Military police officials in Siem Reap province have again closed a popular land mine museum, and now they say they are interested in running the museum themselves.
Siem Reap province military police Commander Morn Samon confirmed Tuesday he ordered the closure because museum operator Aki Ra is now a civilian, and any military museum should be run by RCAF personnel.
Aki Ra, 28, served with the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese-affiliated and government armies at different times. His museum on the edge of Siem Reap town showcases different types of land mines, explains how they are hidden and shows how they can be removed. He has battled local officials for more than a year to keep the museum open. He says he did not receive formal notice, but was told in late February to close and apply for a new license in Phnom Penh. In the past he received a license from provincial authorities.
Aki Ra “cannot operate any kind of weapons museum unless he is an RCAF officer,” Morn Samon said. “Operating a weapons museum is the right of an RCAF unit. I have received permission from the Ministry of Defense to operate a weapons museum in the future, but it will not belong to me alone. It will belong to an RCAF unit as well as the Ministry of Defense.”
Morn Samon envisions creating what he calls a “national museum of weapons.”
“If we set up a museum, we will make it bigger with all kinds of weapons that remain from the war,” he said. “Siem Reap was a battlefield province, and a lot of equipment remains from the war that we can bring in to show.”
Morn Samon said the museum would have a small admission charge, but some government and NGO workers would receive free admission.
Aki Ra said he will try to gather support from Siem Reap hotels and guest houses to keep control of the museum. He said he hasn’t decided whether to to seek an operating license.