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Miss Cambodia Landmine 2009 to boost self esteem

Cambodian community in Norway will organize a beauty contest for landmine victims on Saturday after failing to organize it in Cambodia.

The event, organized in collaboration with the Association of Cambodians in Norway and the Khmer Buddhist Council in Norway, will also feature Khmer traditional dance and food display.

There are 20 landmine victims taking part in the contest, but since no contestant is able to travel to Norway, organizers will ask volunteers there to dress up as beauty queens and carry photos of the contestants. A winner will then be selected by potentially more than 300 participants.

“We want to show [people of the world] that our society doesn’t need a war and landmines to kill more people. We want to live in peace,” said Men Nath, one of the main organizers. “Another positive point that our program wishes to show is that every individual has equal value and once a person is disabled, how would he/she live if we don’t value them”.

Contestants, aged between 18 and 48, are from many of Cambodia’s provinces like Siem Reap, Kampong Speu, Battambang, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Svay Rieng, and Sihanoukville.

“The reason why I take part in the contest is to seek an equal right and call for an end to discrimination [against disabled people],” Song Kosal, 25-year-old contestant from Battambang province, told VOA Khmer by phone.

“Though we are disabled women, we have our beauty to compete and to show people around the world. We have the rights to tell our own story to all people; and the beauty is not the physical appearance, but our pure heart,” she said.

Song Kosal, who lost her right leg to a landmine 20 years ago, hopes that country that has not yet taken action to ban landmine will change their mind after they see the disabled women.

The contest was initially planned for August in Cambodia, but was not allowed on the grounds that it will be a “mockery” at the victims.

But, the organizers disagree.

“This project is very beneficial for the self esteem of the people taking part since they are being looked upon as beautiful and they are allowed or they should be allowed to present themselves as the beauty queens that they all are each in their own way,” said Morten Traavik, program leader of Miss Landmine Cambodia. “As for Cambodia and Cambodian government as a whole it would be given a signal that the government really cares about its own disabled citizens and let them present themselves as they themselves see fit”.