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First Miss Landmine Cambodia Crowned

Cambodians in Norway have selected the winner of the Miss Landmine for Cambodia after it was not allowed inside the country.

Eighteen-year-old Dos Sopheap of Battambang was crowned in absentia in a ceremony attended by more than 200 participants on Saturday last week at the South Norway Museum of Modern Arts in Kristiansan.

None of the 20 candidates were able to attend the event. The selection was based on photographs taken earlier in Cambodia.

“I am happy to know that I have been selected. Being a disabled person, I only got discriminated against, now I am so thrilled,” Dos Sopheap told VOA Khmer by phone on Monday.

Dos Sopheap, now a senior at a high school in Battambang province, lost her left leg to a landmine while escaping from a gun fighting in 1996.

The first runner up goes to Miss Takeo, 30-year-old Thou Chorn, and second runner-up Miss Kompong Cham, So Yeu, 35.

Cambodia’s government has banned the contest, organized by Norwegian landmine survivor advocates, saying it is a “mockery” to Cambodia’s disabled.

“Even though the government does not recognize our project it is time that the international demining organizations working in Cambodia step up and take a stance for the freedom of expression in Cambodia and recognize Sopheap as an ambassador for landmine survivors in Cambodia and find a way to use her talent,” said Morten Traavik, program leader of Miss Landmine Cambodia.

In her first message upon learning of the crowning, Dos Sopheap calls for more efforts to clear landmines from Cambodia.

“I would like to appeal to CMAC [Cambodian Mines Action Centre] to clear all landmines so that no more Cambodian people will fall victims. I would also like CMAC to warn villagers not to go into a place where there is a landmine sign," she said.

There are some 43,926 landmine survivors in Cambodia. The Cambodian Mines Action Centre says almost 200 people suffered from landmines in the first nine months of 2009, a slight decline compared to the same period last year.