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Deminer Sets Sights on CNN's Top Hero Award

Aki Ra, the former Khmer Rouge soldier, plans to expand his demining project should he wins CNN's Top Hero Award.

A former Khmer Rouge soldier who has been nominated for a CNN broadcasting “Top Hero” award says he plans to expand his demining project if he wins.

Aki Ra, who runs the Cambodia Self-Help Demining Organization, told VOA Khmer he hoped to grow his organization to be able to demine the rest of Cambodia and move on to other countries.

Cambodia remains littered with mines and unexploded ordinance left from decades of civil war. Aki Ra, who is 40, has been demining since 1993, without technical guidance or assistance.

He offered advice to those who may mistakenly wander into a mine field: backtrack. “Remember the footprints,” he said. One can walk on logs or rocks to escape the field, as well, he said.

This, he said, taught him the fastest, easiest methods for clearing mine fields.

“When the war was over, I thought differently and wanted to do good deeds to change the faults of my past and to help the country,” he said.

His project now includes 25 staff in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces, but he said now he is short of funding and equipment.

The CNN Heroes award is a contest that highlights community work of activists around the world.