The Cambodian Landmine Museum sits just outside of the tourism hub of Siem Reap, the gateway city to the famed temples of Angkor Wat.
Here, tourists learn about Cambodia’s dark past and the legacy of mines and unexploded ordnance it left behind. But while the museum serves as a reminder of the violence war commits on a country, it is also raises questions about current conflicts, such as the war destroying Syria.
Paola Gonzales, who traveled to Cambodia from Spain, said Cambodia’s leaders must not fall into more war rhetoric. “If war starts again, they aren’t going to have money coming in from foreigners,” she said, as she toured the museum. “I didn’t want to see a war in Syria, where it’s happening now. No war.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly warned that a victory in elections by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party would mean the return of war to the country. “Absolutely,” he said in a speech in September 2015. That would happen in part, he said, because the Rescue Party would seek to take people’s wealth and redistribute it to the poor.
Hun Sen has also warned Cambodia away from an Arab-Spring like revolution, citing the civil war in Syria.
At the Landmine Museum, there are also reminders of Cambodia’s wars. Nearby, Karen Sieraeki, a professor of urban planning in the UK, said Cambodia needs peace, but it must also be wary of corruption. “If the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, it’s not good,” she said.
Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said that the views of the tourists were merely opinions. “For the CPP, it agrees with what its leader says.”