comment Sunday.


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